Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:46 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:46 | SYDNEY

A Smith agenda for foreign policy


Sam Roggeveen


1 July 2009 14:46

Terrific column by The Age's diplomatic editor, Dan Flitton, today (disclosure: Dan and I were colleagues in ONA), which can profitably be read alongside Graeme Dobell's two-part mid-term assessment of Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. If Smith would like to be something more than (as Graeme dubbed him) 'the Prime Minister's foreign minister', taking up Dan's suggestion of an annual parliamentary statement on foreign affairs might be a way to carve out an agenda of his own.

Dan also has a point when he criticises Smith for not conducting a regional diplomatic tour to allay some of the concerns raised by the Defence White Paper. Increasingly, I tend to the view that the White Paper was intended for a domestic audience. The then-Opposition's promise to go along with the Howard Government's Defence funding boost was enough to keep national security out of the election spotlight in 2007, and this White Paper will serve a similar purpose.

National security is traditionally a strong issue for the Coalition, but when the next election rolls around, most voters will recall that Rudd 'got tough with China', and perhaps that the Opposition Leader criticised him for it. Issue neutralised; job done.

Still, even if that interpretation is the right one, it should not have stopped the Foreign Minister from soothing any regional concerns.