Friday 05 Jun 2020 | 01:35 | SYDNEY
Friday 05 Jun 2020 | 01:35 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Canberra tribes


Graeme Dobell

13 July 2009 17:38

The issue of insiders, outsiders and foreigners reaches far beyond Canberra. My musings on what really moves the capital brought this response from across the Tasman from Paul Cotton:

Stuart Harris was of course practically an outsider, having only limited pre-connections with DFAT. But how do you think things will go in New Zealand where for the first time a foreigner (to use your excellent term) has been appointed to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. John Allen, previously CEO of New Zealand Post, takes over MFAT at the end of next week. We, and I speak for MFAT retirees, are waiting to see what happens.

Stuart Harris ranks as a Foreign Affairs outsider who was a public service insider elsewhere in Canberra. Certainly, he was not a Canberra foreigner in the typology I was suggesting. It's true, though, that Bill Hayden brought in Harris as secretary of Foreign Affairs precisely because he did not belong to the pinstripe mainstream.

As the-man-who-got-the-mail-through-on-time is about to find in running Kiwi diploamcy, the insider/outsider/foreigner issues don't change. The foreigner brings in the freshest of eyes. But he or she doesn't really know where the bodies are buried, or if they are being buried by the bureaucracy.