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A G-20 love-in, world leaders on parade and spoonfed journalists

September 26th, 2009 · Greg Atkinson · 17 Comments

Thank goodness for the G-20 meetings, they are 2.5 time more exciting than the G-8 ones and they require more people to jet around pumping lots more Co2 into the atmosphere. After the latest lovefest in Pittsburgh it seems the global economy has been saved, the world is united in fighting global warming and Elvis was found serving drinks at one of the cocktail parties.

As usual most reporting from the G-20 leaders meeting consisted of journalists regurgitating what they were fed via media releases and press kits, while  adding their own personal touches about the protests, the security measures and what Mrs Obama was wearing.

Generally speaking there was not much depth or breadth in the reporting from the Australian journalists who covered the meeting and so if journalists were really serious about climate change, they would draw straws and then send just one person to cover the event. Alternatively they could set off early and travel to these meetings by kayak and camel. The nation will survive while they are away.

When the world leaders gather at these G-20 meeting they turn in big political rallies where each world leader gets to say what a legend he is, backed up by other world leaders who all agree that they are all legends.

Nothing sums this up better than the Leaders Statement which this time around was full of praise for…well the leaders of course.

Leaders’ Statement: The Pittsburgh Summit
September 24 – 25, 2009


1. We meet in the midst of a critical transition from crisis to recovery to turn the page on an era of irresponsibility and to adopt a set of policies, regulations and reforms to meet the needs of the 21st century global economy.

2. When we last gathered in April, we confronted the greatest challenge to the world economy in our generation.

3. Global output was contracting at pace not seen since the 1930s. Trade was plummeting. Jobs were disappearing rapidly. Our people worried that the world was on the edge of a depression.

4. At that time, our countries agreed to do everything necessary to ensure recovery, to repair our financial systems and to maintain the global flow of capital.

5. It worked.

At this point I was choking on my beer and therefore I had to stop reading. To save time you could condense these first 5 points into “we are good, just ask us”.  But there is more, much more and if you take suitable precautions (i.e. stay away from anything you might choke on) you can read the entire propaganda release (and others) from the Pittsburgh Summit 2009 media center. (there are even videos!)

But never fear, the G-20 leaders have pledged to fight protectionism, work to avoid boom & bust economic cycles, develop alternative energy sources and generally solve most of the world problems.

In other words, there is much more to do and since we are the people who saved you then you need to vote us back in  (in the case of democracies) or don’t riot. (in the cases of China & Saudi Arabia)

What you won’t find the leaders talking about is the role politicians had in creating many of the causes of the global economic crisis nor do they mention how the countries racking up huge amounts of debt will ever manage to get this under control.

Of course at the G-20 level the theory connecting human activity and global warming is no longer a scientific theory, it is a fact. So this leaves the door wide open for many nations to bring in increased taxes via the back door.

Perhaps you may think I am too cynical but let me suggest that we will see the countries most concerned about debt being the first to rush in carbon & emissions trading schemes/taxes. Do you think China or Saudi Arabia will be rushing in any such schemes?

I am not an anti G-20 meeting guy when they are what they are supposed to be: Meetings of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. But I do think they become overly politicised when the world leader attend and end up being a bit of waste of time. It seems one of the few growth areas in the global economy these days is in meetings of world leaders.

But the press loves these meetings and so when Kevin Rudd declared that the new focus on the G-20 was a historic day for Australia, the media all jumped on the bandwagon with him.

However the facts are that we have been in the G-20 for a while (we even had one of the meeting here in Australia in 2006) and so if the G-20 does some how replace the G-8 isn’t it actually a historic day for other 12 nations who were outside the G-8 as well? Actually is it really such a big deal anyway?

But according to our media it’s a “historic day for Australia”, because they say Kev07 has been arguing for a long time that the G-20 should be the premier global economic meeting. Why do they know this..because Kev told them so and they could not be bothered to check how many other nations in the G-20 have been asking for the same thing for many years.

The fact is that the G-20 is getting extra focus because that is where China is and it looks pretty stupid for the G-8 to pretend they can save the planet unless China is at the table.

But this has not stopped Kevin Rudd claiming credit for something he had little influence over and thus his ego moves up a few more notches, ably assisted by the never-questioning journalists who follow him around the globe.

So why am I so critical of the G-20 world leaders gatherings? Well because I wonder:

  • Was it really necessary to have so many people gathered in Pittsburgh for the meeting or could have much of the work been achieved by video conferences?
  • How leaders can talk about global warming while leaving huge carbon footprints all over the planet. (this is a bit like people flying first class to see the poor starving children in Africa)
  • Who will ever track how many of the grand plans announced at this G-20 meeting will ever amount to anything? Who is watching the G-20?
  • Why did the meeting look more like a political rally than a work event?
  • If the G-20 stands for greater financial transparency where is the data on the effectiveness of the government economic stimulus measures implemented so far? Any return on investment data available perhaps? How much of the funds have been wasted due to poor management and corruption, or is it only the private sector that is questioned these days?

