Donald Trump’s past form at G7 meetings – and his disgraceful use of them as political performances for a domestic audience at the cost of international relationships – should have given the Prime Minister pause.

Its hard to believe our reflexive sway towards never offending the Americans would not come into play here, as it seems to have done this week in the Prime Ministers acceptance of Donald Trumps invitation to attend the G7 summit in Washington in September.
What a splendidly bad decision.
Lets reflect a little on the history of the G7. The Group of Seven is an idea that came out of the 1973 OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil shock. The global economic order of the post-war world was breaking down and a flurry of leadership changes in Europe and the US was creating turmoil and uncertainty.
It was originally a finance ministers meeting of what were supposed to be the major industrialised countries, even if adding Japan seemed to be a bit of an afterthought.
It grew into a group of seven only with the addition of Canada, largely on the basis it was thought it would be good to include someone else who spoke English.
Summiteering has grown over the decades and without doubt has proved useful from time to time in building personal relationships and for its symbolism at crucial points in history such as in the US-Soviet relationship.
It also proved its worth during the global financial crisis in helping deal with global problems in the international financial system.
And this points to the problems with this years summit.
Summits prove useful when they are forums for co-operation in sorting out issues that transcend global borders, not when they are used as political props.
Political prop
And now we are willingly walking into a political prop being set up by a US president who this week ordered tear gas and riot police against his own people to clear the way for a photo opportunity with a Bible outside a church.
Donald Trumps past form at G7 meetings and his disgraceful use of them as political performances for a domestic audience at the cost of international relationships should have given the Prime Minister pause. He could at least have said he would have to check his diary, because he has an economy in, you know, collapse to deal with.
At his first G7 summit in 2017, Trump refused to endorse a global climate change accord the Paris Agreement over issues that were regarded as largely settled.
In 2018, the G7 met in Canada. With the US already having imposed steel and aluminium tariffs on most G7 members, it was never going to be pretty.
Trump abandoned the summit to attend another photo op (which has gone nowhere) a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Mid-flight he took an impetuous decision to not sign the summits joint communiqué.
This was on the basis that the summit host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had described Trumps decision to invoke national security to justify tariffs as insulting. Trump tweeted (of course) that Trudeau was very dishonest and weak.
Last year, Australia, Spain, and India were invited to attend the G7 meeting in France. It was dominated by Trump trying to bully the rest of the attendees into readmitting Russia thrown out over its annexation of Crimea and by the US President’s erratic statements about a trade war with China.
Virus is reason enough to say no
This is the sort of circus the Prime Minister has now committed to walking into in September two months before the US presidential election, and in a setting that Trump controls.
Lest there be any doubt that the band has struck up Entry of the Gladiators, Trump has been quite clear that this G7 meeting is directed not at international co-operation but against China, and that he is still pushing for Russia to attend.
Australias desperation to be included in the international conversation has too often made us an alibi for respectability, rather than an ally.
The sorts of arguments given to attend this next meeting have included the usual “you cant say no”, and that it gives Morrison an opportunity to press Australias case in a deteriorating trade war between China and the US. (Presumably attending the meeting wont have any ramifications for our relationship with China.)
Putting these arguments aside, the fact the world is facing a health and economic existential crisis would normally by itself be sufficient reason to attend.
But what real prospect is there of such issues getting a serious airing?
Germanys Angela Merkel hasnt been afraid to say she might not be able to go, given the crisis at home.
Our government seems to have been much more cautious about offending the White House over G7 than it has been about offending the Chinese most recently by finally giving some real teeth to the foreign investment regime, a move clearly seen as directed against Beijing, whatever the protestations.
Lets also just keep in mind what will be happening back home in September on current indications.
The government will be dropping or cutting back its wage subsidy scheme JobKeeper. The 1.65 million people already on unemployment benefits will be having to meet “mutual obligations” that are temporarily suspended, meaning being obliged to walk the streets looking for jobs.
The huge slump in imports which made the contribution of net exports look better in the national accounts is unlikely to be repeated.
Just how the government plans to prod the economy through the next phase of the crisis is unclear. The housing stimulus package released this week sounded big on first blush, but increasingly useless on closer inspection.
If you actually want to prop up tradies, you surely design a scheme that will have the maximum geographic spread, not one with conditions that will limit it to very small areas.
Somewhere in the past few weeks, the governments decisions have started to look too much driven by the need to politically differentiate itself from Labor, and too little driven by pragmatic economic need.
Closing down whole areas of policy, in such extraordinary times, may ultimately create just as many problems as closing down borders.