G7 throws up plenty of controversy and debate, but little compromise



Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, among others, at the summit in France.
AP/EPA/Ian Langsdon

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had a busy fortnight of international diplomacy. Barely had the dust settled from his performance
at the Pacific Island Forum in Tuvalu, than the prime minister announced troop commitments to the Straits of Hormuz, then fronted a delicate press conference in Vietnam speaking about the South China Sea, en route to France.




Read more:
Infographic: what is the conflict between the US and Iran about and how is Australia now involved?


After a year in the top job, Morrison may be slowly understanding what it takes to make an impact at a global level in order to pursue Australia’s interests.

The Golden G7 Ticket

Morrison scored a rare and valuable invitation to the 45th Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Biarritz, France. The G7 membership consists of the industrialised economies of US, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, Italy and Canada, along with the Presidents of the European Union and European Commission, and usually Spain. The World Bank, IMF, OECD, African Union, ILO, African Development Bank and NEPAD are also usually invited, the UN Secretary-General was also there.

The G7 used to be the G8, but Russia is still suspended. A G8 summit had been planned for June 2014 in Sochi, Russia. But in March that some year, the the G7 members cancelled the meeting and suspended Russia’s membership of the group due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. However, Russia has not been permanently expelled.

French President Emmanuel Macron used his invitations strategically to promote a “league of democracies” concept. He invited leaders from Australia, India, Chile and South Africa to join the outreach activities at the summit, in particular to attend a Sunday night dinner to discuss environmental challenges.

Australia is a member of the G20, which includes India, Indonesia and China. But it has often cast a wistful eye to Canada’s participation in the G7/8, despite the relative similarity in economic strength between the two nations.

This year, the Henry Jackson Society released its second Audit of Geopolitical Capability report, which assesses the geopolitical capability of the Group of 20 nations plus Nigeria. It ranked Australia as the eighth most capable in the world, ahead of India and Russia.

But since the election of Donald Trump as US president, the G7 has lost much of its consensus and related power. The 2019 summit was like an Agatha Christie play, full of shocks, tensions, surprise reveals and difficulties.

Tensions and diplomatic shocks

The US president walked out early from last year’s G7 summit in Canada over criticism of his tariffs policy, and then refused to sign the final statement. Macron therefore organised the summit to have a two-hour lunch alone with the president, and abandoned the idea of a final communique.

Saturday working sessions were held on jobs, global inequality, climate change and women’s empowerment, leading to criticisms from the US delegation that the agenda was too “niche”. Sunday was devoted to the extremely difficult trade discussions and the Amazon forest fires.

The European G7 nations, as well as other EU members such as Ireland and Spain, sparred over whether to block the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement unless Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro takes forceful action on the forest fires raging in the Amazon and on climate change in general.




Read more:
The Amazon is on fire – here are 5 things you need to know


Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, shortly after he attended his first G7 in Italy. Climate was still a sticking point at this summit, with leadership from the G7 unlikely on climate as an economic risk.

The Saturday dinner was thrown into uproar by Trump championing the re-entry of Russia to the G7, with the EU arguing back that Crimea would be better.

Sunday saw the surprise arrival of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to meet with Macron. Zarif, sanctioned by the US, said salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal would be difficult but “worth trying”.

Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear accord in 2018, leaving European signatories scrambling to preserve the pact. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she welcomed efforts toward deescalation. Europeans have so far declined to join Australia, the US, Bahrain and the UK by engaging in the Strait of Hormuz. The situation in Hong Kong was barely raised.

Salty summit

Just before the summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – attending his first G7 summit – and European Council President Donald Tusk traded barbs over the UK’s exit from the European Union. Tusk said he would not negotiate a no-deal scenario, and said he hoped the prime minister did not want to go down in history as “Mr No Deal”. Johnson took a swim in the sea and created a lengthy metaphor for journalists about Brexit as a result.




