Scott Morrison has asked the Australian embassy to investigate the assault by police of an Australian Channel 7 news crew during the Washington demonstrations.
The embassy, which is headed by ambassador Arthur Sinodinos, is to provide advice on registering Australia’s “strong concerns” with the responsible local authorities in Washington.
Cameraman Tim Myers and 7 News’ US correspondent Amelia Brace were reporting live as police cleared protesters ahead of President Trump going from the White House to a nearby church.
Footage shows Myers being bashed with a riot shield.
Brace said later: “I actually managed to get a rubber bullet to the backside and Tim got one in the back of the neck so we’ll have a few bruises tomorrow but we’re perfectly safe”.
“You heard us yelling that we were media … but they don’t care. They are being indiscriminate at the moment,” she said.
Morrison wasn’t aware of the assault when he and Trump spoke on Tuesday; Trump had contacted Morrison to formally invite him to the G7 meeting in September.
After hearing of the incident, Morrison contacted Channel 7 to assure the network of the government’s support if it wished to lodge a formal complaint with the police through the embassy.
Anthony Albanese, speaking earlier, said Sinodinos “should be certainly making representation on behalf of these Australians who effectively have been assaulted”.
In their conversation, the Prime Minister told Trump he would be pleased to attend the G7 meeting. It is the second consecutive year Australia has been invited – last year French host, President Macron, extended an invitation.
A spokesman for Morrison said participation would “give Australia another significant opportunity to promote our interests during highly uncertain times in the global economy. It’s important for Australians that we are there”.
The G7 group of large advanced economies includes - apart from the US - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Its discussions cover economic, security and other issues.
But this meeting, which has been delayed from July to September, is surrounded by controversy. Trump wants to have Russian President Vladimir Putin there. Russia was expelled from the then G8 some years ago after its invasion of Crimea.
While Trump would like Russia readmitted as a member of the group, this is strongly opposed by the UK and Canada – although their stand would not necessarily rule out Putin’s attending the September meeting.
At the weekend Trump said he did not think the G7 “properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries.” He flagged inviting Russia, South Korea, Australia and India.
The PM’s spokesman said Morrison and Trump canvassed in their conversation the “distressing situation” in the US - which has seen the country wracked by violent protests in the wake of the death at police hands of the unarmed African-American man George Floyd - and “efforts to ensure it would be resolved peacefully”.
On the home front, Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe on Tuesday said it is possible the depth of Australia’s downturn will be less than earlier expected.
In a statement after Tuesday’s Reserve Bank Board meeting, which as anticipated kept rates unchanged, Lowe stressed the nature and speed of the recovery “remains highly uncertain”.
The economy was going through its biggest contraction since the 1930s depression, he said.
But “the rate of new infections has declined significantly and some restrictions have been eased earlier than was previously thought likely. And there are signs that hours worked stabilised in early May, after the earlier very sharp decline. There has also been a pick-up in some forms of consumer spending”.
Lowe said while the pandemic would likely have lasting effects on the economy, most immediately “much will depend on the confidence that people and businesses have about the health situation and their own finances”.
The bank’s statement comes ahead of Wednesday’s national accounts for the March quarter, and the government’s imminent announcement of help for the residential sector.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra