Thursday, 20 November 2014
Australia left to cringe once again at a leader's awkward moment: The adolescent country. The bit player. The shrimp of the schoolyard. blares the headline and opening lines in the Los Angeles Times on 16 November 2014.
The article went on to observe:
For Australians it's not so bad — most of the time — to be so far away, so overlooked, so seemingly insignificant as to almost never factor in major international news. The lifestyle makes up for it.
But occasionally, there's an awkward, pimply youth moment so embarrassing that it does sting. Like when 19 of the world's most important leaders visit for a global summit and Prime Minister Tony Abbott opens their retreat Saturday with a whinge (Aussie for whine) about his doomed efforts to get his fellow Australians to pay $7 to see a doctor.
And then he throws in a boast that his government repealed the country's carbon tax, standing out among Western nations as the one willing to reverse progress on global warming — just days after the United States and China reached a landmark climate change deal.
The Group of 20 summit could have been Australia's moment, signaling its arrival as a global player, some here argued. But in all, the summit had Australians cringing more than cheering.
It was a classic example of what Australian author and journalist Peter Hartcher calls the "pathology of parochialism" in a recent book, "The Adolescent Country." Hartcher argues that the nation's politicians rarely miss a chance to trump important foreign policy matters of long-term national interest to score cheap domestic political points.
"The big matters are commonly crowded out by the small," he argues. "International policy is used for domestic point-scoring."
Opposition leader Bill Shorten called Abbott's opening G-20 address "weird and graceless."
"This was Tony Abbott's moment in front of the most important and influential leaders in the world, and he's whinging that Australians don't want his GP tax," said Shorten, referring to the $7 fee.
It's a tendency some observers argue not only damages the country's credibility but Australians' ability to take themselves seriously….