A Plutocrats Summit?

BRISBANE – At an official dinner in Washington, DC, ahead of November’s G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch lectured ministers on the dangers of socialism and big government. A fervent opponent of Australia’s carbon price, and a battle-hardened opponent of US President Barack Obama, Murdoch lauded the virtues of austerity and minimal regulation, and railed against the corrosive effects of social safety nets.

The ministers were in Washington to attend the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, where they attempted to thrash out differences and establish common ground before the upcoming summit. The tone set by Murdoch, however, suggests that a consensus on sustainable, inclusive growth will be hard to achieve.

Murdoch’s comments are in keeping with views expressed by his friend, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and Abbott’s current administration. In January, for example, Abbott informed a startled Davos conference that the global financial crisis was caused not by unregulated global markets, but rather by too much governance. This was certainly news to the finance ministers who had spent the past few years struggling with the toxic fallout from financial-sector excess.

Viewed in the context of such comments, one can better understand Australia’s refusal to put issues of climate change and inclusive prosperity on the Brisbane agenda. Of course, stimulating global growth is a big enough challenge in itself, even without considering inclusiveness or environmental sustainability. The IMF’s gloomy growth forecasts attest to that. And many policymakers view Australia’s G-20 chairmanship as an opportunity to re-energize and refine the group’s mission to boost global growth, create jobs, and raise living standards. G-20 finance ministers have already decided on a 2% target for annual growth through 2018, and are sifting through more than 900 proposals for structural reforms in order to achieve this.