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Leading article Australia

Dealing with Trump

4 February 2017

9:00 AM

4 February 2017

9:00 AM

The good news is that the Turnbull government is gradually adapting to the fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t win the Presidency, as it had anticipated and planned for, and that it must now deal directly with the man with the tastes of a Gold Coast real estate agent and the subtleties of a Perth mining magnate. The bad news is that Team Turnbull have not made the most of this golden opportunity to revamp some of their own policies and find a compelling narrative with which to re-connect with Australia’s own ‘forgotten people’.

The so-called ‘deal’ on America taking 1,200 of our Nauru and Manus Island illegal immigrants in exchange for a motley crew of God knows who or what from Colombia may appear to be a ‘win’, but let’s just wait to see how it pans out. Already it is clear that the only reason the deal is even being countenanced by the world’s greatest deal-maker is out of his acknowledgment of Australia’s long-term, often unquestioning, support for the US, particularly under John Howard, Bob Hawke and Tony Abbott.

As we go to press, President Trump appears to be having second thoughts about the nature of the deal, with the emphasis being on the ‘extreme vetting’ that awaits our erstwhile asylum-seekers before he accepts them.

Malcolm Turnbull’s National Press Club speech this week saw the PM wisely shuffling to the right, particularly on the question of renewables. Best of all, King Coal made a welcome comeback, centre-stage under the spotlight, as the Prime Minister began the rehabilitation of this much-maligned – and our cheapest and most important – source of energy. The only niggle is that, despite fumbling around attempting to explain the purpose of it, Mr Turnbull still pretended that the Paris Agreement, and his ‘not perpetual’ RET, have merit.


A better approach would have been to grab the opportunity to ditch the Paris Agreement, or at least put it on hold until the US have confirmed their own intentions (a reverse Rudd, if you will). This would have allowed the government to go in hard on the only solid ‘narrative’ with which it can hope to guarantee success at the next election: that the Coalition stands for cheap energy, whilst Labor are off with the climate change fairies.

2016 Thawley Essay Prize – the winners

Well, we certainly know what Australia will look like in 10 year’s time. That was the theme of the 2016 Spectator Australia Thawley Essay Prize, and we are delighted to say that it resulted in an outpouring of excellent ideas and creativity, as a record number of essayists put their minds to imagining the future that awaits us.

With the judges being impressed by both the quality and quantity of entries, it’s time to announce the winners…. the 2016 Spectator Australia Thawley Essay Prize has been won by Trevor Watkin, with his dry, witty and poignant 95th Birthday Present. Melbourne-based Trevor has spent most of his career in agriculture and publishing, and this was the first time he has entered the competiton. And the runner-up is Grace Collier’s seductive Simone. Both essays will be published soon in the magazine and online for your enjoyment. Our heartiest congratulations to both Trevor and Grace, and our deepest gratitude to all of you who entered.

Many of the essays were deliberately satirical, drawing on Orwell, Burgess and other futurist writers for inspiration; others were gently whimsical; others scary or hilarious in their insights and many, sadly, were downright depressing. Such is the nature of the world we now live in.

This is the third year of Michael Thawley’s wonderful competition and what a delight the prize has proved to be for readers and judges alike. Daniel Ward won the inaugural prize with his tale of The Telegram that Saved us from Technocracy. Last year it was Tony Letford (dont miss his article in this week’s magazine) with his intriguing Yarri and Watungka that took 1st prize, with Matthew Abbott’s Dad and the Burma Railway runner-up. All are at spectator.com.au/tag/thawley-prize.

Above all, our sincerest thanks to Michael Thawley and his family for their inspiration and sponsorship of this critical creative competition, giving encouragement and financial incentive to talented writers. And our special thanks to John Howard for judging.

Best of all, all the winners continue to write wonderful material for this magazine and others. The theme for the 2017 Thawley Essay Prize will be announced later in the year. Your turn!


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