Tuesday 12 Oct 2021 | 15:50 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 12 Oct 2021 | 15:50 | SYDNEY

DFAT death by a thousand cuts


Andrew Shearer

16 August 2010 12:23

Foreign policy commentators have bemoaned that international affairs hardly feature in the election campaign (apart from our suddenly vital relationships with diplomatic juggernauts East Timor and Nauru).

But that doesn't mean the election holds no consequences for our foreign policy. Lost in the hurly-burly was more bad news for DFAT – and I'm not just talking about the near certainty that Kevin Rudd will be foreign minister if Labor wins.

According to media reports, Labor will save $45 million by cutting 'a small number' of Foreign Affairs positions overseas. There's no mention of how many, but it looks to me like about ten. The Treasurer can't even bring himself to fess up and say the 'c' word: according to Swan's newspeak, the positions will be 'returned to Australia' rather than cut.

What a joke. Our overseas diplomatic network is already in a parlous condition, while consular and other demands on our scarce and overstretched diplomats mount steadily. DFAT's ratio of staff in the field versus those administering themselves back at headquarters is already one of the worst among comparable countries. Now our front-line diplomacy faces further cuts. And the cuts won't even pay for half a day of this government's borrowing.

No wonder we are struggling to overcome the diplomatic might of Luxembourg and Finland to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

Photo by Flickr user Antediluvial, used under a Creative Commons license.