Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:24 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:24 | SYDNEY

DFAT budget cuts are a lost opportunity


Sam Roggeveen


15 January 2008 17:26

The DFAT budget cuts reported in today’s Australian are a tough blow for an organisation that was never exactly swimming in funds under its previous minister. It’s the cuts to overseas posts that will hurt Australian interests the most (the cutting of cultural exports funding, on the other hand, is great news. At a single stroke it will horrify the arts luvvies and improve our overseas image. That’s a twofer in my book). The previous government encouraged the idea that intelligence agencies should have the lead role in improving our understanding of foreign countries, but diplomats are crucial for that task. We need more, not fewer.

And note that we won’t see corresponding cuts to the defence budget. In fact, to ward off attacks that it was weak on national security, the then-opposition promised at last year’s election to maintain defence spending growth of 3% to 2016. I’m not saying we could solve all the world’s problems if we just talked more instead of buying guns, but there is a balance. The previous government, overreacting to the terrorist threat, put Australia in a defensive crouch against the world. A change of budget priorities with a modest shift of funding from defence to foreign affairs would have been a useful signal to the world that we are not as scared as we used to be.