Australian coalition government faces defections
6 February 2017
With the Australian parliament due to resume tomorrow for its first sitting of 2017, question marks hang over the survival of the Turnbull government, which has been clinging to office by a threadbare one-seat majority since last July’s election. The ruling Liberal-National Coalition is riven with divisions on foreign and domestic policy that have only been intensified by the advent of the Trump administration.
Media reports are speculating that the government, facing rapidly declining public support and possible splits by some of its most right-wing members, will not last the year. The commentaries generally focus on the plight of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as an individual, but more fundamental issues are coming to the surface.
The Trump administration’s menacing threats of trade war and war with China have compounded the dilemma facing the Australia ruling elite: Washington will undoubtedly press Canberra to play a frontline role in any confrontation with Beijing, putting in jeopardy lucrative economic relations with China, Australia’s largest trading partner. Trump’s bullying phone call to Turnbull last week over a refugee deal is just a foretaste of what is to come.
Today’s Australian Financial Review editorial noted: “Over the past decade, Australian foreign policy has become understandably obsessed with not being forced to choose between Chinese economic prosperity and American national security. The Trump presidency has brought the tensions into harsher relief, meaning the chances of Australia having to make difficult strategic trade-offs has increased uncomfortably.”
Turnbull has attempted to put the best possible face on his dressing down by Trump. Last night, on…