Gillard’s bad diplomacy is enough to drive you Xananas
Something appears to have gone awry with our new Prime Minister Julia Gillard. By all accounts, those who know the PM hold her in high regard as a pleasant and personable woman. However, she seems to have forgotten her manners, given her bullish behaviour towards our northern neighbours in East Timor.
The diplomatic gaffe now unfolding from Ms Gillard’s Pacific East Timor Solution reflects Kevin Rudd’s own arrogant approach to foreign affairs.
The Labor Government 1.0 saw Mr Rudd announce his idea for an Asia Pacific Community, to our incredulous neighbours, a plan which never got off the ground thanks largely in part to Rudd’s failure to consult with Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and other ASEAN nations. It was trademark Rudd – no consultation on policy because Rudd knew best.
The leader may have changed, but the high handed attitude remains at the top of Labor 2.0 – Gillard’s Gauntlet.
On the morning of her elevation to the leadership, Julia Gillard said herself that a prime minister “consult(s) and then you decide. I will take that approach to all questions in my prime ministership.” Yet clearly habitual Labor arrogance is hard to shake.
A call to the President of East Timor on the eve of a major policy announcement to dump asylum seekers in the lap of our poorest neighbours does not cut the diplomatic mustard, particularly given the fact that President Jose Ramos-Horta has no constitutional capacity to decide on such issues.
The plan has received tentative acknowledgement from Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who said yesterday that he will wait for the details before committing to any proposal. This is no doubt due to the fact that he had no knowledge of the proposal when Ms Gillard announced the grand plans to a perplexed Australian electorate. And Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres says his impoverished country is “very unlikely” to accept the proposal.
Diplomacy between our national leaders aside, East Timorese locals are understandably bewildered – and rightly so.
Unemployment is rife in the poverty-stricken country and the nation is already dealing with a reported 100,000 internally displaced people.
So to label Prime Minister Gillard’s proposal of shooing Australian bound asylum seekers to the coast of East Timor as condescending is nothing short of an understatement. Yet despite these obvious objections, those on the Left appear surprisingly supportive of Ms Gillard’s plans to seemingly resuscitate the Howard Government’s border protection policies.
No competent government announces a policy that critically depends on the co-operation of a foreign government without agreeing on the principle first.
Gillard’s East Timor Solution smacks of policy on the run and carries the grubby fingerprints of an expedient Prime Minister in a rush to the election tyring to fix the problems she had helped to create. Now it is all about ditching principle to hang onto office.
These imperialist tendencies, evident in Ms Gillard’s strong arm tactics over East Timor, go against everything the Prime Minister – and the Labor Party itself - has previously stood for.
Leaky boat diplomacy dictating terms to one of our less powerful neighbours is not too dissimilar to 19th century gunboat diplomacy.
How can Australians trust Labor, when what they say counts for nothing? Speeches are formulated into scripted soundbites, media interviews are strategically placed photo opportunities and policy is carefully crafted election slogans.
Policy on the run is just that. By next week, a footnote will at least be tacked onto the bottom of Ms Gillard’s East Timor Solution. Already, she has said there is a Plan B, but refuses to elaborate on what this may encompass.
Julia Gillard’s East Timor experiment only serves to show how expedient Labor’s supposed principles and beliefs are.
This is no way to run the country. The only way for Australia to get back on track is to change the government.
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