by Alan Thornhill
Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has criticised the US President, Barrack Obama, over remarks he made about the Great Barrier Reef.
While in Australia for the recent G20 Summit, the President said that not only would he like to visit the reef, but he would like his daughter and grandchildren to be able to do so, as well.
Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 report, from New York, Ms Bishop said “there was an issue regarding [Mr Obama’s] statement” and she could “understand the Queensland Government’s concern.”
The Queensland government was sharply critical of Mr Obama’s remarks.
In a speech at University of Queensland, Mr Obama also said that: “Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands.”
And he added: “ The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.”
Ms Bishop told 7.30: “We are demonstrating world’s best practice in working with the World Heritage Committee to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come.
“I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef.”
It is highly unusual for an Australian Foreign Minister to criticise a US President in this way.
However, even among Federal MPs, she is far from alone.
Coalition frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Jamie Briggs have also done so.
Mr Briggs called Mr Obama’s e address a “massive, massive distraction” from the rest of the G20 summit.”
And Mr Hockey said it would be difficult for Mr Obama to deliver on his stricter emissions standard pledge.
“Barack Obama has to get any initiative on climate change through a hostile US congress.
“ … I mean, that’s up to the US, but so far he hasn’t had great success,” Mr Hockey told Insiders.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned the Great Barrier Reef could be at risk if more is not done to reduce carbon emissions.
Environmental groups also want a complete ban on dumping dredge spoil in reef waters.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott declared today that he would not cut economic growth to pursue climate goals.
And Francois Hollande declared that he expects to see “binding agreements” emerge from the Climate Summit that is to be held in Paris next year.
The French President and Australian Prime Minister were both addressing reporters in Canberra, after what Mr Abbott described as “very good discussion” between the two leaders, earlier in the day.
Mr Abbott said:”…we can’t pursue environmental improvements at the expense of economic progress.
“We can’t reduce emissions in ways which cost jobs, because it will fail if that’s what we end up trying to do,” he declared.
M. Hollande said it is very important that strict rules, to protect the environment, emerge from the Summit.
And Mr Abbott said the Paris meeting must not become “a disaster” like a previous one, in Copenhagen.
The two leaders had also discussed terrorism, security and trade.
Mr Abbott noted, too, that an Australian refueling aircraft is currently servicing French fighter jets, as well as Australian ones, in Iraq.
The Australian Prime Minister said he and M. Hollande had discussed climate change, when they met this morning.
“It is very important that we get strong and effective outcomes from the Paris forum next year,” Mr Abbott said.
He also called for stronger intelligence exchanges between the two countries.
M. Hollande described his visit as “historic” as it is the first to Australia by a serving French President.
He noted that France had been the only country to volunteer to host a climate summit next year.
He said the earlier Copenhagen meeting had been able to reach objectives on climate change, but those objectives could not be reached.
M. Hollande also said preparatory meetings, before the Paris Summit next year, would be crucial.
He said, too, that he supports Australia in its current pursuit of a free trade agreement with the European Union.
M. Hollande said France favours “moving quickly” on that front.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott paid tribute to Gough Whitlam today, noting that the former Labor Prime Minister had opened diplomatic relations between Australia and China.
Smiling, the Prime Minister said: “Those opposite might at least say hear, hear.”
He was welcoming China’s President, Xi Jinping, who was to address a joint sitting of both houses of the Australian parliament.
It was a glittering occasion.
Earlier in the day Mr Abbott had announced the finalisation of a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, after 10 years of negotiations.
The deal will be worth billions of dollars to Australia.
The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, who spoke after Mr Abbott, said two way trade between the two countries had expanded enormously, since Whitlam’s visit to China in 1971.
President Xi responded by congratulating Australia on the success of the G20 Summit in Brisbane at the weekend.
He said that demonstrated Australia’s importance in regional and international affairs.
“Australia is not just a country on the sheep’s back or on its mines,” he said.