Read more:
Boris Johnson, ‘political Vegemite’, becomes the UK prime minister. Let the games begin


Most world leaders attending the summit declared they would ask the US to resolve the trade war with China. However, Trump announced additional duties on Chinese imports one day before he arrived in France. He then threatened to levy import duties on French wine “like they’ve never seen before”. The US president also said the British would lose “the anchor around their ankle” after leaving the EU.

Outside the summit, more than 9,000 anti-G7 protesters marched peacefully over a bridge linking France and Spain, about 30 kilometres from Biarritz. Yellow Jacket protesters held pictures of Macron upside-down.

Australian leadership on digital hate

In the midst of such turmoil, it would be difficult to make an impact as an invited guest. However, Morrison kept up his advocacy on the Christchurch Call.

At the close of the G7, Morrison announced an undisclosed amount of funding from the OECD and A$300,000 to fund the development of voluntary transparency reporting protocols for social media companies to prevent, detect, and remove terrorist and violent extremist content.

A summit of ‘senseless disputes’

This was the EU President Tusk’s final G7 Summit and he reflected sadly on Saturday that leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful democracies are increasingly unable to find “common language”, and were instead at risk of getting caught up in “senseless disputes among each other”.

The summit seems to have borne out his worse fears. Hopefully Scott Morrison was inspired by the fractured state of the big stage to become part of the solution.The Conversation

Susan Harris Rimmer, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Griffith Law School, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Government senator Dean Smith urges national debate about population


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Liberal senator Dean Smith has called for a national debate about Australia’s population, as it hits the 25 million mark.

Smith, from Western Australia, said on Sunday that population issues were broader than just immigration, and included such questions as a lack of population growth in regional communities as well as congestion and infrastructure gaps in the biggest cities.

His comments are a wider take on what has become a highly charged political row, with former prime minister Tony Abbott pressing for a big cut to immigration and Pauline Hanson making advocacy of a lower migrant intake one of her signature pitches.

Smith, speaking to the ABC, pointed to the need to forecast population growth much better – previous predictions have substantially underestimated the actual speed of growth – so “we can prepare and plan better, and importantly maintain that very strong sense of public endorsement that is necessary for all of our population matters.”

He said as a senator from Perth, which had a much smaller population, “I’m interested that we get the benefits of population growth without having to pay the high price [that] perhaps Melbourne or Sydney commuters are having to pay”.

He wanted “to make sure that other cities are immune from some of the negative consequences of unbridled population growth – population growth that has been poorly predicted … poorly planned for”.

The call comes as latest figures show the annual permanent migrant intake fell to 162,400 last financial year – compared with a 190,000 planning level.

Speaking on Sky, Home Affairs Minister Petter Dutton sought to set up immigration as an election issue, and contrast the government’s approach and that of Labor.

“At the next election Bill Shorten will be promising to migrate more people to Australia than what this government is prepared to do,” he said.

“Labor got themselves into a position where at the end of the financial year they were ticking and flicking applications to get to the 190,000 target. We’ve treated the 190,000 not as a target, but as a ceiling and that’s why it has come in at 162,000 this last financial year”.

Dutton said the government was putting integrity into the program by making sure those applying through the skilled stream had the qualifications they claimed, and were not travelling on fraudulent documents. “We’ve applied a greater level of scrutiny than Labor ever did”.

“We’re not talking about the refugee and humanitarian program here.

“We’re talking about people who are coming here under the skilled program and under the family settlement, predominantly the partner visa stream. These are people that are claiming that they’re in a relationship. We’re finding cases where they’re not legitimate relationships.

“We’re finding cases where people don’t have the qualifications that they claimed that they had or the work experience that they claimed they had. If you’re bringing those people in, well clearly that is not a productive outcome for our economy.”

Smith said “moderation” of the intake was important. “We need to perhaps give ourselves some time to breathe, some time to pause and reflect, to make sure the predictions are the best they can be and if they’re not – let’s correct that. Importantly, to make sure the infrastructure spending and public confidence is maintained”.

He said there were several ways of leading the debate he advocated – such as by an “audit commission approach” or by a parliamentary inquiry.

The “tone” of such a discussion was very important. “We’ve seen in previous debates that you can have a civilised national discussion around difficult or sensitive issues if parliamentarians, if commentators get the tone right”.

