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Much at stake in Clinton-Trump race

AAP logoAAP 5/11/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

The United States presidential election has provided months of jokes and "what the ... ?" moments for Australians.

But there is a serious side to the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton electoral battle.

Whoever takes over the White House from Barack Obama for the next four years will have a significant influence on Australia's domestic affairs and position as a middle power in the most dynamic region in the world.

The key influence will be in defence and foreign policy.

Australia's military alliance with the US is vital to the nation's security.

A Clinton presidency could be expected to provide a steady-as-she-goes approach to the alliance, as the US steps up its marine rotations through northern Australia and conducts a wider range of joint exercise with Australia and other regional partners.

The chance of Clinton making any major military intervention - which would inevitably involve Australian forces - beyond that already under way appears slim.

Trump, however, is a different story.

He's talked up a more intensive American military role in the Middle East and taunted China over its aspirations in the South China Sea - a major Australian trade route.

While Clinton is comfortable with a strong US interest in the Asia Pacific, Trump sees the region as a threat to American interests.

His view was expressed like this in 2015: "I'm also going to renegotiate some of our military costs because we protect South Korea. We protect Germany. We protect some of the wealthiest countries in the world, Saudi Arabia. We protect everybody. We protect everybody and we don't get reimbursement. We lose on everything. We lose on everything, so we're going to negotiate and renegotiate trade deals, military deals, many other deals that's going to get the cost down for running our country very significantly."

The Trump manifesto also extends to trade.

While Australia, the US and other G20 nations have condemned protectionism and "hiding under the doona" - as Malcolm Turnbull likes to describe it - Trump has the opposite attitude.

"China, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, these countries are all taking our jobs like we are a bunch of babies. That will stop. People will treat us fairly, if I become president. We are losing our jobs, we are losing our base, we're losing our manufacturing -- all of that will stop."

As Clinton encourages Australia and other nations to play their part in taking in more refugees, especially from the Middle East, Trump wants to put up fences and ban Muslims.

There is every possibility a Trump presidency could encourage anti-immigrant movements to step up their rhetoric in Australia, adding to the pressure already exerted by parties such as One Nation.

The final issue of concern is climate and the environment.

Clinton has a clear commitment to tackling rising emissions and investing more in renewable energy, providing opportunities for Australian know-how.

Trump has in the past voiced scepticism about climate change, noting in a 2012 tweet it was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive".

There's much at stake for Australia, depending on how closely the reality mirrors the rhetoric.

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