The 11th G20 summit will be held in Hangzhou at the end of this week. The leaders’ summit will be held in conjunction with a meeting of central bank governors.
There will be a major onus on the summiteers to deliver a programme to restore growth to the global economy. If they fail, the danger will be an outright collapse in world trade and the ascendency of protectionist and purely populist movements to power, a situation we have not seen since the early 20th Century. That would destroy the social democracies and free markets that have given us all the highest human standards of living and knowledge in recorded history.
Australia is the custodian of many of the world’s most valuable resources that need infrastructure investment to be developed. This is why Canberra matters in terms of the G20.
A weak government, with many interest groups at its neck, needs to prove that it can maintain the very critical capital investment stream that free world trade and investment facilitates to establish positive outcomes. Hiding behind security concerns only works if those concerns are principled. If they’re not, the stability of government and the economy are at risk. Real productivity is a central point here: Australia and the major economies need to increase productivity if they are to start growing real incomes. As Australians we have to raise the level of debate and remind people of rational thought with respect to what has worked to promote growth in the past. Many Australians are unhappy that the Prime Minister has not lived up to their expectations, but they are far prouder of and more confident of his performance on the world stage than that of his predecessor. It would be a bitter irony for
Australia if the present Prime Minister failed on the same score.
The Prime Minister’s failings have been discussed at length since the recent elections. The pressures are massive, as seen in the dairy industry crash, and the Chinese Australia Free
Trade Agreement conflicts that have been created by perverse government decisions, particularly on the infrastructure investment front. Now we must build some consensus behind the Prime Minister, and that includes the fourth estate. Only then will the global public allow Australia to be taken seriously at the G20, and that means delivering positive outcomes on matters from immigration to investment.
The Prime Minister will again be travelling during the summit season which will include
ASEAN and the Pacific Forum, but the G20 is going to be the most crucial platform for Australia’s short and medium term financial, economic and security interests. We are still waiting to see, as promised, credible heads roll for recent disasters like the census, the dairy industry price cuts and the Nauru human rights violations.
Joe Hockey was well versed in the G20 and the infrastructure plans that came out of the deliberations to reboot world growth. However, he proved to be a terrible communicator to the people at many levels. We need a more binding Australian social and intellectual contract that goes well beyond “most exciting times”. Real enthusiasm is called for: a contract that has vision, hope and a plan people can follow in their own hearts and minds. From this perspective, the case the Prime Minister makes at the G20 will have domestic as well as global implications.