Australian politicians can clearly learn a thing or two from the leaders of South Eastern Asian countries. The Turnbull government is known for speeches which bring forth short and long yawns. The ministers of the Australian government can fly to Indonesia to learn how to give inspiring 'sit straight in your seat' speeches. The ASEAN summit, which lasted three days, taught the staid Australians on how to talk. The summit took part in Sydney. It did not, all participants admitted, achieve anything substantial or anything that can be boasted of.
Turnbull's speech and words spoken by other ministers were saturated with buzz words, and dry. There were platitudes. All in all, the speeches were bores. It was thus a welcome surprise as President Joko Widodo of Indonesia injected attention-grabbing content into a staid business lunch while he spoke along with Prime Minister Turnbull. President Widodo delivered one of his rare speeches where he spoke English. The Indonesian President reflected on the churn of world politics where Donald Trump occupied the White House, North Korean threats, and Brexit.
Widodo bemoaned that politicians now have Netflix to compete with for attention. The arrival of the app has forced politicians to transform politics into reality television. If this is not done, he complained, the electorate will watch Stranger Things and other programs instead of listening to what they have to say. He made a point about the undergoing Asian digital revolution.
All of it began on a big note as Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister, billed the meeting as a diplomatic coup. Turnbull seemingly did the impossible. He coaxed nine out of the 10 ASEAN leaders to jet down to Australia. The achievement was more so as the member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations have a less than shiny records when it comes to the issue of human rights. Such facts led to a considerable sweating from Australia, which promptly adopted a media management policy which can only be described as risk-averse. Journalists were kept in a gilded media center, some distance away from the actual sessions. Speeches were not broadcast live most of the time. Discussions were few and far between. The only good thing the summit had achieved was to increase the economic links between the participating member states. Illustrious CEOs of large Australian companies took part in business forums with Asian counterparts. The media was by and large stopped from listening to the corporate insights.