Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:24 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:24 | SYDNEY

From the opposition benches


Andrew Carr


20 June 2011 10:02

In the last term, the Coalition opposition largely ignored foreign policy, indeed Tony Abbott even argued it 'was so lame' to get other countries involved in problems like people smuggling. This term however, they've done something very unusual — conduct foreign policy from the opposition benches:

Nauru has taken a step towards adopting the United Nations Refugee Convention, with its President, Marcus Stephen, saying he had received legal advice there 'are no issues' to prevent the tiny island nation becoming a signatory...The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, had raised the issue with him, and it had been raised by the United Nations in Geneva in January.

Many will hate the comparison, but it does somewhat bring to mind Gough Whitlam's 1971 visit to China while still opposition leader. Of course, Whitlam was inserting Australia into great power strategic conflict in the Cold War, while Abbott has enticed an almost-dependent island nation to smooth the way for a future pay-day.

Still, it's a notable achievement. The Coalition needs to be careful it is not harming Australian interests overseas for the sake of partisanship (as Morrison's trip to Malaysia risks), but given the weight of challenges facing the country, an opposition re-engaged with foreign policy and willing to take a few risks is a welcome sign.