Traditionally, Australian governments have followed a more charity-like approach in their attempts to foster goodwill (or project soft power, if you prefer) among our poorer neighbours. Historically, this took the form of international aid and/or disaster relief. As the Commonwealth cuts international aid budgets, the idea now is to counter Chinese political and economic clout with small Pacific nations by more business-like means.
In the Fijian leg of his otherwise cordial visit, ABC News reports that Fiji's PM Frank Bainimarama reminded ScoMo that:
“Here in Fiji, climate change is no laughing matter,” he said.
“From where we are sitting, we cannot imagine how the interests of any single industry can be placed above the welfare of Pacific peoples — vulnerable people in the world over.”
It could be hard for Morrison to persuade our neighbours of our own goodwill -- particularly in climate change matters -- when their concerns over climate change and rising sea levels are the object of jokes by influential members of the Liberal Party (who at the time were, presumably, more or less sober).
Australia’s reputation -- especially under Coalition governments -- as free-riding international efforts to control climate change (when not covertly white-anting those efforts) should not help either. And to make things worse, the bovine indifference other high-ranking Coalition cabinet members manifest to climate change within Australia speaks volumes in itself.
Like Michael McCormack, our extremely competent and well-versed in algal bloom science acting PM said, that’s Australia, mate.
Of course, Frank Bainimarama’s appeal would have carried a lot more moral weight if he also addressed it to China: currently (and since 2007) the world’s largest CO2 emitter.
You have to give capitalism these two things: it does provide a lot of entertainment and it’s hard to imagine a system better described by the word “madness”.
A downside of that is that the joke may be on us. Capitalism may yet provide for the end of civilisation and even life as we know it.