Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 06:25 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 06:25 | SYDNEY

Reader ripostes: Cyber diplomacy

22 September 2010 09:33

Below, a comment from Jim. But first, Andrew:

Just following your earlier debate on The Interpreter about Australian diplomats' willingness (or otherwise) to engage in social media, like blogs and Twitter. You may have seen Daniel Flitton's article in the Age on this very topic. He laments the effective absence of Australia's diplomats online, while those of 'like-mindeds', such as the US and UK, have embraced the new media and are making their voices heard.

Mr Flitton may not have been aware as he wrote the article that, in fact, there is a serving Australian Ambassador on Twitter. It's Tim Fischer, our Ambassador to the Holy See, and he wants you to know more about the upcoming canonisation of Mary Mackillop. Only 36 followers so far...but have a look:

Jim writes:

He's back! Just saw from Kevin Rudd's Twitter feed there he has a website up. Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but is this new for an Aussie foreign minister' (ED. NOTE: Not really; it's quite common for ministers to have websites separate to the departmental site.)

Only last week I had been complaining to an Aussie diplomat about how hard it was to follow news on events on the DFAT site. It is too cluttered and unclear how to get a feed off the site for Google Reader. Anyway, if the Minister's site is indeed new, I thought it a welcome development and a good example of Graeme Dobell's Aussie soft(ware) power at work. 

Writing as someone with a foot on each side of the Pacific, a key aspect to soft power that Americans do instinctively but Australians cringe at is self-promotion. For example, whoever was in power and which ever side was going to win, last month we should have had an election night public diplomacy event in each post, but especially in those countries in which the Australian Electoral Commission does work

Electoral systems are one of our great soft 'exports'. In many parts of the world, including the US, they still talk about 'the Australian ballot' (aka. secret ballot). We should promote the way we choose governments, including, I think, the preferential voting system. Having voted in both countries, the quality of the Australian election system, with the simplicity and elegance of the pencil and paper, far exceeds the shambolic and fragmented US one that sells out transparency for often clunky 1950s technology.