Friday, July 13, 2012

The G20 Down Under

Here's the thing: over the past ten years, the ubiquity of the internet has made it easy for people everywhere to learn about everything, fromthe latest Korean celebrity gossip to the effect of vacuum on unspacesuited humans. Practically all of the information of the world is at our fingertips--perhaps that's part of the problem. We have access to all this knowledge, but we still haven't come to terms with it, and we're not using it in one of the very important ways. Namely, we're not using the opportunity it provides to learn from the experiences of others.

To illustrate, consider the leading sentence in a Sydney Morning Herald article published yesterday on the subject of Brisbane, Australia winning the dubious opportunity to host a particular political meetup in 2014. "Hosting the G20 summit - boon or burden?" As someone who was a resident of Toronto during the 2010 G20 summit, I don't need to think very hard to answer that question. To its credit, the article specifically brings up Toronto's experience, and that it was "a nightmare" for the city.

Except... Brisbane's lord mayor, Graham Quirk, isn't interested in paying attention to the experience of other cities. Instead, he's of the mind that Brisbane needs to consider "the long-lasting economic benefits that it will bring to our city." Yes, because when I think of Toronto's G20, I think of economic benefits like, erm... the fake lake! Yes! Presumably part of these economic benefits will be realized for Brisbane through the production of specially reinforced hats to protect visiting journalists from drop bear attacks, even though the hats would probably be made in China anyway. Or, alternatively, perhaps the Australian government will reject half of the compensation claims made by businesses that will be damaged in the inevitable riots, just like the Canadian government did.

There's that, and the idea that thanks to the summit, Brisbane will appear on the world stage. While it is true that Brisbane isn't very well-known outside Australia--even for me, its only remarkable factor is that its name rhymes with "fizzbin"--hosting the G20 is not exactly the way to go about it. It's kind of like molesting a kindergarten class so that people will know your name.

This is pretty much what Australia looks like to people who aren't from there.

What really makes this ridiculous, in my mind, is that Sydney is whining about this. Yes, Sydney, most likely the only Australian city that the vast majority of the world outside Australia has ever heard of--this is essentially the argument that New South Wales' Planning and Infrastructure Minister, Brad Hazzard, used to suggest that the G20 would be better off in Sydney, because Sydney "is the gateway from the world to Australia." He also suggested that Brisbane's selection was for political reasons, "to use the leaders of the world as political pawns in her game to try and win back the votes across Queensland."

To which I say, what? Seriously? What in blazes are you thinking, Brad Hazzard--in what world would something like the G20 be a good thing for votes? Now, I don't know anything about the culture of Queensland as a whole, but I can't imagine that the people of Brisbane itself would take a look at their city locked down for the benefit of a handful of foreign VIPs, their airspace restricted, their protesters kettled and carted off to holding cells for the unforgivable crime of being on the street somewhere, and think "it was good for Juilia Gillard to do this. We should vote her back into office!"

No one, no one, except the politicians ever want G20 summits. They are a blight on cities and their people. If it was up to me I'd have them hold the summit in Bartertown and be done with it.

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