While the media has been in a feeding frenzy over anarchist plots and police powers, the real issues that the G20 will be discussing and the inequality it perpetuates has largely been ignored.
Social justice and environmental groups will be amongst many of the organisations protesting the policies of the G20 in Brisbane this week. This is what a few of them have to say:
Corporate Capture of policy making
Many organisations have draw attention to the biased decision-making of the G20 and other international bodies due to corporate lobbying and donations. Graham Readfearn at The Guardian points out the particularly intense influence of the fossil fuel lobby who, "desperately wants to be part of conversations about the future – as long as those conversations don’t dwell too long on the climate change impacts of their product" and the link between coal money and the inane pronouncement by the PM that "Coal is good for humanity".
Friends of the Earth note the pervasive reach of corporations in policy in Australia, "The influence of the corporate lobby and the lack of social justice concern within the current government can be felt keenly in Australia with the rise in approvals for environmentally and social destructive industrial projects that provide little benefit to local populations, but lasting environmental damage and the infringement of basic human rights to many social groups. This is not a new thing, but is more blatant under the Coalition government. The Abbott government brings its own brand of economic and religious ideology to the business of environmental exploitation and the erosion of human rights.
"Approval of dredging of the iconic Great Barrier Reef to benefit the coal export industry via the Abbot Point port (December 2013). Breeding site for hump-back whales, nesting site for turtles, sea floor will be dredged to deepen water for ships; Expanding the uranium mining industry with no regard to the concerns of Traditional Owners, the legacy of contaminated former mine sites, inadequate safeguards and unacceptable WMD proliferation risks, etc; Expanding the CSG industry, by approving the Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island and the Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island and with Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane opposing the NSW CSG "no go zones" legislation; Continuing fossil fuel subsidies to the tune of $10 billion per year, despite agreement at the G20 Pittsburgh to phase them out; Removing legislation which declared parts of the Murray-Darling Basin as critically endangered, moves to weaken or delist marine protection zones; Allowing employment practices in the mining industry to undermine social justice on housing, where the poor are excluded from the rental market in rural areas because of demand driven inflated prices. In the past mining companies provided housing for staff, and the government could levy them to do so; Discrediting the gains made by the indigenous movement and women's movement by allowing the Prime Minster (who's politics on race and gender have been found questionable by many) to install himself as minister for those portfolios, effectively stemming real progress there; Demonisation and punishment of refugees fleeing violence by compounding their suffering in offshore detention, including newborns and unaccompanied minors and insisting all public servants refer to them as 'illegals'; Overriding state legislation by a High Court challenge to LBGT marriage laws; The Gonski triple backflip on equity in education funding and the conservative revision of the national curriculum now in development just one year after it was introduced; ... and the list goes on."
Globally groups such as Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) have united people struggling against the austerity cuts and corporate policy influence in the wake of G20 meetings everywhere. In the final people's declaration from the St Petersburg roundof the G20, OWINFS said that, "The G20 has not been up to this task, nor even up to the task of durably reforming world capitalism. The G20 is not legitimate, democratic or transparent...Five years after the financial meltdown, the G20 continues promoting failed neoliberal policies. The cooptation of the so-called emerging economies – such as the BRICS – is obviously not a move away from neoliberal globalization. On the contrary, these countries have also been giving funds to the IMF - $75 billion in 2012 – to continue forcing austerity measures in countries facing deep recession and social crisis."
The capture of the G20 policy process in Australia is probably no better illustrated than in the appointment of the Lowy Institute as the official research insitution to the G20 in Australia. "The Institute was founded in April 2003 by Mr Frank Lowy AC, one of Australia’s leading businessmen. He continues to provide financial support to the Institute." Lowy is the fourth richest person in Australia and owner of the Westfield Group with interests in 104 shopping malls in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Despite Abbotts' best efforts to keep it off the agenda and insistence that the G20 is an "economic" forum where climate change is not relevant, he has been universally condemned. Discussions will take place while Abbott keeps his head in the sand. Climate economist Nicholas Stern is one of many insisting that climate chagne should be a priority of the G20 in the light of the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change. Stern says that ignoring the issue is allowing "the local politics of a country of less than 25 million ... to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s population of 7 billion people.” The scorn with which the government is held on the issue of climate change was graphically illustrated by Julie Bishop's speech to an empty plenary room at the recent UN Climate Summit. Reluctantly and under pressure from the Obama adminstration, Abbott has offerred to talk about "energy efficiency". With the fossil fuel lobby behind him, wanting maximum and profligate use of coal for thier profits, it is unlikely that even this small concession will make any useful headway at the meeting.
