PM Malcolm Turnbull might be faltering, struggling to keep his team together and sinking in the polls, but 2017 won’t be a cakewalk for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. We are all going to be living in a world where an unpredictable tweeting oligarch is the president of the United States and leader of the free world.
And President Donald Trump will not be inclined towards convention or accepted norms.
He’s most notably taken on China’s “One China” policy, which has been accepted by the United States for decades.
His communication with Taiwan’s leader was a stark break from past protocol, and it ruffled feathers globally.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Trump seems to disregard another accepted US policy of recent decades, the Israel-Palestine two-state solution and the Middle East peace process.
Trump’s comments about his lack of concern about the advancement of Israeli settlements, seen as illegal by the United Nations and the Security Council, will also rile diplomats and governments.
This has also upset many Labor insiders, especially inside the Left.
And then of course, there’s the questions of his incoming administration’s connections to Russia.
Why is this Bill Shorten’s problem? Since 1951, the ANZUS Treaty has underpinned Australia’s global security and our relationship with the greatest world power. Australia has fought in every war with the United States since World War II.
The ANZUS Treaty was invoked after the September 11 attacks and formed the basis for our deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The ANZUS Treaty reads:
“… an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties …”
This means that an attack on the United States deemed an act of war is seen as an act of war against Australia.
Australia is a critical ally for the United States in the Pacific, with thousands of United States servicemen and servicewomen deployed on rotation in Darwin, and numerous US military, NASA and intelligence facilities located here.
Some within the Socialist Left however are strong critics of the US/Australia relationship and advocate a more independent foreign policy.
They find a strange bedfellow in former prime minister and the former convenor of the fabled NSW Right Paul Keating, who has urged Australia to “cut the tag” with the United States, now Trump has been elected.
The Australian recently published a piece about its concern — or Rupert Murdoch’s concern — the organised Socialist Left is rising to power with the Australian Labor Party after decades of the Right controlling the party apparatus.
Socialist Left have now taken control of the National Policy Forum, which will write the draft platform considered at the next national conference.
Socialist Left fell just short of a majority of delegates to the 2015 national conference.
Last year, the New South Wales Left recorded a surprising result at their ballot of members. NSW Labor as a branch were allocated five member-elected delegate positions to the National Policy Forum, and the Left secured three of these. Queensland Left’s strength appears to be holding up despite talk of Labor Forum making headway.
Both states are critical to ensuring Socialist Left take a national conference majority.
The concern of some in the Socialist Left about a Trump administration was heightened when former ExxonMobil’s chair and CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump secretary of state appointee, said before a Senate confirmation hearing that Australia should provide “back up” in the event of conflict in the disputed South China Sea.
The Left found common cause with Paul Keating yet again, with him saying:
“When the US secretary of state-designate threatens to involve Australia in war with China, the Australian people need to take note.”
During his time as President-elect Trump showed a lack of willingness to seek or listen to foreign policy experts and might turn things on their head.
In this instance, the Left’s support of the ANZUS Treaty during Trump’s term could be under threat,and there might be a push to suspend it when Labor is next in government if Trump proves to be erratic and impulsive.
We’re all be in wait and see mode, but if Trump acts as he has been so far expect Shorten’s Right to come under significant pressure internally to reframe the United States/Australia relationship, creating separation that ensures our security and looking more to our region.
In the meantime, look out for state conferences around the country for numerous successful motions dealing with issues they see Trump as threatening, if not mentioning him by name.