Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:11 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:11 | SYDNEY

Kevin Rudd versus Europe


Graeme Dobell

24 March 2009 13:50

Kevin Rudd is set to become something of a hate figure for various European bureaucracies. Australia’s leader is probably smart enough to avoid the Donald Rumsfeld trap of talking about ‘old Europe’. But Rudd is clearly gunning for Europe’s old power prerogatives.

One of the tides running through the Rudd meeting with Barack Obama is the shift of power from Europe to Asia. A series of topics reflect the trend: ambitions for the G20, reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and even the new US keenness to enter the East Asia Summit. Each area marks a lift in Asia’s importance. And while power is not always a zero-sum game, some of the movement is going to cost Europe.

Take the G20. For many a day, Australia pined to get into the old G7 as the peak of the global economic club. That is a dream long gone. The G7 is tied to Europe and its best period looks like the concluding decades of the last century. The G20 shapes like a concert of powers for the 21st century.

The Rudd script for the G20 is getting more expansive by the day. Consider these warm words from the Prime Minister, offered on his first chilly day in Washington (from an emailed transcript; not on the PMs website at time of writing):

Beyond questions of security, Australia and the United States are also already working closely on the G20 and our cooperation to deal with the global economic recession and the global financial crisis. The G20 has major work ahead of it. Major work on the question of coordinated global economic stimulus to support growth and jobs and the economy now. Secondly, in agreeing upon rules for the global financial system for the future, and thirdly on restoring our major banks, our major global banks, to health.

Rudd’s anti-Europe language is even more explicit when talking about reform of the IMF and greater voting rights for Asian powers such as China.

Everyone is expecting China to put its money on the table, that’s fine. But you know in the IMF, China’s voting rights are currently the same as those of Belgium and the Netherlands. Now let’s just get up with the realities of the 21st century. So, what we going to be trying to be fashioning? A greater role for new countries like China in the decision making powers of the International Monetary Fund.

All this will require a certain amount of nifty footwork when Rudd gets to Europe on this trip. One problem with his push to recognise Asia’s power is the reality that, for some purposes, Australia is in Europe. In the UN, Australia is part of the European and Others group. Bashing Europe might get us some UN support around the world, but it isn’t going to make the members of Australia’s own UN group particularly positive about Canberra’s Security Council candidacy.