Smith was one of the Liberals MPs at the forefront of the push for same- sex marriage, and he is making it clear he would like to play a prominent role on the population issue.

Citing the 2018 Lowy Institute poll, he said community sentiment was changing around population debates in a negative direction.

The poll found that for the first time, a majority of Australians (54%) oppose the current rate of immigration. This is up 14 points on last year.

“Australians also appear to be questioning the impact of immigration on the national identity,” Lowy said. It found while 54% said “Australia’s openness to people from all over the world is essential to who we are as a nation”, a substantial 41% said “if Australia is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”

POSTSCRIPT

The Coalition continues to trail Labor 49-51% in two-party terms but Malcolm Turnbull has increased his Newspoll lead over Bill Shorten as better prime minister to his widest margin since before the 2016 election.

The poll, in Monday’s Australian, is the 36th consecutive Newspoll the government has lost. It comes a fortnight ahead of the July 28 Super Saturday of five byelections, with two of them – Longman and Braddon – tough contests for Labor and considered important for Shorten’s leadership.

Turnbull has a 19 point lead over Shorten as better PM – 48%-29%. Turnbull’s rating rose by 2 points; Shorten’s fell 2 points,

But on satisfaction, Turnbull lost a point, to 41%, while his dissatisfaction rating rose a point to 49%. Satisfaction with Shorten was steady on 32%, while his dissatisfaction fell a point to 56%.

The ConversationBoth Coalition and Labor lost a point in their primary votes. The Coalition is on 38% to Labor’s 36%. The Greens (10%) were up a point, as was One Nation (7%).

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How conservatives use identity politics to shut down debate


File 20171212 9392 1sdxnt9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
One of the worst examples of identity politics came from Malcolm Turnbull on Monday’s Q&A program.
ABC News

Dennis Altman, La Trobe University

Conservatives are currently obsessed with identity politics.

Almost every issue of The Australian comes with a fusillade against the ways identity politics threaten civic discourse. And a Financial Review editorial in September warned:

… thoughts, expression and questioning are now more likely to be silenced in the excess of identity politics, where race, gender, sexuality and group-think declarations have replaced class as the key political dividers.

Yet one of the worst examples of identity politics came from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in his Q&A appearance on December 11. In opposing the idea of an elected Indigenous Advisory Council, he claimed that politicians such as Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney represent Indigenous Australians. In fact, they represent the electors of Hasluck and Barton – few of whom are Indigenous.

It is great that there are Indigenous politicians in parliament (Turnbull somehow forgot the two Labor senators, Pat Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy). But they are not there to “represent” Indigenous Australians any more than Mathias Cormann is there to represent Belgian-Australians.

Political party identities

The primary identity of politicians in our system is their political party. Sometimes other identities will seem more important, as in the case of the four openly gay Liberal MPs who pushed their party toward a free vote on marriage equality, or Michael Danby’s support for Israel – which goes far beyond the views of his party.

What these cases suggest is the complex and overlapping nature of identities, and the trap of defining anyone by only one identity. Nor does belonging to a particular group, whether through race, ethnicity or gender, mean one automatically speaks “for” that group. Margaret Thatcher or Bronwyn Bishop never sought to speak “for women”.

Identity politics, as we understand them, are often assumed to have emerged from the women’s, black and gay movements in the early 1970s. There is an earlier history, linked to the development of nationalist movements in 19th-century Europe, and the growth of anti-colonial movements across European empires.

Identity politics are born when people feel excluded because of something important to their sense of self – whether it be race, gender, sexuality or language. But they are also thrust upon people, as in the tragic case of those Jews who believed themselves to be 100% German until the Nazis came to power.

A sense of a shared history is crucial to empowering people who have been oppressed, and sometimes made invisible. When I was a schoolboy in Hobart we were taught that there were no Tasmanian Aborigines, who had effectively been wiped out by settlement. Today more than 4% of the state’s population identify as Indigenous.

Not necessarily born this way

Conservatives are particularly disturbed by the idea that gender identities might be fluid, which seemed their central concern in the marriage equality debate.

