Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:21 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:21 | SYDNEY

DFAT: Plus ca change


Rory Medcalf


18 January 2008 14:47

In foreign affairs, as in all things, some change is good and some is bad. One change that Australia's new government has made this week has been to chop tens of millions of dollars and 19 overseas positions from DFAT's capacity to pursue Australian objectives. Not only is this an unwelcome change, but it is, in its own perverse way, a kind of continuity; an echo, however faint, of the Howard Government's decimation of DFAT in 1996. That counterproductive step was still having ramifications a decade later, when DFAT found itself woefully understaffed at crucial middle ranks due to what almost amounted to a recruitment freeze in 1996-97. It seems that lesson is being ignored, since a recruitment freeze will probably also be part of the new Government's penny-pinching treatment of an already under-resourced DFAT.  Meanwhile, Defence is being looked after nicely, thank you very much. John Howard would approve.
One hopes that the Rudd Government will soon discover that it cannot expect to pursue international policy change if it funds its key foreign policy agency with small change.