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A Great Opportunity Lost

So, the much anticipated and touted G20 is upon us. It will be interesting watching our leaders rubbing shoulders with other world leaders. Doubtless, each of them will be hoping the television cameras capture moments that will enhance their own personal political aims. While the G20 will be little more than a talkfest with attitude, the expectation from the Coalition government is that it will place them in a more favourable light with voters and get them a boost in the polls.

It won’t work.

It is rare for government leaders of any nation to have the opportunity to meet with so many other leaders in one place in such a short space of time; a sort of one-stop shopping experience. So, we can anticipate that there will be some furious back room argy-bargy going on to enable a succession of meetings to take place.

That means Australia will be competing with the likes of the USA, Russia, UK, Brazil and China to have time with India, for example. India, we are told is the next ‘big thing’ and every country that has something to offer will be knocking on their door.

Brazil will want to chat with Indonesia and put a dent in Australia’s live animal export market and the bigger issue of climate change, while embarrassingly absent from the agenda, will also be discussed at these side meetings.

renewThe world is changing. The new goals, looking forward, are focused on renewable energy targets. The announcement in China this week that the Chinese and the US have reached an agreement on some ambitious, renewable energy targets makes our 5% reduction on 2005 levels look pathetic.

Since our government has made it so abundantly clear that they want to adjust that figure to reflect a recent reduction in coal fired energy use, no one will be interested in discussing climate change with us. We will be seen, if not already, to be on the margins when it comes to renewable energy initiatives. Having reversed the former Labor government’s direction, the Coalition has no currency on climate change.

So where does this leave us, or more particularly, the Coalition? Abbott and company will be struggling to find much that is positive for Australia except a likely free trade agreement with China, one that has already been upstaged by the China/US climate agreement.

ftaFree trade agreements, however, are never free. There are always winners and losers. I can’t think of any benefits that I have experienced courtesy of our existing FTA with the US. I’m sure there are some, but I can’t see them and I doubt their real value. I’m sure, however, there are benefits for the Americans. The government will struggle to convince Australians that a FTA with China has any lasting benefit for us, but I’m sure there will be for the Chinese.

So, in the overall coverage, I expect the media will concentrate on the mediocre.

Doubtless they will concoct a few anecdotes about various leaders, hoping that one or more might make a comic slip up, or pat a Koala Bear, take a photo with a Kangaroo or something equally benign. There will be much written and filmed about the security arrangements. But the real stories about each national leader’s contribution and position on where the planet is heading, will be ignored largely, because of their inconsistencies with Australia’s quite backwoods approach.

putinCan we therefore surmise that what could have been an event of great pride for Australia and a boost for the government’s polling, has been lost? Indeed, it has already been bungled because of Tony Abbott’s inability to effectively articulate a convincing narrative. His appalling claim to ‘shirtfront’ Vladimir Putin has been turned into a soap opera and a very poor one at that. The media reaction to Russian warships in the vicinity of our territorial waters has made them and the government look childish.

The government have already shot themselves in the foot, firstly by Abbott’s juvenile approach to Putin and secondly because of the government’s climate change policies. Any hope or expectation of a poll boost they thought might occur as a result of the G20 is little more than a pipe dream. To the Labor party, I say, this should have been your moment in the sun.


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  1. Ruth Lipscombe

    It is hard to believe this nightmare of a PM has anyone still willing to make absolute fools of themselves by supporting him.

  2. Shevill Mathers

    Great article as usual, John. It is desperately sad to see so many of the positive things achieved by previous governments being torn apart by Abbott et. al. It will take many years to recover from this mess and a future government will most likely be blamed for it because it will take more than one term to fix things. We have so much going for Australia, but we are heading back to a great big wilderness under the current leadership.

  3. Annie Byam

    Good writing as ever John.

    Occasionally I am called paranoid ( ?? !! 🙂 ) ….. and sometimes I agree. But perhaps not this time.

    I rather think the powers that be from other countries, are out to teach our own PM a lesson or three. There will be polite if frosty diplomacy, and ‘ kindly ‘ greetings. …. I doubt that any other leader of any nation could possibly take him seriously. …. and I doubt India will fall for any back-slapping and large promises.

    Frankly, Abbott is a total embarrassment, and it occured to me today, that there might well be truly something medically wrong with him – I will leave it at that, but must say if that were the case, it would be quite sad in fact.

    Disagree with one thing here John : ……..” The media reaction to Russian warships in the vicinity of our territorial waters has made them and the government look childish. ”

    The media has reported everything with tongue in cheek, with sarcasm ( if you read between the lines ) …. and cynicism … not to mention giving the readers a good laugh. The media are actually doing their job ( for once ) …. and are not looking childish. Actually, they appear to be a bit brutal.

    Emphasis was put on sending out two wee Australian frigates ( wee by comparisons shown in Victorias Herald Sun today ) to stand their ground against the might of the Russian navy x 4, and an Aussie replenishment ( resupply ) ship being sent as well. Now all THAT is funny, and it is UTTERLY childish. Plus standby 24/7 – 3 RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft, also equipped for anti-submarine warfare, have been sent to Amberley near Brisbane.