Outside the Convention centre, The People's Summit and the C20 have climate change firmly on their agenda. In reaction to the lack of climate discussion on the G20 agenda, an alliance of groups including the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Get Up!, the Australian Youth climate Coalition, Oxfam and the Australian Conservation Foundation have launched #ONMYAGENDA, to highlight what they call, "one of the biggest threats to global economies". The campaign urges people to message the government in a Twitter "Thunderclap" action. http://www.onmyagenda.org/
Poverty and rich-poor divide
The Australian Council of Social Services released a report in October ntoing that, "poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line." ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said, "The findings are a wakeup call for us as a community and shine a spotlight on the current policy direction of Federal Government. It provides an opportunity for the government to work with the whole community to reconfigure its first Budget and national policy priorities around the urgent need to address poverty in Australia." ACOSS call for a national inclusive plan to tackle poverty [read here] . ACOSS warn that decision made at the G20 in Brisbane may, "take us backwards in the fight against poverty and growing inequality" while PM Abbott has already flagged his opinion that cutting welfare is good for the economy.
Micah Challenge highhighted the tax avoidance habits of the wealthy that are continbuting to depriving poor nations of income: "crime, corruption and tax evasion leads to developing countries losing out on approximately $1 trillion (£630bn) each year". http://www.exposedcampaign.com/
ACOSS also wants youth on the agenda, "A key goal of this year's G20 agenda is to reduce youth unemployment and increase employment opportunities for young people. As host of the G20 Summit, the Australian Government should be leading the way by strengthening supports to assist young people to transition from school to work," said Dr Cassandra Goldie, ACOSS CEO.
In a Media Release they say, "The 2012 G20 Employment Task force report pointed to the need to strengthen training and school to work transition programs and provide career guidance as essential measures for reducing youth unemployment."
"By contrast, the measures proposed in the recent federal Budget will leave young people who are unemployed with no income support for the first 6 months each year. This move is unprecedented among wealthy countries and contrary to the advice of respected organisations like the OECD which have called for a strong income support safety net and more investment in training for those affected by the Global Financial Crisis."
Refugees and violence
Human Rights advocates are seizing the opportunity to highlihgt the tragic failings of the governments draconion 'turn back the boats' policy and the indefinite detention of refugees fleeing persecution. Australia has been condemned by more than one international inquiry regarding refugees, and even by conservative politicians such as ex-PM Malcolm Fraser who says the recent changes to the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendement Bill "shred the rule of law". Government ministers including Abbott, Morrison, Cash, Bishop and ADF officers Hurley and Campbell are currently being investigated by The Hague International Criminal Court for their part in enacing offshore processing.
Oxfam, participants in the C20 process, released a report indicating the need to address gender inequality at a global level, "Across G20 countries and beyond, women are paid less than men, do most of the unpaid labour, are over-represented in part-time work, and are discriminated against in the household, in markets and in institutions. In 2012 in the Los Cabos Declaration, G20 leaders committed to tackling the barriers to women’s full economic and social participation and to expanding opportunities for women in their countries. Oxfam supports this commitment, and calls on the G20 to go further and assess its agenda and actions on women’s rights and gender equality.
During the Australian presidency, the G20 has the chance to make good its promises for truly inclusive growth – working to make women more resilient to economic crisis through gender-sensitive economic growth and gender-equal employment policies." https://www.oxfam.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/bp183-g20-gender-equ...
Capitalism in General
Many see capitalism as irredeemable. Wesley Widmaier posits that capitalism is at a crisis point and that this a pattern repeated through history that will lead to reform in economic thinking. But for many suffering now, that crisis is not changing things fast enough and "capitalism is not working". Successive G20s have shown the increasing groundswell against capitalist thinking, with the concurrent build up in militarisation of capitalist decision-making space evidence of the fear those in power now have of thier unequal system.
And maybe a show of change is not real change, as in the light of the G20's threat to crack down on tax avoidance by MNCs, the corporations remain unfazed. As Micheal Kobetsy points out, "Despite the extra scrutiny facing US multinationals since 2012, when Starbucks agreed to “voluntarily” pay company tax in the UK, tax avoidance activities appear not to have slowed."
I have barely scraped the surface of the criticisms NGOs have of the G20 process and the global issues it fails to address. other important issues that have been addresses elsewhere include the dispossession of indigneous people by corporate nation-states everywhere (better written about by the people themselves at the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy BASE). Also the many local issues that the heavy police presence, changed laws and redirected spending have caused have been written about by the Queensland Civil Liberties Network and the Caxton Street Legal Service. CSLS have set up an Independent Legal Observers Project for the duration of the G20 to provide oversight of the new laws and information to people attending protest actions https://caxton.org.au/ilo-project.html