Australia too far away and not South enough

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While this week the G20 summit of world leaders is meeting in London now, last week Chile hosted a gathering of policy thinkers to air ideas of how to go forward. The Progressive Governance conference certainly had political legs. It was hosted by the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet  and had presentations from the British MP Gordon Brown as well as the US VP Joe Biden.

The ideas themselves were hardly revolutionary, but provide extra support to leaders now as they attempt to find a common set of values. You can download their handbook of ideas here, which articulates familiar positions such as the need to resist protectionism, international equity and financial market governance.

In many ways, it was the location of this event as much as its content that made the intended statement. According to the Economist, ‘The fact that the meeting was being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time was also seen by some as a symptom of the world’s changing balance of power.’

The event’s organisers, Policy Network, had hosted four previous events in the north. But with the partnership of Michelle Bachelet, this time choose to locate the discussion on the other side of the world.

Where is this leading? In a discussion between the organisers, Roger Liddle, an advisor to Tony Blair, muses on where to meet next…

Liddle: Where do you think we can go that’s even further away? Australia?

As he chuckles at the prospect, Olaf Cramme quickly tries to quell the offense by turning it into a serious proposition. But it was certainly not intended as one. Prime Minister Kevn Rudd certainly hopes to be taken more seriously in London this week.

This is another example of the challenges Australia faces in finding a place for itself somewhere between the North and the South.

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