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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Saturday Sanity Break, 28 January 2017 - Trumpism and Aussie economic policy

The world has survived the first week of Mr Trump's presidency. He has hastily made announcements with TV footage of him signing proclamations with the Veep and other advisors standing behind him. mostly looking bored (the Veep) or simply puzzled. 'America First' it is folks, and we should not underestimate this fellow's intent. Populist he is, naive about politics perhaps but very determined, and enormously self-confident.

Australia's magician of political analysis Paul Kelly captured my attention earlier this week. 'Donald Trump’s inaugural ­address, playing to a dark age of US “carnage” that he pledges to extinguish, should leave nobody in doubt: the President is a populist reactionary and radical, not a conservative, whose transformation agenda is hostile to the traditions and principles of US conservatism'.

Mr Trump is a protectionist and an isolationist. The Trump Whitehouse is already described as 'chaotic' and his attack on his many enemies is breathtaking. He is no conservative Republican and one big question is how far conservative Republicans will support him. His immediate tendency to attack the press has already created damaging retribution. His claim that the 'election was rigged' has been rejected by experts and the press have discovered important members of his inner circle who were registered to vote in two states. Not that they did, of course, but it is not a sensible practice.

Mr Kelly's advice to Australia is sensible: 'Australia must take Trump on merit and seek to work with him and influence him. That means working with regional neighbours. It is imperative, however, to take a stand against his new ­directions, such as replacing free trade with protection, when they constitute a danger to the world and risk to Australia'.

Paul Kelly's full article is available here. Peggy Noonan's Wall Street Journal analysis that Paul Kelly quotes is also worth a read. (Despite being a long-standing subscriber I was unable to open it.) If you missed it, Henry also recommends President Trump's inaugural address.

Several articles in today's Oz support Paul Kelly's advice. The editorial advises 'For open global trade we must remain competitive'. Judith Sloan points out that it is (past) time to abolish the Fair Work Commission, a cry responsible economists have been making about labor market reform for decades. Peter van Onselen points out that Bill Shorten 'must shelve populism' , follow the Hawke-Keating model, if he is to succeed as Prime minister.

Amen to these ideas. Nothing about the budget deficit, but a fair bit about the need to cut company tax so that Australian industry remains competitive. Revive the reform to the Goods and Services tax hike and broadening, Mr Turnbull. It is the only way out of the current budgetary morass.

Henry has been watching these events from Tasmania, a place of extraordinary beauty that reminds one of how life was in Melbourne half a century ago.


A highlight was our visit to MONA, a relatively new art gallery with lots of exciting exhibits that redefine the meaning of Art, and is an exception to the earlier statement about the general state of the state. One is overwhelmed with the innovation both of the building and its content. The special exhibition is especially interesting. Called 'On the Origin of Art' MONA's home page describes it as 'One man's crusade to piss off art academics'.

Clearly David Walsh is Art's Donald Trump, and like him Mr Walsh is shaking up ideas in his chosen field of philanthropy.

Henry's work is mainly traditional Australian landscape, and preferred the older traditional paintings David Walsh has assembled. These are indeed stunning, which shows Mr Walsh has excellent artistic taste. The crowds attending MONA suggest Mr Walsh is also a populist.

Would he like Pete Jonson's post-modernist work, one feels bound to ask? Here is a sample.

Fiona's earlier report on MONA is repeated here.

The Sporting Life

Australian cricket nicely disposed of a tired Pakistanteam 4/1 in the One Day series, with David Warner again performing at a level rarely seen. The Indian challenge looms and one hopes the Aussies can overcome the usual hoodoo that attaches to Indian pitches.

For the present, it is tennis that is taking most of Henry's attention. Serena vrs her sister Venus tonight and Roger vrs Rafael Sunday night. This weekend marks the end of the long summer holiday. Henry sees his cardiac surgeon on Tuesday - hopefully a routine check-up - and begins the process of receiving 4 dental implants on Friday.

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