Ironically many of those who defend ideas of gender fluidity also believe their sexual identity is, in Lady Gaga’s words, “born this way”. In both cases the rhetoric ignores the evidence of both history and anthropology.

Identity politics are neither inherently left nor right. Some Marxists denounced the new social movements as threatening class unity, in terms rather like those who now see identity politics as fracturing a common polity.

One of the common criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s US presidential campaign was that she spoke too often to specific groups, rather than in the language of inclusion. This is an odd argument given Donald Trump’s blatant attacks on Hispanics and Muslims, which were clearly an appeal to white Americans who felt their identities were under threat.

Most critics of identity politics speak as if they were above identity, when in practice their identities are those of the dominant group. Pauline Hanson excludes Aborigines, Asians and Muslims from her view of Australian identity, cloaked in the language of patriotism.

Like Hanson, those who attack identity politics are often most zealous in defending their own versions of identity. Current proposed changes to citizenship requirements are supported by an emphasis on “Australian values”, as if these are both self-evident and distinguishable from more universal values of political and civil rights.

On the same Q0&A program Turnbull defined Australian values as based upon “multiculturalism”, which acknowledges that contemporary society is a mosaic of different and overlapping identities and communities. It is possible to argue that respect for cultural diversity is a national value, while ignoring the question whether Australian law treats all cultural values equally.

In practice, cultural diversity is clearly subordinate to a legal and political system heavily based on British precedents. A genuine multicultural identity might start by extending the term “ethnic” to include people of British ancestry, as much an “ethnicity” as any other.

Identity as a means of exclusion

Identity politics threaten democratic debate when they become a means of shutting down any comment that does not grow entirely out of experience.

Writers have been criticised for creating characters who do not share their author’s race or gender; speakers shunned for expressing views that are deemed “insensitive”.

Writer Germaine Greer may have views on transgender issues that should be opposed. But they should be met with rebuttal, not a refusal to listen. Critics of identity politics are right that zealousness in protecting identities can itself become repressive.

Identity politics become dangerous when they become an argument for exclusion.

The ConversationUnfortunately, the most dangerous examples of exclusion come from those who clam to speak for “the people”, a term which itself depends upon a certain version of identity. The populists who attack identity politics do so while creating their own, limited image of national identity.

Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland election: One Nation dominates Twitter debate in the final weeks


Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology

As Queensland approaches its election day on Saturday, the social media campaign for votes continues alongside. But over the final two weeks, the focus of that campaign has gradually shifted.

Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s plan to veto a potential A$1 billion loan to the Adani mine project resulted in a considerable drop in Adani-related tweets directed at Queensland candidates, and that pattern has held through subsequent weeks. Labor has not entirely neutralised the Adani controversy, but the mine project is no longer the major talking point of the Twitter campaign.

By contrast, the most significant emerging theme of these past two weeks has been the role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party might play in the new parliament. We saw some of this in our previous analysis, in response to the LNP’s decision to direct preferences to One Nation over Labor in a majority of Queensland seats. That particular discussion has now shifted to a much broader debate about the very real prospect that One Nation may hold the balance of power after the election.

Major topics in tweets by and at candidates in the 2017 Queensland election campaign.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

Our dataset captures the tweets posted by and directed at Queensland election candidates. Of those tweets, some 51% addressed the Adani mine or One Nation, but the emphasis has now swung considerably towards the latter. This was sparked in part by the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) preference announcement, with preferences briefly becoming a distinct major topic in their own right.

Labor has been quick to exploit this arrangement, in well-shared posts from the central party account. However, recent controversial footage of its own MP Jo-Ann Miller hugging Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail might have blunted this message somewhat.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

One Nation also featured heavily in another major topic of the second half of the campaign: schools. While Labor’s pledge to establish several new schools received only moderate attention, Queensland One Nation leader Steve Dickson’s bizarre comments about the Safe Schools anti-bullying programme was met with widespread condemnation. A tweet criticising Dickson’s subsequent apology is now the second most retweeted post of the entire campaign:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Somewhat more surprisingly, the impact of Uber and similar ridesharing services on the Queensland taxi industry has also been a minor theme throughout the campaign. This was aided by some orchestrated activity by taxi drivers, and supported by Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) candidate Robbie Katter, who has championed their cause in several campaign events. Meanwhile, transport also figured in the Premier’s commitment to fixing the issues with troubled new Queensland Rail rolling stock in Maryborough, which generated a brief flurry of support as well as criticism.