President Xi also sought to calm fears he admitted some have of China.
He said that, as a big country, it is understandable that some would see China as a potential bully.
But he declared: “China is unshakeable in its determination to pursue peace.”
He said it would have a big place in world markets over coming years.
“It is estimated that in the next five years, China will import $US10 trillion worth of goods,“ President Xi said.
His address was greeted with a standing ovation.
by Alan Thornhill
The American President, Barrack Obama, continued to press for stronger measures to tackle climate change, as the G20 Summit in Brisbane closed.
He said that, in view of the agreement China and the United States had reached last week, on this issue, and further “important progress at the G20, there is now “no excuse” for the avoidance of strong measures, at the Paris conference on climate change next year.
Mr Obama had urged university students, in a talk he gave on Saturday, Australian time, to actively participate in campaigns to tackle climate change.
He said, then that this was not something that governments could do “alone.”
The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and his Treasurer, Joe Hockey, had urged world leaders, at the G20 Summit, to concentrate on its growth objectives, rather than climate change.
President Obama said valuable progress had been made on several fronts, at the Summit.
He said the Summit had agreed to tighten tax laws, so that companies pay tax in the countries in which they earn their profits.
He also said that China had agreed to more transparency in its financial accounts, including its reserves.
Mr Obama described this as “an important step.”
He said the G20 summit had agreed that member nations would seek to employ 25 per cent more women, by 2025.
The President said, if achieved, this would bring 100 million more women into the global workforce.
And he said the G20 leaders had also agreed to step up efforts to defeat Ebola.
by Alan Thornhill
The World Bank welcomed the outcome of the G20 Summit in Brisbane.
The bank’s Group President Jim Yong Kim said:”“With the global economy struggling with an uneven recovery, we welcome G20 Leaders’ commitment to raising growth and delivering quality jobs.
“Higher and more inclusive growth is essential if we are to significantly cut poverty and reduce inequality. The G20 commitments promise a much needed boost to G20 countries and beyond.”
He said the G20 Leaders had rightly identified investment in infrastructure as crucial to lifting growth, creating jobs and tackling poverty.
“We welcome support by G20 Leaders for the World Bank Group’s Global Infrastructure Facility, designed to build a global pipeline of infrastructure investments that can draw in new sources of finance, such as institutional investors.
“We also welcome the launch of the G20 Global infrastructure Initiative and Hub, which will complement our work. We look forward to working with them.
“Meeting the enormous need for infrastructure in emerging and developing economies is a big lift and the support of the G20 on this critical agenda is important,” he said.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told reporters, at the end of the Brisbane G20 Summit today, that the high powered meeting had accepted a 2.1 per cent growth target.
That was slightly above the 2 per cent target, originally signalled.
“That is what people want,” Mr Abbott said.
“Higher growth and the jobs that higher growth will provide.”
In a separate statement, Mr Abbott said: “The combined growth strategies of G20 member nations presented at the Brisbane Leaders’ Summit will equate to 2.1 per cent new growth and inject an additional $2 trillion into the world economy and create millions of jobs.
“The Brisbane Action Plan contains close to 1,000 measures, including more than 800 new ones, which the IMF and OECD estimate will boost the collective GDP of G20 nations by 2.1 per cent by 2018, he said.
“This is new growth, over and above business as usual trends.”
His news conference in Brisbane had been delayed for almost an hour, without explanation.
And Mr Abbott made only the briefest of remarks on climate change, in his summary to journalists.
This had emerged as a major issue at the Summit, with the US President, Barrack Obama, saying all countries need to do more, to tackle climate change.
Mr Abbott’s response, was summed up in a single sentence.
“Obviously, it goes without saying, that G20 leaders – all of us – support strong and effective measures to combat climate change,” he said.
But his comments on economic growth were effusive.
“People all around the world are going to be better off,” he said.
“And that is what it is all about.”
