As the G20 wrapped up in Brisbane last week, national leaders issued a statement to announce the key issues they would focus on until the next meeting.
This included the creation of jobs through growth, with the ambitious target of growing the GDP of G20 countries by 2% over the next four years.
It was couched in language that promised a better life for everyone. “Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority,” the statement said.
But the reality is that the outcomes of the meeting were a blueprint for measures that would hurt ordinary people and drive down living standards for most of the world.
The Brisbane Action Plan set out in detail how this growth would be achieved. It says “well-functioning markets underpin prosperity”, and its plan to create growth would come through “reducing barriers to trade”, “promoting competition by cutting red tape” and taking "steps to streamline labour market regulation and reduce non-wage costs of labour”.
To translate, getting rid of barriers to trade means scrapping trade tariffs that protect local industries. Cutting “red tape” means getting rid of hard-won environmental regulation and working rights. “Non-wage costs of labour” include superannuation and entitlements such as workers' compensation and long service leave.
Although the G20 gets accused of being “just a talk shop”, unfortunately this is not the case. The decisions made at the summit have an impact on millions of people around the world.
In many G20 countries, it will result in the privatisation of essential services such as water and energy.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey committed to carrying out the same policies they released in the federal budget, including cuts to education and welfare.
The Australian Financial Review reported on November 11: “The major component of Australia’s extra 2 per cent growth commitment over the next five years is expected to come from the proposed ‘asset recycling fund’ — which will see significant amounts of state-owned infrastructure sold off to the private sector to finance new infrastructure development.”
This is the reason so many people protested against the G20 summit.
An alternative plan was also discussed and agreed on in Brisbane over the same weekend.
The Brisbane Community Action Network knew the G20 was not raising issues people wanted discussed, so it organised a summit for them. "Visioning Another World: The G20 Peoples' Summit" was three days of workshops, creative actions and discussion about transitioning to a more just and sustainable society.
In a statement the group released after the summit, it called for equality and justice for all. In stark contrast to the “leaders” summit, it said this would come about through collaboration over competition, opposition to the dominance of the market over society, and participation in true democracy and decision making.
The richest 1% now own more than 48% of the world’s wealth and the gap between rich and poor is getting worse. Meetings like the G20 help drive the agenda that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few.
But, as the peoples' summit shows, another world is possible — one that benefits the majority and puts people before profit.