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“Geneva not Jakarta” theme for Australian diplomacy this week …

  • January 21st, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

geneva jakartaThe Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has set out to drum up some business through the World Economic Forum at Davos (22-25.1.14) in Switzerland.

Meanwhile the government in Canberra struggles to keep ahead of adverse trends closer to home, in Indonesia and Timor Leste.


“The Davos meeting brings together some 2500 business and political leaders to discuss key global issues”, the Prime Minister said.

Abbott“It will be an opportunity to showcase Australia and the Government’s reform agenda to international political and business leaders.

“I will  … deliver a keynote address to outline Australia’s approach to the Presidency of the G20…

“We should make the most of our G20 Presidency to help provide economic leadership to the wider world and promote our attractiveness as an investment destination.”

One aspect of the said reforms will be tax reductions, another a rolling back of environmental constraints on development projects, (removing “green tape”); among the most recent, approval of the world’s biggest coal port adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef; see EUAustralia Online, World action on environment, 30.12.13.


The pragmatism and boosterism was the promised hallmark for the new conservative government of Australia elected in September.

Going around doing bread-and-butter business in Asia would take precedence over posh internationalist carrying-on in Europe – “Jakarta not Geneva” was the slogan.


The organisers of the Davos annual meeting, of financiers and tycoons, government leaders and savants of the money world, did treat themselves to some grand thoughts, and grand talk in their opening declaration.

They want a business world; they want all this new technology to be got into harness, and they want to see the rest of the world come to its senses about getting into crisis all the time:

“Profound political, economic, social and, above all, technological forces are transforming our lives, communities and institutions.

“Rapidly crossing geographic, gender and generational boundaries, they are shifting power from traditional hierarchies to networked heterarchies. Yet the international community remains focused on crisis rather than strategically driven in the face of the trends, drivers and opportunities pushing global, regional and industry transformation.

‘“The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business’ is therefore the thematic focus of the annual meeting … Our aim is to develop the insights, initiatives and actions necessary to respond to current and emerging challenges.”


The get-together in the sealed off Alpine security of Eastern Switzerland has been seen as influential, but with limits, as not all of the world wealth elite take part, nor show a particular interest in courting influence; and policy formation still tends to remain with governments.

This particular gathering has become unpopular since the Global Financial Crisis after 2008, a lot of that being directly blamed on its participants, while the persistent crux of crisis, inequality, has intensified.

Helen Szoke“We’ve created a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population,” said Dr Helen Szoke (picture) Australian President of the aid organisation, Oxfam.

“It’s staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population owns no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage.”

Dr Szoke was making public a research report that said one-percent of the world population was holding half of its wealth, the launch timed for the start of Davos.


Australia, she said, coming into leadership of the G20 group of leading industrialised nations, should organise international action on destructive problems, linked to extreme inequality:

Hiding of wealth through tax havens and money laundering; the related problem of official corruption; and related to that, payment of money by mining and energy companies to governments in countries where they operate.


Indonesia Australia MapOne fairly short flight by business jet North from Davos, at The Hague, the government of Timor Leste – East Timor- was taking Australia to task over an action by its internal security service, ASIO.

The small new state (see map) was at the International Court of Justice demanding the return of documents seized from the office of its legal counsel in Australia.

The documents were set for use in an arbitration proceeding over the 2003 Timor Gap treaty on splitting undersea oil reserves between the two national territories.

Timor Leste says that agreement should be invalidated, because they found out later that their strategy meetings were bugged, the information passed to the Australian negotiators.

One twist to the tale was the undertaking attributed to the Australian Attorney General, George Brandis, that he will kind-of hide his eyes, to “not see” what the spies got out of the lawyer’s office, and will restrict the circulation  of such information, as he exercises responsibility for the arbitration  process. (The spies were said to be looking of a mole; the contents of the lawyer’s office said to be sealed, not so far looked at by the raiders or their chiefs in government).

