Where the United Nation’s tends to wallow in popstar navel-gazing, climate change self-flagellation and tedious bouts of Israel-bashing, it is reassuring to have one international forum that might actually make the world a better place for its inhabitants.
Mercifully, the G20 under Australian leadership has thus far chosen to eschew lofty, touchy-feely goals, preferring instead to attempt to ‘restore growth and build the resilience of financial institutions and national economies’ into the future. This it sets out to do via trade agreements, slashing red tape, setting achievable targets and, well, good old-fashioned hard work. (So out of vogue in the halls of Geneva and Brussels these days.)
Visiting one of our beautiful cities this weekend are the world’s most important leaders. Between them they generate 75 per cent of all world trade and 85 per cent of world GDP. ‘Shirt-fronting’ shenanigans and Russian ‘aura of power’ naval vessels aside, the world’s leaders will find in Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey two individuals who are genuinely worthy of hosting this critical global event. For the first time since the Howard era, Australia can boast a prime minister who is less seduced by the grand symbolic (ie empty) gesture and flashy photo op and more interested in delivering solid, if less flamboyant, outcomes.
Significantly, much of what Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey would have the rest of the world embark upon are projects they themselves are busy delivering on the domestic front. Red tape, for instance, is being successfully slashed in Australia, removing the sort of bureaucratic duplication that stifles growth and enterprise here and abroad, whilst a succession of free trade agreements position us at the heart of economic Asia. This ‘walk the walk’ approach is a refreshing change.
Nonetheless, the last minute PR stunt, er, deal by China and the US to tackle climate change (light on detail, long on ambition – in true Barack Obama style) risks distracting the G20 from its otherwise sensible course.
Infrastructure, trade, employment, competition, growth and resilience may not be the sort of buzzwords that would get Bono or Geldof excited, but the reality is that under the stewardship of Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey this G20 agenda stands a chance of producing genuine results that will improve the lot of millions (or even ‘billions’, according to ‘Inclusive Growth’) of the world’s poor. As BHP Billiton chief Andrew Mackenzie put it: ‘more trade, and freer trade, will ‘lift all boats’.’
Of equal importance is the recognition that economics and security go hand in hand. Again, in terms of securing borders, Mr Abbott has form. The moves towards an Asian NATO, proposed by India’s Narendra Modi, are timely. With European security structures straining at the seams courtesy of Russian expansionism, it is a reminder that security parameters within our own delicate neighbourhood need to be handled with care.
The Girl from Sderot
As a child, she and her family frequented the beautiful beaches of Gaza, enjoyed the fruits of Gaza’s famed market gardens and bought elegant furniture from local Arab craftsmen. Her family counted Palestinians among their friends, neighbours, acquaintances. In 2005, Israel unilaterally – and optimistically – withdrew from the Strip. Soldiers departed, settlers left or were forcibly removed.
And then came hell.
Today, aged 24, she – like everyone else throughout the Negev – lives on a permanent fifteen second fuse; the time it takes between loudspeakers announcing ‘Colour Red’ and Katyusha rockets hitting the ground, obliterating everything for a hundred metres and sending deadly nails, ballbearings and shrapnel for up to a kilometre. Like all women and children in Sderot she also now lives with the dread of being massacred in her bed: notes recently discovered in an Hamas tunnel reveal plans for such an attack.
Yet, devoid of bitterness or hatred, she studies Arabic at Ben-Gurion university, in the hope of eventually working as a diplomat, politician or NGO worker who might – just might – help bring about peace with the Palestinians. She is the determined face of young Israel.
Bob Carr, a lazy narcissist too concerned about his silk pyjamas and rolled oats to bother getting to grips with the wretched complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his 18 months as Australia’s foreign minister, now seeks to grandstand with the left by cynically demonizing Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state. The girl from Sderot puts him to shame.