Mr Abbott said a close watch would be kept on the progress made in implementing the G20 growth targets.
G20 nations, including Australia, would be held “accountable” on that front.
Infrastructure projects are expected to play a key role in achieving those targets.
Significantly, Mr Abbott revealed that the G20 had agreed to establish an infrastructure hub, in Sydney.
He said this would help countries throughout the world design and pursue infrastructure projects, that would promote economic growth.
Mr Abbott also confirmed that next year’s G20 meeting will be in China.
by Alan Thornhill
Joe Hockey has moved to set discussion at the G20 meeting back on track.
In a statement last night, the Treasurer said: “We have now delivered our action agenda to the Leaders for their discussions today and tomorrow.
“The focus of our efforts this year are based on a collective determination to deliver more economic growth and, as a result of that, more jobs,” Mr Hockey said.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Mr Hockey have made no secret of the fact that they want delegates, at the Brisbane summit, to concentrate on expanding global economic growth and tightening the corporate tax net.
However the US President, Barrack Obama, knocked that nation sideways yesterday, in a sizzling, broad ranging speech, covering issues as diverse as climate change, human rights, gay rights and ebola.
Just the things his Australian hosts didn’t want him to to talk about.
In a television interview today, Mr Hockey said,that he had not seen President Obama’s speech, as he had been tied up at a Finance Ministers meeting.
However, in his earlier statement, Mr Hockey had reminded the US President – and other leaders – what he regards as the main theme of the Brisbane Summit.
“At the beginning of the year we faced an uncertain outlook for the global economy,” the Australian Treasurer said in his statement.
“ We discussed the implications of US tapering and our concerns about the resilience of European financial institutions.
“We focused on the need to address weaknesses in the global tax system.
“We announced the Sydney Declaration to lift growth by more than 2 per cent by 2018, an unprecedented break from business as usual for the G20.
“This ambition translates into around $2 trillion dollars in additional global economic activity and millions of new jobs. Prime Minister Abbott will say more about this tomorrow following the Leaders meeting,” Mr Hockey said.
Just a polite reminder.
by Alan Thornhill
Barrack Obama told university students in Brisbane today that governments could not tackle climate change “alone.”
And, after speaking powerfully on the need to tackle climate change, he said the”incredible natural beauty” of the Barrier Reef must not be “threatened.”
The US President admitted that he would not be able to see reef on his present visit, but declared:”I want to come back and see it, and for my daughters -and their daughters – or sons – to see it.
The President was warmly applauded, by the hundreds of students and others, in his audience at the University of Queensland, when he spoke of the urgent need to “protect the planet” from the ravages of climate change.
Speaking as Brisbane sweltered in near record temperatures, President Obama warned that these could be particularly severe in Australia, with rising damage from “lightning strikes, wildfires and drought.”
And he had an uncompromising message for the young students present.
“Let me say this, particularly to the young people here, combatting climate change cannot be the work of governments alone.”
In a wide ranging speech, the US president also praised China for its commitment to reducing carbon emissions, spoke strongly in support of equal rights for women and human rights throughout the world.
He also urged rich countries to “invest” in better health services, for their poorer neighbours, warning that they, too, could be threatened by outbreaks of disease, like Ebola.
He was passionate, too, in his support for political progress in developing countries.
“Some say that democracy is just a Western value,” President Obama said.
“I fundamentally disagree with that.”
He said young people in Burma and Hong Kong, among other Asian places, are now, among many others, speaking up for their rights.
He said, too, that China had provided an excellent example, producing prosperity in “a single generation.”
President Obama told the young people present, in a hall at the University of Queensland, “today our opportunities are limitless.”
“Today our alliances – including that with Australia – are stronger than ever,” he declared.
President Obama also spoke of US support for small business operators and others, at an individual level.
“We have expanded our partnership with citizens as they work to extend their opportunities,” he said.
His speech ended with a standing ovation from his enthusiastic audience.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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