Indonesia election

The government has had its vaunted "free" trade agreement with Indonesia put on the backburner because of Scott Morrison's desperate and failed decision to consider aping Trump and shifting Australia's Israeli embassy. It's hard to conjure a more apt comeuppance for this sublimely awful government.

For years, the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison/who-next government has been peddling lies about preferential trade deals, insisting what it erroneously calls "free trade agreements" are a major source of economic benefit to Australia. But again and again and again and again the Productivity Commission has demonstrated this to be nonsense, finding at best "modest benefits" from the trade diversion such agreements amount to, offset by damage inflicted by DFAT bureaucrats on the national interest in deals such as the rotten AUSFTA and the threat of investor-state dispute resolution clauses. The Coalition has persistently refused to let the Productivity Commission, or anyone else, examine such deals before signing up to them, because their benefit is not economic but political, to the extent that they can parade such agreements to voters as evidence of an economic strategy.

Now the latest of these entirely political deals, with Indonesia, has been stymied by another half-smart, half-arsed political decision, to try to swing the Wentworth byelection by pandering to Israel on the embassy issue. As we learnt from the "process" around this decision, it was a thought bubble from Scott Morrison, relayed to Foreign Minister Marise Payne and discussed by the government's leadership group with literally no input, or even awareness, by DFAT.