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Issue #1665      November 19, 2014

Little man drowning in big politics

The past week has not been a good one for Tony Abbott or his mate Joe Hockey. Abbott attempted to throw his weight around, using Australia’s position as host of the G20 leaders’ Summit to impose his own domestic agenda on world leaders. He appeared completely lacking in diplomatic skills, demonstrated little understanding of international relations and seemed to have lost his way on other occasions. He hardly did Australia or the Australian people any credit. The Australian media focused on Abbott and Putin rather than the real issues.

“I’m going to shirt-front Mr Putin. You bet you are – you bet I am,” PM Tony Abbott vowed in the lead-up to APEC and the G20, much to the amusement of overseas media. The “shirt-fronting” threat was intended for domestic consumption, but it took off around the world making a complete fool of Australia’s so-called leader.

In Australia, 7 News took it to extremes with the headline, “Russian warships bearing down on Australia” and then linking it to Abbott’s threat!

Not surprisingly, the Russian President showed no signs of being intimidated and, as expected, Abbott failed to deliver. They co-existed peacefully in public, disappointing local media.

The US and its Western allies including Australia, without a shred of evidence, without waiting for the results of investigations, has found Russia and Putin in particular, responsible for the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. They accuse Russia of supplying the rebel forces in East Ukraine with the missile system and now sending in Russian troops – claims strongly refuted by Russia and not backed with any evidence.

The Dutch investigators have left open the possibility that the plane was shot down by a military aircraft, possibly Ukrainian, in the area. (rt.com, “Independent inquiry: New radar data indicates other jets on MH17 course before crash”) While Abbott is insisting on an apology from Putin (and compensation), the Russian TV and digital media outlet Russia Today is demanding an apology from Abbott.

The accusations are political, part of the US’s plans to isolate and characterise Russia as a pariah and to send troops into Ukraine to occupy the east on Russia’s border. The positioning of its own or NATO’s forces on Russia’s border, is a vital part of the US’s encirclement of and war preparations against Russia.

Russia is not a socialist state but none-the-less poses a number of challenges to US global domination with its refusal to be part of the US alliance and its involvement in other independent groupings.

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) is one such group asserting its independence and in economic terms has the potential to far outgrow the US. So far, in trying to break the group, the US has drawn India into the US military sphere and is now seeking a bilateral free trade agreement.

Parochial

Perhaps one of the most humiliating moments for Abbott was his opening of the “Retreat” prior to the formal sessions of the G20 Summit. He blew big time his chance to prove to world leaders and the rest of the world his international leadership skills. Instead of giving leadership, of putting forward a vision, a framework for the Summit, he babbled on about co-payments, deregulation of universities, how he stopped the boats and abolished carbon pricing.

Because leaders thanked and politely praised Abbott for his chairing and organising of the Summit, it seems Abbott has no idea that they would not do otherwise. Protocol and diplomacy dictate it. Nor does he understand the role of a host for an organisation like the G20. Putin was singled out for differential treatment, being met at the airport by an assistant minister for defence, whereas other leaders were welcomed by the Governor General or Attorney General.

Climate change denial

As the G20 kicked off, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at the International Media Centre in Brisbane, “Climate change is the defining issue of our times, therefore it is only natural that the G20 leaders should focus on this.” Abbott and his climate denier mates still didn’t get it, they hadn’t heard how the Pacific was already being affected or that coal is not the future.

He dug his head even deeper into the sand, steadfastly refusing to put climate change as a formal agenda item despite demands from other participants. Obama was not used to being told what he could or could not do, especially from a little, arrogant upstart touting Tea Party economics.

When addressing a predominantly student audience at Queensland University, Obama included issues that the homophobic, sexist and climate change denying PM has failed to address. Obama spoke forcefully on the need for action on climate change, to resounding applause. “We will stand up for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens because they need to be treated equally under the law,” Obama said to more applause. His support for women’s equality was greeted with an even louder response.

Adding insult to injury, Obama called on some of the dirty industries that powered our development to “go straight to a clean-energy economy that allows them to grow, create jobs and at the same time reduce their carbon pollution.” He then called Australia’s youth to “keep raising your voices” and challenge “entrenched interests”.

None of it was music to the government’s ears, a government that seeks to place Australia’s economic future on coal. But then, what else can be expected from a government beholden to the powerful mining companies and needing to do deals with a mining magnate’s political party in the Senate.

Obama struck the final blow “It’s been a good week for American leadership and for American workers,” he told a press conference. Clearly the message was directed at his audience back home, but perhaps, just perhaps there was a message for Abbott as climate change did appear prominently in the final communiqué.

Next article – The silence of the Israelis on ISIS

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