Australia’s support for a key event designed to legitimise the Saudi Arabian regime is looking increasingly lonely as European countries and even the Trump administration abandon it.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is only the most high-profile withdrawal from the Riyadh “Future Investment Initiative” (FII) conference over the last 48 hours as boycotts snowball in the wake of further evidence of the torture, murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. International Monetary Fund chair Christine Lagarde has withdrawn, as has the UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as part of a broader suspension of diplomatic contact, and Le Maire’s Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra.
Australia is not sending ministers but Crikey reported earlier this week that our ambassador to the regime will be attending, as will Austrade’s regional manager to “organise client and investor meetings during FII supporting inward investment to Australia and targeted outward investment projects by Australian businesses.”
The conference includes an “interdisciplinary workshop” on media (BYO bone saw, presumably) despite most of the world’s major media companies boycotting. However, some major companies are continuing as “partners“: prominent money launderers HSBC and Credit Suisse, Mastercard, tax avoidance specialists Deloitte, E&Y and PWC, and consultants BCG and McKinsey.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office declined to respond on other countries’ withdrawal from the event. Yesterday in the Senate, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson “I will have a look at what public advice Austrade may be giving in relation to that event at present” but did not indicate Australia would review its support.