Finally why should we care what Hugh Jackman has to say about global warming? The guy can sure sing and dance but a scientist he ain’t. For me a sign we are in media managed circus is when actors, musicians and other assorted celebrities are lined up for photo opportunities with world leaders.

Well I guess it could be worse, we could have another Australia 2020 Summit!

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John // Sep 28, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I love the article although I am far more cynical in relation to the whole global warming thing.

    I totally agree with the comments about the sycophantic Australian media who follow Krudd lapping up and dutifully reporting every word he says….whether it is right or wrong.

    For those who don’t know what sycophantic is:

    syc·o·phant (sk-fnt, sk – n.
    A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.

    One day (hopefully) soon the media will have a new nickname for Krudd – Y2Kev – another big and expensive beat up over nothing!!

  • 2 Greg Atkinson // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:27 am

    John thanks for the feedback. The G-20 leaders meeting appear to be a nice easy trip for journalists (they just reuse the material from the press releases) and an ego pumping session for the leaders. As for Kev he has once again played the media like fools and been able to claim credit for the efforts of others. I see even Wayne Swan was claiming credit for putting together some reforms! Does anyone think that Swanny has any idea of what he is doing?

  • 3 Pete // Sep 29, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I see even Wayne Swan was claiming credit for putting together some reforms! Does anyone think that Swanny has any idea of what he is doing?

    Haha, that is pretty funny. I certainly don’t 🙂

  • 4 Ralph // Sep 29, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Who said

    I see even Wayne Swan was claiming credit for putting together some reforms! Does anyone think that Swanny has any idea of what he is doing?

    Swanny is the most inept minister in the current gov’t. I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that that goose has any idea what he’s on about. He spits out soundbites and talking points that his minders feed him. Has anyone seen him try to answer difficult questions on the spot? Greg blogged about his performance on Lateline recently. He’s a disgrace.

  • 5 Greg Atkinson // Sep 29, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Ralph I reckon Senator Conroy is a serious challenger to Swanny in terms of being the biggest twit on the front bench. Conroy also struggles to answer questions on Lateline and it is clear he has no clue what he is doing with the NBN.

  • 6 Senator13 // Sep 29, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    At least Swan has improved a little since he took the job… Conroy on the other hand is going down hill fast. I think Conroy will take out the prize for having the biggest cost blow out on a project (NBN).

    I did see some of the interviews and media commentary on TV over the weekend of Rudd’s US trip. The journalists no longer report and research – it is just regurgitation of what ever the leaders put in their press releases. It was very poor. I guess they don’t want to get yelled at by an overtired Rudd??

  • 7 Ralph // Sep 30, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Yeah, Swan has improved since he’s been in gov’t. Before the election I was wincing at the thought of him going up against Costello in the treasurer’s debate. At the time it was such a complete mismatch that Costello was forced to go easy on Swanny so that he didn’t come across as a bully. At least now Swanny has rehearsed his lines a few more times and has some more of that essential commodity – confidence.

    I agree that Conroy is useless. The other contender for the most pi$$weak minister title is Jenny Macklin – a joke. I’d also nominate Peter Garrett – would probably be a reasonable performer but he wears his straightjacket with too much pride.

  • 8 Greg Atkinson // Sep 30, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Peter Garrett has sold his soul as they say. I never cared much for his politics but at least you knew where you thought he stood. Now he is just a puppet. Of course we are hardly well served by an ace team on the Opposition side as well..sigh.

    Then there is our beloved media…do they even bother trying to dig into issues any more?

  • 9 Senator13 // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:06 am

    You know what they say about Garrett – Every show is a sell out.

    Yes, I would very much agree about Macklin. It is really quite sad because she has quiet an important portfolio that is often overlooked in favour of the more glamorous issues such as the GFC, NBN, ETS ect.

    Let’s not forget the undisputed favourite of the media – Gillard. Her service delivery record is going down hill fast. A computer in schools was an absolute mess. School halls and buildings for schools that don’t want or need them all in the name of spending for the sake of spending. Also the restructuring of the workplace relations system by making it less flexible at a time when flexibility would help people keep a job and get people back in work. She has too much on. Trying to do too much and there are now too many things slipping through too many cracks.

    The lack of accountability has really deteriorated with this government. If just one minister from the previous government had these kinds of records there would be a massive outcry but this sort of mismanagement just seems to make this government more popular… I don’t know why?

    Though, I will give credit where credit is due and I have been very impressed with Tanner. I think he has a very good temperament and attitude and seems to be in it for good governing not just short term political points. Also (in what would probably be an uncharacteristic choice for me) I have liked Bill Shorten. He would never agree with my views on workplace relations or much else for that matter. But, in his parliamentary secretary roles he has seemed genuinely interested in the issues and seems to sincerely want to help people. And in my books that is always a good thing and I hope he keeps up that attitude.

