Australia: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

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Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister in 2015, beating out the incumbent Tony Abbott. Both Turnbull and Abbott belong to the center-right Liberal Party. Turnbull, who ran on a campaign promising continuity and change, as well as job growth, promised that central policies of Abbott’s government would remain the same, but that Turnbull would govern without slogans and trust in the intelligence of the electorate. Turnbull captured many liberal voters in the election who hoped he would implement important cultural reforms, like legalizing gay marriage, easing childcare fees, and increasing fiscal spending on public medical care, that Tony Abbott had declined to face.

Turnbull has made some progress toward his more progressive goals. In 2017, for example, Australia legalized gay marriage; however, Turnbull has faced significant pushback by more conservative members of his party. Conservative pushback has been made worse by Turnbull’s commitment to a consultative government, in which he moves forward in lockstep with the advice of his cabinet. His commitment to a consultative government stems from his desire to distance himself from Tony Abbott’s habit of making so-called captain commands. Turnbull s government has, however, made progress toward its signature energy plan. The Turnbull administration released a market-friendly two-fold energy plan that aims to provide Australians with affordable, reliable energy, while maintaining emission standards outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The plan also cut subsidies to renewable energy sources like wind and solar. In terms of foreign policy, Turnbull’s administration aims to take advantage of the growing Indo-Pacific market. In the eyes of Turnbull, India, especially, could be the next major driver of the Australian economy. In regards to the South China Sea Turnbull has verbalized Australia’s commitment to upholding international norms and law; however, Turnbull has also acknowledged the emergence of a multipolar region in Asia. In this regard, Turnbull has continued Abbott’s tact of toeing the line between China and the United States.

Turnbull deemed the previous G20 Summit in Hamburg in 2017 to be a success, as Australian steel and aluminium were exempt from Trump’s tariffs. Trade ministers met in Buenos Aires in early 2018 to discuss the World Trade Organization and how to work within these regulations, however Australia did not join the EU, U.S., or Japan in this meeting. As discussions about trade continue, Australia benefits from open rules-based trading and hurts from unilateral trade actions. Coalition building within the World Trade Organization has been a theme of Australia’s, and as such, their absence from this meeting in Buenos Aires was surprising. With the upcoming G20 Summit, it will be interesting to see what is on the top of the agenda for Prime Minister Turnbull.

“Everything we do as a government is focused on getting help and support for hard-working Australian families. We are standing up for them.”

“I’ve been around in public life for a ling time. I think people know what I stand for. They know that I have strong convictions, committed principles and I’m prepared to stand up for them.”

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