Two years ago, the freshly minted Julia Gillard PM declared from Europe’s bureaucratic capital that she was a home girl at heart.

Здравствуйте, Julia Gillard

“I’m just going to be really up-front about this - foreign policy is not my passion. It’s not what I’ve spent my life doing,” she had said.

“So, yes, if I had a choice I’d probably more be in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings.”

It was a low-brow start especially given that she’d just come from Afghanistan where Australians were fighting and dying in pursuit of some pretty abstract and contestable Australian foreign policy objectives.

It was also a cheap shot - dog-whistle politics 101 transparently designed to mark her out as different from Kevin Rudd or “Kevin 747” as he’d been derided.

Whether it was dud advice or her own poor judgment, she had concluded the public, weary of Rudd’s gallivanting, is generally suspicious of the inflated gains supposed to be had from international glad-handing and jet-stream diplomacy.

Since then of course, Ms Gillard has done what prime ministers are bound to do by travelling extensively. And she has done it well, realising that Australian leaders cannot simply duck G20 and Pacific Island Forum meetings, and nor can they dismiss the value of personal representations in Washington and London, and Jakarta.

Also in common with others before her, Ms Gillard has learned on the job developing a certain deftness of touch on foreign policy and a solid reputation among other leaders as both a quick study and a skilled advocate.

In an increasingly interconnected world, international forums have become more, not less important as countries strive to align domestic and global opportunities, and to ensure others act in ways that do not prejudice their interests. No one wants another global financial meltdown.

Today she arrives in Vladivostok for this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

While the European Central Bank and European leaders wrestle with the sovereign debt crisis, leaders gathered here in the world’s real growth region know the GFC problem did not start in Europe and nor did it end there.

Happily in step with her host, Russia’s strongman President Vladimir Putin, Ms Gillard plans to use this APEC meeting to push the critical role of education as an economic growth enabler.

It’s the perfect synergy of international and domestic interests and Ms Gillard’s own political narrative. Already marketing herself as the education prime minister at home, she wants other leaders to agree to reduce barriers to cross border higher education allowing students to move more freely including mid-degree between universities in the region.

As an established leader in this field, the benefits to Australia of standardising higher-ed accreditation rules and in moving towards the concept of compatible university monitoring and regulation systems are obvious.

With potentially hundreds of millions of people needing degrees and diplomas in coming years, Australia is well placed to take advantage of the demand both through attracting more students from China, India, and Indonesia (it is already worth $10 billion to Australia), and by branching out with more uni campuses on foreign shores.

It is just one example of the ways in which increased international cooperation, if it can be wrangled, can have domestic rewards. Progress will be slow but it has to start somewhere.

On the downside, the APEC comes amid escalating tension over US repositioning in the Pacific seen in Beijing as a thinly veiled China containment strategy. Australia of course is playing an increasing role in the Obama White House’s so-called Pacific pivot.

There is also grief between China and smaller countries over China’s aggressive claim to various islands of commercial and strategic value in the South China and East China seas. This is no small problem.

Beijing’s tone in recent days has been scathing about the US’s alleged siding with smaller countries over the islands. En route to APEC via the Chinese capital, Hillary Clinton had her meeting cancelled with the man about to become China’s next president. Few believe that was anything other than a calculated move.

Formerly known as America’s deputy sheriff in the region, Australia must navigate these prickly issues carefully if the benefits on offer are to be unlocked. Ms Gillard at least believes she is up to the task which is quite a reversal from a PM who once had no “passion” for diplomacy.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

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39 comments

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    • Denny says:

      06:10am | 07/09/12

      Yes. Gillard is on top. She is a wonderful leader and we are all proud of her. The world respects her and we could not be happier. She has grown from stength to strength and answers all our questions with openness and honesty.

      Its a pity that the reality does not match the narritive that the likes of Kenny and Farr would have us beleive. The truth is that she has shrunk in the job. She lurches from one disaster of her own making to the next. She is constantly dishonest and is forever playing political games to try and improve her situation and silence her critics.

      The last time she was at a major conference she tried to lecture the world on economic management and got slapped down. I wonder how she will embaress herself and the nation this time round. No matter what she does or how foolish she looks, Kenny will still sing her praises. Its called the objectivity of the left.

    • acotrel says:

      08:30am | 07/09/12

      Tony Abbott will do better - let’s all vote for him !  At least he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he rides a push bike and wears budgie smugglers - my kind of guy (big mouth and no brains) !

    • Eric says:

      09:00am | 07/09/12

      The last time she was at a major conference she spoke about education and ignored mining!

    • gary says:

      09:14am | 07/09/12

      simon benson is that you?

      what a strange world you live in.
      Take off the conservative goggles and join the rest of us.

    • Alfie says:

      09:56am | 07/09/12

      “The truth is that she has shrunk in the job”

      I don’t think she was ever up to the job. She couldn’t even manage the Education portfolio, and was in lockstep with Rudd on every policy disaster they delivered from 2007.

      Gillard is not a Prime Minister’s boot-lace - never was, never will be.

    • Babylon says:

      10:03am | 07/09/12

      Remember when Gillard met the Indonesian Leader over her Asylum seeker debacle? In exchange for a few platitudes from him, he scored $1 Billion dollars from her.

