Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 22:45 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 22:45 | SYDNEY

Foreign policy debate: First impressions


Sam Roggeveen


12 August 2010 13:08

UPDATE: Here's the Liberal Party's foreign affairs policy document, which I understand was distributed at the debate.

It could have been so much worse. Unlike their encounter on Perth radio earlier in the campaign, the debate between Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and his shadow, Julie Bishop, was sober and mature, if not hugely enlightening or elevating. Graeme Dobell will have more detailed analysis soon, but herewith my initial thoughts:

  • Julie Bishop's strangely halting delivery of her opening address betrayed some nervousness, which can easily be forgiven. Less easy to excuse was the discursive 'laundry list' nature of her address, which somehow contrived to mention the Square Kilometre Array before it got to our great power relationships.
  • By contrast, Stephen Smith's opening sketched a historical and theoretical context for his Government's approach to foreign policy. Smith even rose to the challenge set by Rory yesterday by describing the tectonic power shifts occurring in the region. Very polished.
  • With the opening statements out of the way came the first question from the media, and it was on...asylum seekers and boats. Groan.
  • OK, off to a bad start, but there's time to recover with the second media question, which is about...Wikileaks' Really' Is this a press conference'
  • Now we get to aid, on which Julie Bishop made a major announcement. More on that in Graeme Dobell's coverage.
  • Linda Mottram's question criticises both parties for saying too little about China (quoting Rory Medcalf's blog post); Stephen Smith throws it right back at the media by saying he is pleased to be getting his first question on that topic.
  • The next question is on who will be the foreign minister in a new government. Bishop has found her range by this point, with some strong answers on foreign aid and China, and she has a politically devastating line against Smith and Labor, about how no-one's job seems to be safe. Smith will not be foreign minister in a new Labor Government, she says, and Smith's response is tame.
  • In his closing statement, Smith gave Tony Abbott's 'Anglosphere' theme a workout. Here's Michael Wesley on that topic, from this morning.
  • Finally, a note on Afghanistan, and a major own goal from Smith, who says that Australia is there as part of international efforts to 'stare down' Islamist terrorism. It should be perfectly clear that, if the job of foreign minister involves 'staring down' anything, Julie Bishop is by far the stronger candidate.