These topical changes have affected the patterns of engagement with the candidates on Twitter. In total, Labor candidates still continue to be mentioned more frequently than their LNP counterparts. But over the past two weeks, this gap has closed slightly: as attention has shifted from Adani to One Nation, so have Twitter users moved to asking more questions of LNP and One Nation rather than Labor politicians. Retweets, however, continue to favour Labor by a considerable margin: its candidates have received more than four times as many retweets as all other party candidates put together.

Engagement with candidates in the 2017 Queensland election.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

A network of interactions around candidate accounts (combining both @mentions and retweets over the course of the entire campaign) demonstrates the state of play at this late stage of the election campaign. Labor commands the largest engagement network, at the centre of the graph. Discussions about Adani have been prominent, and form a distinct cluster of debate that is most closely interconnected with the Labor and Greens networks.

Meanwhile, LNP and One Nation candidates are mentioned frequently alongside one another. These tweets are often asking about their preference arrangements or their willingness to work together in the absence of an outright majority for either major party.

This association is so strong, in fact, that our visualisation algorithm treats both groups as part of the same discussion cluster. Slightly to the side of this sits the Uber debate, which therefore appears to be more closely associated with – and perhaps supported by – LNP candidates than their Labor counterparts.

Network of interactions around candidate accounts in the 2017 Queensland election.
Axel Bruns / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

The picture that emerges here is one which points to the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of politics. For Labor, its troubled path to a firmer stance on the Adani mine may remain in environmentally conscious voters’ minds even if the online discussion has died down somewhat.

The ConversationFor the LNP, the emerging view that its best path to government is through an arrangement with One Nation will similarly dent the electorate’s enthusiasm for a change of government. That Labor commands by far the majority of retweets for its messages may give it hope, though – at least in urban electorates, where Twitter is likely to have its greatest footprint.

Axel Bruns, Professor, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Calvinism and the Southern Baptist Convention


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the debate within the Southern Baptist Convention concerning Calvinism.

For more visit:
http://theblog.founders.org/reflections-on-the-calvinism-debate-in-the-sbc/

Australian Politics: 23 November 2013 – Governor General Stirs Republic Debate


Australian Politics: 29 September 2013 – The Slow Death of the Greens?


The federal election is over and the Coalition is now in government. Already there is a growing dissatisfaction with the new Abbott-led government over a wide-ranging series of issues including nepotism, asylum seeker policy, the environment, a lack of governance, etc. There is also continuing debate within the various opposition parties concerning their future direction, policies, etc. Yet for the Greens, the future is questionable, with some believing the party to be in serious decline – even among those within the party.

The link below is to an article reporting on the turmoil within the Greens party.

For more visit:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/milnes-greens-marching-to-slow-death-20130928-2ulgp.html



Afghanistan: Persecution News Update


The link below is to an article reporting on persecution news from Afghanistan and the debate on executing those who convert from Islam to Christianity.

For more visit:
http://www.bosnewslife.com/30570-afghanistan-debates-execution-christian-converts

Australian Politics: 19 July 2013


Compassion seems to have been lost in the asylum seeker debate in Australia, with the Kevin Rudd led Labor government taking a massive shift to a hardline position in refugee policy. The links below are to articles reporting on the new stance.

For more visit:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/breaking-news/rudd-surprises-with-hardline-boat-plan/story-fni0xqi4-1226682198196
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/19/christine-milne-day-of-shame



Leadership tensions developing in the Liberal Party perhaps?

Australian Politics: 18 July 2013


The asylum seeker debate continues in Australia, while the tragedy of asylum seekers continues unabated in the seas to the north of Australia.