Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP: 'Defence, Diplomacy and Development'
Addressing the recent developments arising from the Gaza flotilla issue, Ms Bishop noted that:
• We should not rush to judgement – at these early stages there are claims and counter-claims. There must be a full enquiry into the matter.
• We must consider the geo-political role that is also playing out. Firstly Turkey and its changing relationship vis-à-vis Israel. Secondly Iran – the ever-threatening nuclear issue. Thirdly the US and the role it has been playing in the region – Israel believes the US has been sending mixed messages.
On the issue of Defence, Ms Bishop stated that:
• The Indian Ocean rim should be a greater part of Australia’s foreign policy considerations. This region comprises an array of countries; some wealthy, some poor and some failed states.
• Ms Bishop focussed on two of these countries:
- Indonesia: This is the largest Muslim country in the world. It has potential to act as a bridge between the West and the Muslim world. Obama’s forthcoming state visit is much anticipated.
- India: The recent attacks on Indian students in Australia have been terrible and must be condemned and addressed. However, the greatest obstacle in our bilateral relationship is the Rudd Government’s refusal to sell uranium to India. It is an irritant in our relationship. The status of India’s relationship with China is of particular concern to Australia. Currently, our bilateral relationship with India is far from reaching its full potential. We have shared interests and values, which could be further capitalised on. A new security agreement has recently been signed between Australia and India.
On the issue of Diplomacy, Ms Bishop stated that:
• The recent escalation in the whaling disagreements with Japan is deeply troubling. The Rudd Government’s unexpected and untimely announcement to refer the whaling issue to the international court could be considered as a cynical and self-serving ploy by the Government. Prime Minister Rudd has been raising this issue for around five years and just as there seems to be potential for a diplomatic breakthrough Mr Rudd announces an escalation in the dispute. The Coalition believes in a diplomatic resolution to the dispute. There is a risk in going through the courts – a loss would mean a significant setback. Japanese officials are also cynical about the motives of the current Government. Japan has indicated it will fight the case vigorously. The ultimate impact on the relationship is difficult to predict as this is an emotional issue for the Japanese people.
• In relation to the recent “Passports Affair”, the Rudd Government has been sending mixed messages to Israel. Clearly there was a government over-reaction. At these difficult times, Israel needs its friends and allies – it does not need to be lectured.
• Another example of the Government’s diplomatic clumsiness is our relationship with Indonesia. The Oceanic Viking issue was mishandled with Mr Rudd publicly lecturing President Yudhoyono.
• A lot of work must be done to restore our relationships with various nations.
On the issue of Development, Ms Bishop stated that:
• There is great concern that the Rudd Government’s priorities have been redirected from this region (Asia-Pacific / Indian Ocean).
• Major concern on how Australian aid has been delivered – it has been very inefficient and ineffective. Significant funds have been spent on highly-paid consultants. AusAid has proven unable to effectively deal with rapid large increases in aid.
• Broadly speaking we should empower countries through our aid programmes – not make them reliant on aid.
• There is a lot more that Australia can do in this area.