God Save Foreign Policy From Politicians

It seems every time foreign policy is in the news I find myself siding with the bureaucracy. It’s a strange place to be, but political figures that opine on foreign policy generally leave me little choice but to support the  hide-the-intentions, offend-noone team at DFAT.

And that’s even allowing for my lack of concern for what the media identify as “gaffes”. For the most part, particularly in domestic issues, they are a storm in a media teacup.

But then there was Bob Carr. Here we have the little-blogger-who-could, huffing and puffing as though grandiosity will pull him up to the heights to which he aspires.

America in decline“? No problem for huffing Bob. After all, isn’t being Senator Sir Foreign Minister Pontificus a licence to drop brain farts on a global audience? Even Hartcher has doubts. Certainly Papua New Guinea does.

Pity the Peter Principle applies as much in politics as in other fields of human endeavour.

Then, of course, we have our self-appointed Dear Leader, First Citizen Rudd. Not content during his leadership  with meddling his way to a disrupted relationship with China, we now have this spectacle of name-dropping self-aggrandizement from a backbencher humbly serving his suburban Brisbane constituents:

When I mentioned to Henry Kissinger in New York on Monday that I was coming here today, he observed that this institution was as old as he was…

including having been received by Mayor Rahm Emanuel…

In the last week I have been in the United States in discussions with the UN Secretary General, Vice President Biden, Henry Kissinger and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel…

Together with the great challenges of global economic management, and global sustainable development, I believe the rise of China represents one of the three great challenges of our age…

Gee, the boys and girls at DFAT must be so happy to have someone other than Bob doing Australia’s talking for us.


Tony Abbott’s comments on democracy , human rights and FDI while visiting China were relatively innocuous and have been picked up in the traditional faux outrage, Abbott-Abbott-Abbott way. Even if with opposing views: too little but poorly expressed, or  too much. For the most part Abbott’s comments seem close to the DFAT standard of we love you, and on the one hand, but on the other hand.

…  The [Foreign Investment Review] Board looks very carefully at sovereign investment but it does that for all countries, not just China.

Chinese investment is complicated by the prevalence of state-owned enterprises.
It would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business.
That’s because we don’t support the nationalization of business by the Australian government, let alone by a foreign one…
…As prime minister, I would hope for political reforms to match China’s economic liberalization while acknowledging the government’s right to maintain order and respecting China’s growing place in the world. We already have a strong relationship with China based on shared interests.
Over time, I hope that it might be based more on shared values.
The next Coalition government will stand up for Australia’s interests and values but our objective would be engagement rather than containment and cooperation rather than strategic competition…
But as our Opposition Leader, frankly I’d prefer him to go the DFAT way and say even less of any consequence. Unless part of a considered long-term geo-strategic agenda, everyone should embrace what comes naturally to local politicians: utter banality.


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