    What the HELLL does Abbott think he’s doing ?

    Is this a case of “said the ant to the elephant – who’re pushin’ ? ”

    It’s not like the Russians haven’t done this before – when a large global meeting has taken place. They HAVE. They ‘ hover ‘ in the international waters near where many meetings take place. Perhaps it’s for show, perhaps it is to protect Putin and his staff, perhaps it is to deter any occurrences, perhaps it’s simply mandatory for Russia to do that – decision from Government.?

    Whatever – over-reaction from Abbott, is utterly puerile and ridiculous. And Putin must be laughing his head off.

  4. David

    John to add to the many embarrassments, Climate Terrorist Abbott came up with this absurd nonsense as reported in the Guardian this morning.. “There are no economic consequences of climate change No effects on the meaning of growth or climate change effect on jobs”.
    The crap just pours from him like an overflow from a broken sewer pipe. I cannot watch or listen to the idiot, it is long passed being funny, if it ever was. I now cringe and cannot believe this is the PM of the nation

  5. Roswell

    Thanks for another great piece, John. Fantastic as usual.

  6. Gilly

    This mob don’t lose opportunities. They dress them up as terrorists and declare war on them.

  7. Loz

    Well if the opposition get in at the net election they can quite truthfully say “we have to fix up the mess left by the Liberal government”.

  8. Sir ScotchMistery

    John great work as usual.

    I’m a bit confused as to the use of the expression “leaders”, which implies you think we have some/one.

    Premised on that assumption would you be so kind as to identify who you feel is/are up to that task, so we may all worship them.

  9. Roswell

    Loz, it will take decades to clean up this mess. It will also take decades to change peoples’ mindset.

  10. Billy muddle maudlin

    You can trust labor to make hay out of this weekend! As soon as it rains!

  11. mark delmege

    I could give my usual spiel about coups, invasions, arming terrorists, and black bag jobs like chemical weapons and how many guilty of those crimes are on ‘our’ side but I won’t. Renewables are of course important and is something someofus have been talking up for 35 years but don’t underestimate the importance of petrochemicals and in particular gas. It is the major driving force behind most of the worlds conflicts. The delegates at the G20 also represent the two major economic camps in (world) geopolitics. So far I haven’t seen or heard any intelligent commentary on how they are lining up in Brisbane.

  12. stephentardrew

    John getting sick of sitting in the darkness waiting for that moment in the sun.

    Lost my suntan and all. Skin turning white and pasty.

    In my arrogant moments as a youth I was once told I thought the sun shone out of my arse.

    Maybe I should lend it to Shorten because it seems to be much more articulate.

  13. David

    I am not holding my breath re either

  14. John Kelly

    Sir ScotchMistery, yes well, I was using the reference loosely. In any event they will be the ones that look serious.

  15. Jeanette

    So right, Julia Gillard or even Rudd with a pinch would have put Australia in the spotlight as a doer forward thinking country. The shot down plane incident would have been dealt with firmly but diplomatically, sadly Australia is looking like a backward dullard of a country. As for Free Trade yes as far as I can see we now have grapes and oranges from USA when our orange growers have ploughed down their trees. Just how many times do you think each container is loaded with fumigation, has anyone asked this question? I for one don’t buy USA produce if nothing else than we already have too much stuff from there. And we pay more for anything electronically, just who does need to eat fumigated grapes out of season? at ridiculous prices just too stupid!

  16. Billy muddle maudlin

    Dear Jeanette,
    I read every label carefully before I buy and there are some incredible produce being sold under home brand. Try the ‘made from imported and local produce’ and imagine is there a minimum % local? Think of a jar of plum jam you made from imported plums, what are you able to put on the label? ‘Made in Australia’ no obligation to add imported much less from where the exports come!
    Sadly only ”product of’ and ‘grown in’ denotes the origin.
    Disingenuous may be an old fashioned word but its application is rife, especially on the shelves of the ‘peas in a pod pair’ with murdochian level control of Australia.
    I take an old pensioner who was a book-keeper and knows every penny personally(including how to minimise her shares to pay minimum tax and not affect her pension) shopping at coles( she has shares) and she buys the lowest price regardless.
    She also cooks and freezes, so takes advantage of volume.
    She lives in a two bedroom government flat and pays only $32 rent but if she moves her rent increases by over $200.
    ps of the other 5 two bed roomed flats, one is another old single pensioner, two are a separated couple with a 2 year old boy(they qualified in 2012 for two bedroom because of the infant then separated last year using the death of a resident to get another two bedroomed flat each needing two rooms because of the child. Making 4 adults and a two year old in 8 bedrooms.
    She blames the labor government for such mismanagement as well as believing the rabbott and the disastrous economy and is happy to pay $7 for her high quality health. She is oblivious to her advantages of education, a tiny rent and a share income. She would be mortified if I said she was committing an offence by giving her grandson $10000 every now and then to stay under thresholds. She believes that pensioners drink and smoke so can afford the health visits and there is supporting evidence all around the complex.

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