“Just give back the documents”, say East Timorese, who learned some habits of thought, and mannerisms of Australia during the years of exile there – waiting out the Indonesian occupation (1975-99).


Asylum boatAustralian relations with Indonesia in the last three months have slipped to their worst point since the two countries’ confrontations in 1998-99 over East Timor’s independence; calling for a methodical approach to get things on a level keel.

Asylum boat 2Cooperation has been suspended across a broad front of inter-governmental activity including border crossing by asylum seeker boats, armed forces joint exercises, and joint police work. See EUAustralia Online, ‘Five Eyes’ get black eye …, 18.12.13.

Asylum lifeboatThe Indonesia government has condemned the practice adopted by Australia, so it would now appear, of turning back, or towing back the boats; of even buying a flotilla of orange-coloured, powered lifeboats for the purpose — in case of sabotage of leaky ex-fishing craft by their passengers. (How to get suspicious asylum seekers off scuttled or unseaworthy boats into the lifeboats: cajole them effectively; leave them to drown; kid to them they’ll be taken to Christmas Island; wave guns at their heads?).


This week the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, apologised to the Indonesian government after the Australian navy crossed the line:

“The Australian Government has made an unreserved apology to Indonesia for inadvertent breaches of its territorial waters”, she disclosed.

“It is Australian Government policy to respect Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty, just as it is the Indonesian Government’s policy to respect Australia’s territorial waters. They are inadvertent breaches, we apologised as soon as we learned of it, and we will work very closely with Indonesia to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. We have in place steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

“We are determined to continue to work with our counterparts in Indonesia to stop the people smuggling trade that is affecting, not only Australia, but also Indonesia and the region.”

Cook, JamesRESIZEThe “steps to ensure it won’t happen again” were unspecified. If it really was a matter of blundering into the wrong place, perhaps equipping naval ships from the museums, with actual equipment used so brilliantly by Lieutenant James Cook in Australian waters –  his sextant, compass and chronometer –  would help to  make plain where they are being sent.

(Claims have been made by some people turned back to Indonesia that they were assaulted by Australian navy personnel; officials in Australia don’t believe it; the government says it will cooperate with Indonesian investigators if they request help looking for evidence).

In other respects information available to the Australian public has been restricted by government: a Minister detailed to give weekly media conferences on the boats issue, closed them down after Christmas; the border surveillance has been set up like an actual military operation against enemy soldiers; news media are getting often more access and direct statements from government leaders in Jakarta than in Canberra.


A footnote on the matter of too much money afloat in the world, tax havens, laundering, and so the advent of organised crime as financiers and participants in real business:

The habit of gangsters in Italy of securing public tenders, one way or another, and in the case of city garbage contracts, infamously dumping the refuse anywhere at all, in the last week took a further dangerous step.

Police were digging out a site North of Naples, looking for a consignment of illegally-dumped toxic waste, located for them by some mafia informers.

Fear abounds that such dumps have been causing allergies, birth defects and outbreaks of cancer.


Hon. Tony Abbott, Prime Minister, Canberra, Media Release. Attendance at the World Economic Forum, 19.1.14., (22.1.14).

BBC News, London, Naples waste crisis: Italy may use army against mafia, 15.1.14., (22.1.14).

Hon. Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister, Perth, Transcript.  Subiaco doorstop, 18.1.14., (22.1.14).

Oxfam Australia, Melbourne, Media Release. New report shines spotlight on growing inequality and ‘rigged rules for the rich’ as leaders meet in Davos, 20.1.14.,(22.1.14).

Reuters, London, EU sends Italy back to court over Naples trash epidemic, 20.6.13., (22.1.14).

Andrew Ross Sorkin, Notable in their absence from Davos, NYT, NY, 20.1.14.,(22.1.14).

World Economic Forum, Davos-Klosters, Home. World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2014, 22-25 January 2014.,(22.1.14).


ABC, Monash, Wikipedia