Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that he has not scheduled a meeting with US President Donald Trump at the G20, which suggests that US priorities lie in tackling other issues at the summit.
The 20 largest nations will convene in Buenos Aires on Thursday to discuss current world events and how to move certain issues forward while also working on resolving any diplomatic problems between the countries.
In a sign that the G20 will mainly center around financing some of the world’s most challenging projects, Morrison decided to take Finance Minister Mathias Cormann with him instead of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. This decision saw Julia Banks, a former Victorian Liberal MP, defect to the crossbench. Morrison should be under heavy scrutiny as he tries to justify his decision.
The lack of a meeting with Trump also suggests that the current Australian government is struggling when it comes to foreign affairs and is not at the top seat of the table when it comes to talks that the US needs to undertake. However, Morrison’s office said in a statement that there is “no pressing need for a formal bilateral at this stage” and that Morrison and Trump have met in the last few months.
The Liberals are also having difficulty in some capacity with governing at present, as many backbenchers are criticizing Morrison’s output. He has not been in his post for long, having succeeded Malcolm Turnbull toward the end of the summer, when the latter faced removal due to a lack of party support.
The same problem appears to be heading Morrison’s way, and a lack of cohesion across all factions of the Liberal party could be its undoing ahead of next year’s elections in May 2019.
Some critical wings of the party have already threatened to defect, including Craig Kelly, who said that his chances of going to the crossbench are increasing. He fears that he will lose his seat in the next election.
Kelly said that he is not ruling “anything in or out” as he tries to increase the potential of keeping his seat in the Hughes district of Sydney.
With many dissenters now opening next year’s election to the possibility of a change of leadership, Morrison will be looking for wins where he can get them, including at the G20.
Frydenberg has also faced criticism in parliament for not attending the summit. The Liberals will be trying to save face for the party while its leader is elsewhere.
Morrison has already set out his stall for May’s elections, declaring that the Liberal party “knows how to keep our economy strong, how to keep Australians safe.” He criticized the opposition, saying that Labor leader Bill Shorten believes that “all he has to do is turn up in parliament.”
There is also a current Labor push to try and pin down Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton over a series of payments to childcare centers that his family owns, which the party maintains has breached the constitution. The Liberal government has launched a series of attacks on the opposition for what it believes is a lack of fair play on the matter. With Morrison away for international talks, it appears that things may run riot while he is not there to control certain events.