    The opposition really needed to have sorted them self out by now…

  • 10 Ralph // Sep 30, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Yes, I think it’s unanimously agreed that Tanner is a very polished performer. I think he’s the best in the government by quite some distance. Whenever he appears in serious political interviews (Insiders, Meet the Press etc), he’s very authoritative and seems to be able to talk on the fly without resorting to party talking points – something Swanny isn’t capable of. And I think he’d make a very capable PM too.

    If every man and his dog can see that Swanny is in the shade of Tanner, it makes me wonder why Kevvie is happy to have a second rate performer as treasurer. Perhaps it’s Kev’s version of a sick joke.

    The more I see of Hockey, the more I worry as well. He’s the Liberals’ version of Bomber. The opposition is struggling right now.

  • 11 Greg Atkinson // Sep 30, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Yes Lindsay Tanner seems quite switched on, maybe Rudd does not want him close in case comparisons are made. I guess next to Swan maybe even I would have a chance of looking bright!

    As for Joe Hockey, if that is the best the Opposition can do as far as an alternative Treasurer is concerned then they deserve to be out of power. It is no use complaining about the Government all the time if you don’t offer the people a viable alternative team to run the nation.

  • 12 Pete // Oct 1, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Great comments everyone, very entertaining! I agree wholeheartedly with everything that has been said 🙂

    Tanner sure does seem like a bit of a diamond in the rough. But the Gov cannot afford to give him more power, simply because:
    – it would suggest that Swan got things wrong
    – he is not necessarily aligned with what KRudd and his buddies want to achieve economically
    – they are probably scared of him

    I despise Hockey – he emits some kind of evilness. I am not sure if that is a fair assessment, but from my experiences he sure seems it (you know he even had a blog on his website with a fictional diary about a cat he rescued or something like that. To make him seem nice – see Bridge-it).

    The Opposition doesn’t really have anyone of any worth left. Turnbull has been a shocking leader and should probably be in Hockey’s position instead. The Julie Bishop experiment was awful too, as was the Brendan Nelson one.

    What I think they need to do is acknowledge that things are not working and do a complete reshuffle. They should get together, decide on policies and actually have something to work with, rather than the crap they’ve been doing lately. To give people some confidence in them.

    It is probably a shame for the Libs that Barnaby Joyce is not in the upper house. At least he has some conviction (no pun intended, although most pollies are crims in some way).

    I guess when you have a lot of old parliamentarians in your party, you get stuck with a lot of old ideas. Not that the new(?) ideas of the current Gov are particularly good.

  • 13 Ralph // Oct 1, 2009 at 8:40 am

    It’s interesting to see other views on why Tanner is sitting on the bench while the Goose runs around on the field. I think there must be an element of Rudd recognising Tanner’s superior ability and keeping him on a leash. I also think that perhaps Tanner enjoys where he is – he can pop his head up every now and again and shine.

    I also agree re the general direction of the opposition. They really seem to have gone from a team of stars only 2 years ago to a rabble with no one of talent ready to step up. I guess that’s what happens when you no longer have the machinery of government behind you. It must be tough.

    I agree that Turnbull would probably be better as shadow treasurer, but then there is no one ready to lead. I actually am growing on Pyne – he’s morphing from a mincing poodle to a larger dog (but not yet a pit bull). If there’s anyone in the opposition who could step up, I think it’s him.

  • 14 Greg Atkinson // Oct 1, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Sadly the Federal Opposition has not moved on since I lamented about the sad state of democracy in Australia back in June: Is there a Federal Opposition in Australia? If anything things seem to be getting worse now that they are split over the ETS.

  • 15 Senator13 // Oct 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I think the whole Swan over Tanner thing is much simpler. Swan is a Queenslander.

    Ability has little to do with it I think. They have to keep all the Labor factions happy. You have Rudd and his mate Swan from QLD. Gillard and Tanner from Vic and they pack the rest of the front bench with members from NSW.

    Kev – PM – QLD
    Gillard – DPM – VIC
    Albo – Leader of the House – NSW

    It is all nice and even so they all play nice. How long it lasts is another question.

    This is where party politics and good governance don’t mix…

    Both sides do it.

    The Media love it because it plays out like a drama.

    I think this is how you can have billion dollar blow outs go unreported but any sniff of tensions in the opposition get the front pages… If you ran a business like this it would fail in months. But an entire nation seems to get by some how. Don’t ask me how.

  • 16 Ned S // Oct 4, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    “I guess next to Swan maybe even I would have a chance of looking bright!” (Greg, 30 Sep) – Geez Greg, that’s a bit unkind – To you I mean!

    In fairness to our media, at least when Kev popped out for a break they asked What’s going on with the economy boss? While when Obama showed, his fan club wanted to know What are you going to do about Iran?

    So yes, until someone or something really gets Uncle Sam a bit more focussed regarding those “policies, regulations and reforms to meet the needs of the 21st century global economy” mentioned in Point 1, it is probably a bit early to state “It worked” like they do in Point 5.

  • 17 Senator13 // Oct 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    I notice that poor old Dutton will be out of a seat come next election if things stay the way they are. Not good for the Libs. At this rate they don’t deserve to be in office if they can’t arrange for one of their best performers to get a seat.

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