Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 05:54 | SYDNEY
Friday 08 Oct 2021 | 05:54 | SYDNEY

What is the foreign minister job?


Andrew Carr


20 July 2011 10:25


The Economist's article about Australia's climate policy, highlights an unusual statistic:

'When the Lowy Institute, a think tank, asked Australians to nominate their country's most important foreign-policy goals in 2007, the year Mr Rudd swept to power, 'tackling climate change' topped the list. In the same poll this year, that goal dropped to tenth place; first now was 'protecting the jobs of Australian workers'. For a country with an envious unemployment rate of 4.9%, it seemed an odd change in priorities'

It's an unusual priority full stop. Protecting jobs was tied as first priority for the foreign minister with 75% rating it 'very important' in Lowy's original poll in 2005 (when unemployment was 5.1%), and it now leads with 79% in the 2011 poll. Two questions though: 1) Why are we seeing such concern at a time of low unemployment? 2) What does the public think that the Minister for Foreign Affairs can do to protect jobs in Australia?

Does the public expect the foreign minister to be our international spruiker? Dropping by neighbouring countries to remind them of the great deals on coal we've got? Has merging DFAT led the public to conflate the jobs of Foreign and Trade ministers? Or perhaps they only ever justified paying the airplane tickets and hotel bills because the foreign minister is assumed to be selling Australia to the world? 

I'm genuinely curious what readers think. You wouldn't expect to see the health or education minister tasked by the public with protecting local jobs as their main priority (though if anyone has some data I'd love to see it), and in a capitalist, globalised economy, what can the Australian foreign minister do to protect the jobs of Australian workers?