Trump’s Australia by Bruce Wolpe

Reviewed by E. B. Heath

I am not a fan of dystopian literature, but the title implied the genre:  Trump’s Australia.  I stared at the book’s cover: the outline of that head, with its yellow hair and orange face, and the map of Australia for a mouth.  Non-fiction Noir.  How might another Trump Presidency, a man with little love or understanding of democracy, change America, Australia’s most important strategic ally?   Trump’s Australia by Bruce Wolpe is an analysis of Donald Trump’s Presidency and what Australia should do if Trump returns to the White House in 2025.

Bruce Wolpe is an expert and commentator on American and Australian politics.  He is currently a Senior Fellow at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney.

In America he worked with the Democrats in the US Congress during President Barack Obama’s first term, and, on relocating to Australia, as a senior executive at Fairfax Media 1998-2009 and an advisor for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Wolpe discusses a Trump second presidency in five sections:   Trump and Australia’s Foreign Policy; Trump and Australia’s Domestic Policy; Trump and the Future of Democracy in America and Australia; The Democracy Guardrails in Australia; and Trump’s Return. Wolpe reports there was general agreement from both American and Australian experts regarding Trump’s approach on these issues.

Discussing foreign-policy the accord is summed up in the following quote:

Trump is not anchored to a philosophical foundation; he can change dramatically. He has a fixation on authoritarian leaders. He admires them and that they can make tough decisions and can do so without being slowed down by democratic norms or the bureaucracy.

 An erratic Trump in itself is not so worrying for Australia, unless our leaders follow slavishly behind.  In 2019, Morrison’s visit to America evidenced an all-in with Trump policy; joining Trump’s loud remonstrations regarding China and the Covid virus.  Mateship over diplomacy resulted days later in China’s trade war with Australia.  For America, this ended the beginnings of a cosy relationship with China.  Trump was in the process of carving up trade deals with President Xi, but turned sour during the Covid pandemic – Trump believing it was deliberately inflicted on the world by China.

Trump is all about The Deal, the commercial advantage.  Commentators believe that AUKUS will survive if it is commercially beneficial for America.  But the Indo-Pacific will be a balancing act under Trump.  Australia will not be the main focus in Trump’s desire to realign US interest in the Indo-Pacific. Well, there’s a warning if ever there was one.  Wolpe quotes Hugh White:

Australia needs a more independent foreign policy and the assets to execute it.  We need to enhance Australia’s independent diplomacy in Asia.   … We need more money for diplomacy and defence hardware.

Domestic policy under Trump was touted as a big success, and not just by Trump. Unemployment fell, household incomes rose, and corporate taxes were cut.  Treasurer Scott Morrison wanted to emulate, threatening that if Australia did not follow suit regarding corporate taxes, international companies would leave Australia, causing much debate in Australia.  Wolpe presents readers with the less rosy side of Trump’s economy – the American trade deficit increased by billions! The very thing he set out to decrease.  Trump does not see the whole picture.  He is all about the deal on the table at that moment in time.  It is warned that in a return of a Trump presidency in 2025 the role of the Federal Reserve board will be crucial in dealing with the excessive pressures in the economy.  Here Wolpe usefully explains the differences between the US and Australian Reserve Banks, the latter being de-politicised by comparison.

The outcome for democracy should Trump return to the White House is bleak for America, not so much for Australia, given that the Westminster system is surrounded by checks and balances, power diffused rather than centred in one office, or man.  The same goes for the electoral system. Wolpe explains the convoluted American machinery of voting designed to exclude people of colour.  It makes interesting reading and gratitude for our Australian rules and regulations, plus the new Albanese federal anti-corruption commission.

In many respects Wolpe elucidates how different we are in Australia, therefore safeguarded from the worst of Trumpism, providing the government of the day stands strong.  Nevertheless, Wolpe’s warning on issues of defence in the Pacific under a Trump Presidency are germane, along with a warning for Australia to urgently seek unilateral trading agreements before 2025 – just in case. Wolpe discusses how Trump’s economic strategy will have consequences for global trade wars and inflation.

Wolpe did not discuss the connection between the Evangelical Pentecostals and Trump.  Who is using whom is unclear, but certainly Trumpism suits the extreme views of this Christian movement; the abortion ruling serves as an example.  Thankfully Prime Minister Albanese provided clear leadership on this sensitive matter:  Australians are entitled to their own views, but not to impose their views on women for whom this is a deeply personal decision.  It is as well to note, for future voting preferences, that there were some National and Liberals applauding the American Supreme Court ruling.  Trump’s use of social media has liberated the ultra-conservative, as above, and extreme right-wing movements across the globe, and that is seeping into Australia.

Wolpe also gives an account of Ronald Dion DeSantis, referred to as Trump with brains.  It’s not just about Trump.  The Republican Party is on a trajectory to destroy democracy and win the culture wars, and DeSantis is ready to replace Trump with his Trumpist agenda.

The above comments are but a small sample of Bruce Wolpe’s Trump’s Australia – a most interesting and timely read.

Trump’s Australia

by Bruce Wolpe


Allen & Unwin


ISBN: 978 176106 809 6

$34.99; 320pp



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