Western Australia should be a huge beneficiary of Joe Biden presidency.
As the US recovers from one of the least politically experienced presidents in history, we are now about to see one of the most experienced.
On top of eight years as vice-president, Mr Biden was elected to the US Senate in 1973. That was back when WA opposition leader Charles Court was working to end John Tonkin’s time as premier.
I was last in Washington DC in 2017, meeting Democrats as they recovered from the shock of the Hillary Clinton loss. Donald Trump looked certain to win a second term. But, as we are reminded again and again, anything is possible in politics.
What is almost certain is that West Australians will be big winners under the new US President.
First, every US State will benefit from his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. That is a spend bigger than the entire Australian economy’s annual output. Our resources-rich State will be an obvious beneficiary as the US ramps up demand for raw materials.
Second, Mr Biden’s home state of Delaware is, like WA, wealthy and with low populations compared with our national neighbours.
He gets that you need to govern for the whole country, not just the biggest States. Both States also share a city called “Perth”.
Third, Mr Biden understands Australians. On his last visit to Australia he summed us up saying “Australians are defined by their character; by the grit, their integrity, their unyielding resilience”.
You could say the same about any of Western Australia’s mining entrepreneurs, our world-class researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute or our agriculture sector.
It is these values that he sees bring us together, saying “And it’s that character, in my view, which has always drawn Australians and Americans together”.
Fourth, when Mr Biden thinks of Australians, he thinks of West Australians.
Mr Biden knows WA Governor (and US political historian) Kim Beazley well. When Mr Biden visited Australia in 2016 it was WA’s Julie Bishop who took him to the MCG to see the Eagles play.
Mr Biden is a student of history. It will influence his thinking that it was WA’s one and only prime minister John Curtin who built the foundation of today’s ANZUS alliance.
Fifth, we know that Mr Biden will return to an approach of maintaining a tough but fair relationship with China — a relief for West Australians.
The last four years WA exporters have done well in building trade relationships, despite former president Trump and an at times lazy approach from our own Federal Government.
We can’t pretend that the peaceful rise of China is a certain path, but it being a path that benefits all humanity is key. And there is no one better in the US to embrace the complexity of this challenge.
Sixth, Mr Biden returning closer to the path set by Barack Obama in engaging in the Asia-Pacific is welcome.
I grew up in Fremantle when visiting US ships were a regular at Fremantle Port. This, and the America’s Cup, built many of WA’s continuing people-to-people links that underpin our alliance and our ongoing security.
Seventh, Mr Biden’s progressive political approach will be noted across the boardrooms and political parties of WA. He is appointing the first Cabinet with 50 per cent female members. Kamala Harris will become the first female vice-president.
Following from former president Trump’s cabinet which looked like a faded 1980s boardroom, Mr Biden has committed that “the administration, both in the White House and outside in the Cabinet, is going to look like the country”.
Eighth, WA will benefit from renewed US leadership on climate change.
Mr Biden calls it an “existential threat” and has committed to a 100 per cent clean energy economy and net zero emissions by 2050.
He will appoint former secretary of state John Kerry as a special envoy on climate change. This would be like Scott Morrison selecting Julie Bishop as Australia’s climate ambassador.
He takes the climate challenge seriously and will build momentum in global forums. Here in WA it will give more certainty to our exporters and benefit many of our resources companies who are already on the path to net zero emissions.
Ninth, Mr Biden’s commitment to childcare reform should be a model for WA and for Australia. This plan will unlock huge economic value in the US and should push our Federal Government to do more when it comes to affordable universal child care.
Federal Labor and the incoming Biden administration have both recognised the need to reform child care and make it affordable for working families.
Finally, like Americans have rejected Mr Trump, West Australians have rejected Clive Palmer. For 2021 and beyond our politics local and global will once again trend towards the mainstream.
This piece was first published in The West Australian on Thursday, 21 January 2021.
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