Stan Grant headlines online G21 forum

December 11, 2020 BY

Dialling in: Stan Grant as seen on a monitor set up at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre during this year's G21 Stakeholder Forum. Photo: FILE

THE latest edition of the G21 Stakeholder Forum went down the online path, with more than five hundred people logging on Friday last week to watch proceedings.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the fluctuating state of social distancing requirements forced G21 to livestream this year’s staging of the popular event, setting up a camera for some speakers at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre, and having others join in from their homes.

Journalist and Indigenous Australian Stan Grant was the keynote speaker at the two-hour forum, and noted there were analogies to be drawn between now and important historical periods, not only the Spanish Flu pandemic of the early 1910s but also the Cold War of the mid to late 20th century.

“[Prime Minister] Scott Morrison put it well when he said the world was becoming poorer, more disorganised and more disorderly,” he said.

Mr Grant said World War I was followed by the Spanish Flu in much the same way “we’ve had unending war in the past 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan” followed by COVID-19.

He also spoke extensively about China, where he worked as a journalist for several years, the ongoing diplomatic tensions between the growing superpower on one side and Australia and the Western World on the other, and what might happen next.

“China used to talk about ‘hiding and biding [its time]’, I think we can safely say the time of hiding and biding is over,” Mr Grant said.

“At the time when one in five Australian jobs is in some way related to exports, we can’t ignore the relationship with China.

“We can perhaps look in retrospect and say we should have seen this day coming.

“Do we enter a new Cold War period of trying to contain China’s rise? Perhaps, but that’s going to be much more difficult than it was against the Soviets.”

He referenced Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s pivotal diplomatic trip in 1972, which was “a meeting that you could absolutely say redefined the relationship” between the US and China.

“How do we take that ‘voyage of philosophical discovery’ (Nixon’s description of the trip in his memoirs) today?” Mr Grant said.

Other speakers at the event included Wadawurrung woman and traditional owner Corrina Eccles, who launched the Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation’s local Healthy Country Plan.

Also in the list was Urbis director of future state Kate Meyrick’s presentation of Urbis’ socio-economic analysis focusing on Geelong and the G21 region, titled “A Mission-Fit G21”.

Meanwhile a project showcase about the $350 million Cape Otway Road Australia elite sports training and tourism complex proposed for Modewarre was introduced by CORA director Daryl Pelchen.

The annual panel discussion and Q&A featured Deakin University vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin, Victorian Industry Tourism Council chief executive officer Felicia Mariani and Geelong Arts Centre chief executive officer Joel McGuinness who discussed the impact of COVID-19 on their industries and how they saw their recovery.

Ms Mariani said the early projections were the tourism industry would lose about $23 billion from visitor spending, but the easing of coronavirus restrictions was making a difference.

“There was a great pent-up demand in Melbourne, and we’re beginning to see the fruits of that,” she said. “We’re not out of the woods yet, particularly in our events area.”

Outgoing G21 chief executive officer Elaine Carbines had almost the last word at the forum, reflecting not only on the successes and difficulties of the previous 12 months but also her 10 years at the helm.

“I’ve absolutely loved the role, I’ve absolutely loved the work and the hundreds of people I’ve met,” she said.

“I’ve always seen the role of G21 as a cheer squad for our region.”

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