Tony Abbott and the G20

Nov 17, 2014

In the media in the past few days we have been overwhelmed by stories and photo opportunities from the G20 in Brisbane. It will take some time to sort out fact from spin. I have set out below some comments and opinions from observers. It provides a useful but only partial account by observers of the G20. I have not included any comments from News Corp publications. News Corp’s support of the government is entirely predictable.

In today’s SMH, Peter Harcher said: ‘But the achievement [on the growth target] was almost buried under towering international indignation at Abbott’s suspected climate change denialism. He throws in a boast that his government repealed the country’s carbon tax, standing out among Western nations as the one willing to reverse progress on climate change.’

Today’s editorial in the SMH said ‘It was unwise for Mr Abbott to focus his opening remarks at the leaders retreat on the senate blockages of his contentious budget measures. …Yet that pales into insignificance beside the destructive role Australia played as a blocker of talks and stronger commitments on climate change just weeks before a key UN meeting in Lima and a year before the ultimate summit in Paris next December.’

Robin Dyxon commented in the Los Angeles Times ‘The Group of 20 Summit could have been Australia’s moment, signalling its arrival as a global player … but in all, the summit had Australians cringing more than cheering.’  She added ‘By summit’s end Australia looked like an adolescent country.’

In The Drum for the ABC, Paula Matthewson said ‘If anything, the G20 has made Abbott’s life just that much more difficult … As the PM learned over the last weekend, talking tough can only take one so far … in failing the international leadership test at the G20, Abbott managed to single-handedly set back the Coalition’s re-election strategy …’ Paula Matthewson is a freelance communications adviser. She was a media adviser to John Howard in the early 1990s.

The Australian Financial Review usually reflects the political views and interests of the business community, but it had some strong things to say about Tony Abbott and the G20.

  • Jennifer Hewett said ‘The lingering atmospherics of the Brisbane G20 will be dominated by the political emissions from Obama’s speech and what will be seen as Abbott’s begrudging response’. She added ‘Abbott made off-kilter opening remarks about how difficult it was to get a Medicare co-payment and university fee deregulation through the Senate. The Prime Ministerial version of speaking from the heart sounded in petty contrast to the much larger problems facing most G20 leaders’. Jennifer Hewett’s column was headed ‘Abbott outplayed at his own gig’.
  • In a column from Laura Tingle she said ‘But the Abbott brand of diplomacy has not been a wild success over a steamy G20 weekend in Brisbane.’ She added ‘The flawed atmospherics of the weekend diplomacy must be sheeted home solely to the Prime Minister. … There were images of the PM explaining his domestic agenda and Senate problems to rather perplexed world leaders. There were the repeated humiliations from China, the US and other countries insisting that climate change could not be shoved in a cupboard. … Finally, there was the damp squid impact of Abbott’s interventions with Vladimir Putin.  … Overall the Prime Minister was not able to put a stamp on events in Brisbane.’
  • Phillip Coorey and Ben Potter said ‘Australia has been largely isolated among the G20 over climate change by finding itself at odds with nearly every other member on the level of response required. Despite Australia wanting climate change off the agenda at the G20 … it dominated the weekend following Saturday’s speech by US President Barack Obama. … A European diplomat described the debate on whether climate change should be included or not as trench warfare.’ This story was headed ‘Trench warfare ends in isolation, loss’.
  • Tony Walker said ‘In its efforts to exclude discussion about climate, the government has ensured that the very issue it hoped would be shifted to the margins has assumed even greater significance than might otherwise have been the case. If this is not close to the perfect definition of an own goal politically, I don’t know what is. … The Australian Prime Minister got ambushed by an American President on an issue that should never have been allowed to come to this.’

To an Australian it does not make for pretty reading.

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