Stunt master

Friday, 7 September 2007 

Sydney residents must be wondering if they have been the victim of an elaborate and very expensive stunt.

After all the inconvenience of the multi-million dollar show of fences, helicopters and snipers, none of it was enough to stop an ABC comedy team from whisking unhindered through two checkpoints. The high-profile security that surrounds political events these days always has more showmanship than practical effect. But it probably says something on the changing way the War on Terror is now regarded that exposing the security theatrics with a stunt that included someone dressed as Bin Laden, which might have been considered a little tasteless not so long ago, Is now treated by everyone as a joke.

The changing politics of the War on Terror and Iraq has created some awkwardness at the APEC conference because it is hosted by a leader who cannot adapt to it. Howard is locked into a political agenda that assumes US leadership is being excercised through the War on Terror, but that is not the way things are going. Bush’s hammering of the case for staying in Iraq, to help Howard, comes just in the week when Bush is actually trying to create wiggle room with his US audience to start pulling out (no wonder he was thinking of not coming). It also suggests that the supposed ‘showdown’ between Rudd and Bush over Iraq played out in front of the media might have turned into something a little bit different in a private meeting that went on for much longer than scheduled and unusually, was requested by Bush to be off the record.

However, while the facade that nothing has changed on Iraq was maintained to help Howard, the real transformation underway in international relations came out in the open with China’s arrival to the conference. China’s impact comes less from its own power in the region, but that it highlights that US leadership is now looking less certain. The awkwardness of China’s exclusion from the trilateral security meeting between Australia, the US and Japan is one sign of the shifting balance. But its major impact on the Australian political scene came in the welcoming dinner to the Chinese President. Rudd’s speech, made in front of not only top political leaders in China and Australia, but also the leaders of Australian business, was similar to the censure speech he made on Howard’s comments on Obama in February. Both were made to narrow, but influential, audiences and both emphasised his superior claim over Howard to be able to adapt to the state of flux in international relations we are now entering – all translated to the evening news by the simple act of speaking Mandarin, surely the classiest stunt of the week.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 7 September 2007.

Filed under International relations

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