As Prime Minister Scott Morrison met world leaders in Rome on Saturday, he represented a country a shadow of its former self. Alan Austin reports.
THE CONTRAST could hardly be more glaring. A decade ago, Australia was the greatest country on the planet. Today, Australia is the stand-out loser — on climate policy, on economic outcomes, on corruption, on military procurement, on infrastructure, on democracy and on good global citizenship.
Collapse in economic performance
Ten years ago, Australia was the shining star of the G20 summit in Cannes, France. Credit Suisse had just confirmed Australians had the world’s highest median wealth by a Swiss ski run. Heritage Foundation had announced Australia’s economic freedom was highest in the OECD. Federal Government debt was the third-lowest in the OECD. The money markets had valued the Aussie dollar higher than the U.S. dollar for the previous 12 months. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other agencies had lauded Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis as the world’s best.
The dudes who bestow best minister gongs had awarded Australia aviation minister of the year, infrastructure minister of the year and world’s best treasurer. Data published by the OECD and the World Bank showed Australia’s economy in 2011 clearly led the world. The month after that summit, Fitch Ratings gave Australia a triple-A rating – for the first time ever – thus completing the set.
Last Saturday, in contrast, Australia arrived at Rome with its arse out of its trousers. The Aussie dollar is now worth only 75.2 U.S. cents. Australia alone has seen its debt to GDP ratio increase more than six times over the last ten years. Of the 19 countries in the G20 (the European Union makes up the 20), only three have had their jobless rates increase by more than 2.5% over the last decade — South Africa, Brazil and Australia.
Of the 19 nations, only a few have annual GDP growth in the March quarter below 10% — including Australia. Australia is now among the laggards also on wages growth, inflation, retail sales and jobs.
The Bureau of Statistics shows 4.63% of the workforce is officially unemployed. It also shows 8.48% working zero hours. As shown here last week, Australia has fallen from top place on the Independent Australia ranking on economic management – IAREM – to 23rd this year. That’s the worst decline in the world.
But while Australia is a loser and an embarrassment on economic management, it is a pariah and a destroyer in other areas.
Australia was hailed worldwide when former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ratified the Kyoto climate protocol in 2007. Today, Australia’s intransigence on climate cooperation is despised worldwide. A headline in Norway declared last week: ‘Australia's climate goals are a joke.’ Another in Spain reads: ‘Climate change — Australia’s Prime Minister says taking action against climate change “reckless”.’ In France, we read: ‘Global warming: the Australian Prime Minister defends a record far from exemplary’; in Germany: ‘Australian Prime Minister Morrison wants to ban climate protests’ and in the USA: ‘A joke if it wasn’t so serious: Australia lags developed countries on climate action’.
Countless scandals which have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars have gained international notoriety. These include crooked electoral pork barrelling, the multiple tens of billions handed corruptly to Coalition donors through the JobKeeper rorts and the former Attorney-General still sitting in Parliament after accepting a secret gift of a million dollars. The former Premier and Deputy Premier of NSW, also from Morrison’s side of politics, have been forced to resign on suspicion of corruption.
Australia’s ranking on freedom from corruption has tumbled from equal eighth in the world ten years ago and seventh in 2012, down to equal 11th last year. This year will likely be lower still.
Morrison’s determination to conceal this rampant corruption by stopping an independent anti-corruption watchdog is also global news.
Global poverty reduction
In advance of Saturday’s G20 leaders' meeting, finance ministers and central bank governors met on 13 October. The central question related to supporting a new resilience and sustainability trust to provide affordable long-term finance to help low-income small developing states and vulnerable middle-income countries.
Italy, France and Germany said, “Yes, definitely”. Russia and Japan said, “Yeah, maybe. Why not?” South Africa and Argentina said, “About time!” Australia didn’t understand the question.
The meeting urged increased support for the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT) which provided critical funding for low-income countries. The PRGT needs around U.S.$100 billion (AU$133 billion).
Although one of the richest G20 countries, Australia offered 0.36% of that quantum — a puny U.S.$361 million (AU$478 million). That’s about half the money the Coalition has handed to Rupert Murdoch to ensure continuing falsified reporting on the Coalition’s manifest failures.
The next day, 14 October, delegates from 33 nations and global agencies met at the International Monetary and Financial Committee to coordinate the global recovery from the pandemic. Australia did not even attend.
Failed Julian Assange
As colleagues here at IA have shown, Australia has abandoned its best-known and most celebrated journalist — with the world watching in dismay.
In August last year, a letter supporting Assange was sent to the UK Government endorsed by 406 former and current world leaders, diplomats, lawyers, bar associations and political party leaders. Australia’s Government was not among them.
Trump-style voter suppression
In a final embarrassment for all Australians, the Government’s plan to stop poor people voting, including Indigenous and homeless people, has been reported negatively in Spain, Taiwan, the Philippines, the USA, Pakistan, India and elsewhere.
Under Scott Morrison, Australia’s international humiliations just keep on coming.
Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read the latest update here and support the crowd-funding here. Alan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaustin001.
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