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Weekend catch-up: Putin, Penny, Peter and more

Weekend catch-up: Putin, Penny, Peter and more
Published 30 Jul 2016 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

As cracking yarns go, Russia allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee's emails and giving them to WikiLeaks for distribution, all purportedly in the name of undermining Hillary Clinton and supporting Donald Trump, is one for the ages. Matthew Sussex:

There are a number of reasons why this story is significant, although the ability of states, groups and individuals to steal and leak sensitive electronic information isn’t one of them. Rather, it’s the implications or effects of those capabilities that matter.

A more immediate question, though, is what Putin stands to gain from a Trump presidency. 

Emma Connors wrote on the effect the leaked emails (which showed Committee favouritism towards Clinton) were having on an already vexed Democratic National Convention:

Certainly Bernie Sanders fans weren't phased at all by the Russian connection. As far as they were concerned, the story was the emails, not who handed them over to WikiLeaks. They felt vindicated, and really, really angry. Just as they had suspected, the party's national committee had actively plotted against their man. Already convinced they had been robbed after months of feeling the Bern, they were in no mood to look the other way.

What did Donald Trump make of all this? He repeatedly asked Russia to try hacking Clinton’s emails as well. James Bowen:

Trump’s outburst stood in stark contrast with the carefully scripted pronouncements on display in Philadelphia, and served as another reminder that this presidential contest will not be fought within the traditional rules of engagement of American politics. Without question, Clinton and her DNC supporters delivered a more cohesive and accommodating message than Trump and other RNC speakers, but it’s difficult to tell how much that type of thing matters any more.

Developments in domestic US politics have made the odds of congress passing the TPP very remote, argued Derek Lundy: [fold]

Meanwhile, the changed American political landscape which has put the Blue Dog Democrats under pressure has also thrown into doubt the GOP’s status as the undeniable party of free trade. Some Republican senators have come out against the TPP because they worry it doesn’t go far enough to help big American business. Others agree with the sentiment that trade deals hurt American jobs. These are the same Republicans who now see the working-class white men who soured on free trade after the Global Financial Crisis as their key constituency.

Closer to Australia, while his continued position as prime minister may confound Western onlookers, there are some very good reasons why Malaysia’s Najib Razak still holds power, writes Zubaidah Nazeer:

But those hoping for a swift end to Najib’s rule are likely to be disappointed for three main reasons: the PM's substantial political support; a lack of united opposition; and, finally, some powerful foreign allies.

Another embattled PM in the region, PNG's Peter O’Neill, survived a vote of no-confidence last week. Jonathan Pryke examined how it all came to this:

How did a man who controversially wrested power from founding father Michael Somare in 2011 and then went on to win the largest majority in PNG’s history, marginalising the opposition to only four seats (less than 4% of parliament), find himself in the fight of his political life just three years later?

For me, it all boils down to two interconnected issues: economic management and corruption.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was this week denied a nomination for the position of UN secretary-general by current PM Malcolm Turnbull. Peter Nadin argued that the UN Security Council should have decided Rudd’s fate, not Turnbull:

The decision to not nominate Rudd will feed into already negative international perceptions of Australian politics: ‘they’re a brutish lot down under, aren’t they?'

In an opposition reshuffle over the last weekend, Tanya Plibersek was replaced as Australia’s shadow foreign minister by Penny Wong. I took a look at Wong’s historical positions on a number of foreign policy issues:

As Kevin Rudd's climate change minister, Wong developed the emissions trading scheme that never was…and then, as Labor's finance attack dog and Labor senate leader, became famous for her grillings in Senate Estimates. But what do we know about her foreign policy?

Elaine Pearson argued that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s incoming secretary, Frances Adamson, should adopt a focus on humans rights when in office:

Adamson takes over the department as the world faces tumultuous times. Extremist attacks, long regular occurrences in Kabul and Bagdad, are becoming frequent in Europe too. The European Union is losing a key member, putting European unity to the test. Far-right politicians are gaining ground with populist xenophobic policies. Tens of millions of people are fleeing war, discrimination, oppression and violence.

In such troubled times, many are quick to turn their focus away from human rights protections. But in difficult times, it is even more important that Australia recommits to prioritising human rights in its foreign policy.

The G20’s finance ministers and central bank governors met in Chengdu this week. Tristram Sainsbury analysed the meeting’s messaging:

Time will tell how effectively the world can indeed muddle through. There is immense technical expertise available to inform the G20's decisions, and their read on the global economy and future risks may ultimately justify the lack of urgency expressed in Chengdu. As Martin Wolf noted at the start of the year, there remains lots of ruin in the economy; what matters is not whether the economy is well-managed but whether a calamity will be avoided.

Sainsbury also argued for continued Australian engagement with the G20 in general, despite the body’s flaws:

Rather than a question of why engage in an ‘ineffective’ process, the key question Australians ask should be how do we get the most out of our membership.

The G20 and other global bodies will no doubt have noticed the commentariat linking globalisation to widening income disparity (and linking that to Brexit and Trump-like phenomena), but is it really that simple? Stephen Grenville

Globalisation was not the only factor in the diminished wage share. The International Labour Office cites ‘financialisation’ as being at least as important — ‘sharp-pencil’ managerial pressures for greater productivity which weakened labour’s bargaining position. Globalisation might have put extra pressure on management for efficiency gains, but much of this pressure originated elsewhere, particularly from stronger shareholder pressure and economy-wide deregulation.

Finally, Milton Osborne analysed how Cambodia is proving a thorn in the side of ASEAN:

Cambodia is once again at the heart of ASEAN problems in relation to the disputes associated with the South China Sea. Reports that it has not been possible for the ASEAN ministers meeting in Vientiane to find an agreed form of words about the issue should surely be no surprise, however regrettable this might be.

 Photo: Getty Images/Bill Clark

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