The Australian public has to foot a $500 million bill for hosting the G20 summit in Brisbane last weekend. Just before that, the public funded a delegation — including our Rambo Prime Minister, Tony Abbott — to the APEC summit in Beijing. We don't know what that excursion cost the public, but you can be sure it wasn't peanuts.
So was it worth it? After all, Abbott did not even try to shirtfront Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Usually these expensive public-funded international extravaganzas are justified with the promise of thousands of people flying in as part of the official contingents of the various delegations spending up at local restaurants and shops, thus giving a boost to the local economy via small businesses. But many shops and restaurants near the Brisbane G20 site were closed because of the security lockdown.
Some big hotels will be making big bucks, as will the private contractors for all the fencing and security. When Sydney hosted the APEC summit in 2007, the NSW police blew $2 million on fencing and $600,000 on a water cannon.
The steel and concrete fence became an embarrassing symbol of the 2007 APEC summit after it failed to keep out The Chaser’s fake Canadian contingent hiding an actor dressed as Osama Bin Laden.
Eventually, in 2010 that expensive fence was sold for just $500,000.
So who gains from expensive public-funded summits like G20 and APEC? You guessed it: the billionaire class.
After the Beijing APEC summit, Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, expects to profit from an imminent free trade agreement with China by selling infant formula milk powder to China's middle classes.
Hope Dairies director Dave Garcia, controlled by Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, said it is seeking to buy about 5000 hectares of farmland in Queensland to become one of Australia's biggest dairy farms, producing up to 30,000 tonnes of formula a year.
Exports of whole milk powder, which includes infant formula, from Australia to China almost tripled to 17,592 tonnes in the 12 months to July last year. In the next year the market is expected to grow by more than 80%.
The public spending on just security for the Brisbane G20 is well over $100 million. The federal government gave $97.5 million to the Queensland government to pay for extra law enforcement and policing at the summit and Canberra was likely to be spending millions more directly on security.
But according to News Limited's national economics editor, Jessica Irvine, the jewel in the summit for big business is a lucrative slice of an estimated global US$71 trillion (A$81.7 trillion) infrastructure deficit by 2030 via private contracts, public-public partnerships and other forms of privatisation.
That's what they care about, not about how these public funds should be invested for the public good. By any rational measure, investment should be prioritised around making the urgently needed shift to a 100% renewable energy future and ending the widening gap between the global rich and poor. Summits like APEC and G20 are about doing the opposite.
Another world is possible, indeed necessary. But we can't get there without ending the stranglehold over society of the billionaire class. Green Left Weekly is committed to building the movements needed to end this stranglehold, but we need your help to keep fighting.
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