The view from Billinudgel

Trump cad
Australia’s G7 invitation is a big opportunity, but Morrison should not play Trump’s protégé

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump at the G7 Summit in August 2019, in Biarritz, France. Image © Alamy

Coming from anyone else, an invitation for Australia to participate in the G7 meeting would be seen as a tremendous compliment. The G7 is the big league. To be offered a guernsey in such company is an offer no politician could refuse.

And Scott Morrison is not about to refuse it, even though the invitation comes from Donald Trump – the world leader who is leading his own nation into something close to civil war and pushing the entire globe into unpredictable divisions.

Being seen as a protégé of Trump is a problem in itself, but it is compounded by taking a glance down the rest of the guest list. Bringing in India and South Korea is fine, but the inclusion of Russia is unacceptable.

Russia was tossed out in 2014 over its invasion of Ukraine, and at least two of the current G7 member states – the UK and Canada – have made it clear that Russia is still due for more time in the sin bin. This once again brings up the question: what is the G7 actually about?

Russia remains a military superpower as well as a big economic mover and shaker. Its status as an international heavy hitter cannot be questioned. But it is not a team player, or an observer of global rule and convention. It is, in short, not a democracy, and does not aspire to become one under its present leader, Vladimir Putin.

Thus placing Russia on the same dance card as Australia takes some of the gloss off Trump’s move. This will not and should not deter Morrison from accepting his chance. And come September, when the postponed summit is likely to be held, it will presumably become apparent whether Australia’s membership of the group will be confirmed as permanent.

If so, it will complete the journey begun by Kevin Rudd, who was one of the reformists who expanded the then G8 into the G20, in which Australia is a member. The G20 has not lived up to its promise as a more inclusive and influential international forum, but it broke the grip of the old guard, who had effectively run the place for some 50 years.

And should Australia breach the inner sanctum of the G7, Rudd should receive some of the credit. His rescue of the local economy from the global financial crisis, in which Australia avoided recession as the rest of the world floundered, was seen and applauded by the other industrialised nations.

In this context, there will be a certain irony if Morrison collects the trophy. Whatever his virtues, he will be forever remembered as the leader at the helm when Australia fell into recession after an extraordinary three decades of economic growth.

And whatever caveats some people may have about both The Donald and ScoMo, the G7 is the place to be. It is not quite a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, but it is just about the next best thing. So, let’s regard the invitation as a compliment – not to either of the two transient political leaders, but to some 30 years of success, some serious good management and some good fortune. The lucky country indeed.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum was a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Much of his work can be found here: The View from Billinudgel.

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