Allan Takes Aim Blog

Summ(it)ing up the G20

Posted on: 25 July 2012

Edited article on line at: published Wednesday 25 July

Both the ACT and NSW Governments huffed and puffed about losing their joint bid for the G20 summit that Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be held on 14-15 November 2014 in Brisbane. Their huffing and puffing was about the loss of tourism opportunities, not that the summit is about tourism, but economics which is why finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 of the world’s major economies will meet at a cost to Australia of a mere $370 million for security, to talk about the global economy.

No doubt there will be some discussion about the global economy. However my feeling is that the G20 summits are less about economics and more about giving the people who have messed up their own economies a holiday junket to compensate them in case they’re not in the same job next year. Take a look at the economies represented and you’ll see what I mean: Oceania, Italy, Germany, France, European Union, Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Indonesia, India, Japan, China, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, US, Mexico, Canada and South Africa and UK.

However there’s more to the huffing and puffing than tourism. First: Barry O’Farrell has lost the opportunity to boast of the tourism revenue and jobs the summit would have brought to Sydney when he starts girding his political loins in preparation for his next re-election campaign.

Second, and not to put too fine a point on it, Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister of the ACT’s minority Labor Government, is in the same boat as O’Farrell. However, her needs are more pressing because, unlike O’Farrell, she faces an election on 20 October and voters many of whom think that for too long Labor has taken it for granted that they will re-elect them.

No longer; today the shibboleth is not some catchy slogan or an appeal to old fashioned ideology that makes people feel good but successful policies that will eradicate the depression and hopelessness many families feel as the wonder how they will pay the rent or mortgage, buy food or, as is becoming common even in wealthy Canberra, where they will sleep. Like O’Farrell, of course, the ACT Chief Minister also has lost the opportunity to boast of how the summit would have been a boost to the ACT Economy and jobs.

I’ve used the word Junket to describe the summit: now a brief word about G20’s origins. First proposed in 1999 by Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin as a biannual forum it replaced the G8 as the main economic council of wealthy nations following the 2008 Washington forum.
Then, following the Cannes forum in 2011 the announcement was made that the expanded forum would meet annually instead of biannually. As the cost of attending is met by taxpayers, what else could be expected of politicians for whom feeding from the government money trough has become a right?

There are no prizes for guessing what happened next. Bureaucrats and political apparatchiks who also like feeding from the government trough suggested to the politicians that if the retinue of advisers they took to the summit was expanded it would enhance their importance. What politician could resist such blandishments? And so retinues have grown.
But credit where it’s due: this is known as thinking ahead because, in time, no doubt, the G20 will be superseded by a G30 and a stream of even bigger junkets. And as I peer into my political crystal ball I see the numbers attending the summits rivalling crowd numbers at a grand final as each economy strives to outdo its rivals. And as the summits become bigger so too will their agendas which will mean that more days will be needed to discuss them.

On that basis it seems clear that if the revenue and jobs that, allegedly, will be generated by the 2014 summit in Brisbane are true, the ACT Government should already be thinking about how to secure future G summits for Canberra.

And the group of politicians Canberra voters elect to Government on 20th October should be aware also, that if Canberra is to attract summits they will need to speed the development of necessary infrastructure such as new hotels, attractions and myriad other facilities.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday and online every Wednesday at:


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