ScoMo’s new role on global stage
PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has tentatively outlined a bigger role for Australia in big-league world affairs.
Mr Morrison believes he had a sharper perspective on global tensions than the leaders of mega powers having observed events from the sidelines at the just-completed G7 summit in France.
"When you're a principal in a lot of these discussions it's hard to look past and see what's actually going on," Mr Morrison told the Financial Review, claiming a clearer view of things from the summit cheap seats.
It was an observation which appeared to indicate Mr Morrison - a P-plate international statesman - sees Australia having a significant role influencing world affairs as a second-level power, particularly in our region.
The Prime Minister says he is not fond of summits, preferring to cater for the suburbs instead. But he claims insights.
However, the past six months of his first year in office has included a number of trips overseas with Britain, France, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Tuvalu among the destinations. And there are more stamps on his passport to come.
Australia does have a valid role as a second-level power, particularly in our region, alongside such allies as South Korea. And our economy is significant enough to gain Australian access to most venues.
But the Prime Minister has been dealing with big players who don't appear to mind who gets trampled as they charge each other, and he has no solution to the rampant uncertainty.
So far he has a diagnosis of the current tensions, but no cure.
The Prime Minister argues the West facilitated China as it turned from a developing economy to a fully developed one. Now that the transition phase was over, China had to operate by the rules which applied to Western nations.
"China needs to become part of the new global architecture and that's what we are wrestling with," Mr Morrison told The Australian.
It is an analysis which supports the aggressive stance of US President Donald Trump, Mr Morrison's host in Washington next month.
Beijing will see it as another indication Australia is working with Trump against China.
But the Morrison sweeping worldview doesn't highlight the critical elements of current confusion - the personal investment in disruption from Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping.
In polite circles President Trump is volatile. In other circles he is considered unhinged.
Mr Morrison experienced the erratic Trump almost first hand at the G7 where the President said he had second thoughts about punishing Chinese trade, then said he wished he had gone harder with tariffs, then announced he would meet China's leadership for a settlement, with Beijing replying there were no plans for talks.
Mr Morrison hoped for the best but conceded: "I am also mindful that we have been here before."
Mr Trump tossed in a meeting with Iran's leadership, which Tehran rejected before it had landed.
The contest between the US and Chinese economies and their uncompromising leaders is rattling former solid economies such as ours and making certainty the scarcest global commodity.
Add the dangling issues of Brexit and Australia's military presence in the Straits of Hormuz will further occupy the thinking of a Prime Minister who would prefer to be in the suburbs.
"I'm not normally one who rushes towards these sorts of events (summits), my focus has always been a lot more domestic," he told the Financial Review.
In politics at all levels the greater the verbiage the greater the confusion.
And word salads are being served in huge platefuls as leaders struggle to talk their way to the certainty their voters want.
Scott Morrison is no exception: "It's totally structural. It's a history issue.
"We're finding ourselves in a new phase. And we don't have to place or characterise people's motives in any of this, it's just this is the juncture we're at and we have to deal with it."