Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 09:48 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 09:48 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: The Vatican rag


Sam Roggeveen


25 July 2008 16:52

John Hannoush goes where I feared to tread, commenting on the Government's appointment of a permanent ambassador to the Holy See, and in particular two articles on the subject by The Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan. In one article, Sheridan suggested the Government could use the post to help smooth relations between the Vatican and Beijing, with the Vatican apparently poised to move its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the mainland:

It would have been good to see a bit more substance about the China link that Sheridan draws: in something of an echo of Laurie Oakes' article on the PM's possible shuttle diplomacy between China and US on climate change, Sheridan suggests, 'It may be that Rudd, with his special knowledge of and access in Beijing, can be of some help in this dynamic. An alert Australian ambassador in the Vatican can ramp up the Australian contribution in many useful ways.' The PM could be in permanent orbit at this rate, and it remains pretty vague and notional.

Second, an argument in favour of a particular proposal should establish why it should rank higher than any other candidate for resources. Greg Sheridan addresses this in his second article, but only by saying more money is needed for diplomacy generally. If we assume the Government is serious about its economic approach, there can be no easy way to just increase funding for everything. So there should be at least an attempt to explain why greater resources in the Vatican are justified over greater resources in missions dealing with, for example, alliance efforts in Afghanistan or the Doha Round.

Finally, a factual comment on Greg Sheridan's second piece. He writes, 'In all of Africa we have just four small posts: Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe.' The DFAT website also lists Nairobi in Kenya and Abuja in Nigeria, pretty considerable posts in significant countries.