      During that meeting he said he would continue his efforts to work with Australia. Pffft! Thanks for nothing Pal.

      It was a nothing meeting that saw us bleed more tax payer dollars.

      Good headlines for the Gillard Government though, made them look like they were planning on doing something, other than blaming the opposition over the lack of government over the Boat arrival situation.

      Here we are two months after than meeting and the Illegal boat arrivals have increased from 100 per week to 70 per day.  Yep, she’s on top!

    • ROFLMAO says:

      10:57am | 07/09/12

      No babble-on
      Remember when Abbott said Whyalla would be wiped off the map?

    • Zaan says:

      12:11pm | 07/09/12

      No ROFLMAO, it was a union official from Whyalla who said it, but you just parrot on you good little lemming.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      12:29pm | 07/09/12

      Both Gillard and Abbott are incompetent and are not fit to be Prime Minister of Australia.

    • Mouse says:

      12:58pm | 07/09/12

      I thought it was a classic when she went to Malaysia, a majority Islam country, with her unwedded boyfirend and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak miraculously came down with chickenpox on the eve of her arrival, so was unable to meet her. What was she thinking? Maybe she just didn’t. Good old gillard, she’ll do it her way, stuff everyone else! lol :o)

    • Babylon says:

      01:11pm | 07/09/12

      Hello Bailey

      Despite the billions of bail out packages paid by Gillard to protect Whyalla and other industry centres from the carbon tax ravages, it’s all going bush mate.

      Whyalla’ s OneSteel reported it has cut 900 jobs, that was despite of the $340 million bailout they received and the $300 million given to the Industry.

      BHP has now called in some consultants to help with a restructure. I don’t think thats made the newspapers yet Watch this space!

      Fortescue metals marched 1000 pople out the door yesterday.

      We’ve been hemorrhaging jobs since the plan for introducing carbon pricing was announced, waisting the Mining boom.

      In desperation, Gillard has walked away from
      - Closing the Coal Power Stations,
      - Government incentives for installing Solar power
      - removed the 44c payment from adding solar electricity to the Grid
      —the floor price for carbon.

      In short it looks like a typical Gillard Government balls up.

      I think there’s going to be a new urban word for the dictionary. ‘Gillardick’ meaning mass failure, or cock up of gigantic proportions.

      “The failure to establish a working Asylum Seeker policy was ‘Gillardick’.”

    • ROFLMAO says:

      07:12pm | 07/09/12

      babble-on
      So what is it?
      340 million to Onesteel and 300 million to the industry of which Onesteel is a part. Great conservative math skills at work I see.
      According to you, the steel industry got 300 million and Onesteel got 340 million of that.
      Did the other steel companies chip in to make up the 40 million dollar shortfall?

      Why don’t you stop embarrassing yourself?

    • eRon says:

      07:03am | 07/09/12

      Will she be lecturing the EU leaders on monetary policy, this time?

    • acotrel says:

      08:31am | 07/09/12

      Abbott wouldn’t know the cost of the nuts on his push bike.

    • Alfie says:

      10:33am | 07/09/12

      No doubt another cringe worthy, embarrassing episode for Australia on the international stage.

      Gillard sounds like a librarian on valium taking to pack of 5 year olds.

    • gary says:

      10:53am | 07/09/12

      “Will she be lecturing the EU leaders on monetary policy, this time? “

      Yes ron, she’s going to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and everyone knows that the EU is in the Asia Pacific region.

      And people wonder why we need to improve our education system.

    • Mouse says:

      01:07pm | 07/09/12

      err gary, the EU leaders that will be at the APEC summit will almost definitely be talking about their monetary policies. The summit is attended by Regional leaders from all over the world and is, by the way, is being held in Vladivostok, that’s in Russia FYI :o)

    • gary says:

      01:58pm | 07/09/12

      errrr mouse
      You are one confused little mouse.
      APEC - Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim countries (formally Member Economies) that seeks to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

      You must be thinking of the world economic forum, or World Trade Organisation or opec or who the hell knows what you were thinking.

    • Mouse says:

      03:10pm | 07/09/12

      gary read this link
      http://www.apec.org/
      Russia has a stake in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, so one of the top topics will be the European monetary crisis. You do realise that the European situation effects are global and can effect trade and investment within the Asia-Pacific reagion?  *facepalm*
      FFS gary, think before you open your mouth next time.  :o)

    • glenm says:

      03:21pm | 07/09/12

      @ Gary , the point is it doesn’t matter what summit it is Gillard will as normal speak about an unrelated topic with no authority or knowledge of that which she spaeks.

    • Drifter says:

      03:51pm | 07/09/12

      “No doubt another cringe worthy, embarrassing episode for Australia on the international stage”

      LOL Alfie….you ain’t seen nothing, if Abbott ever gets elected PM, that’s what you can call cringe worthy and embarrassing, when he delivers a speech full of stutters and gaffes to an international audience, I’m shuddering at the thought already.

      Like it or not, Gillard is a far better public speaker than Abbott. btw - I hate both of them as politicians, but credit where credit’s due.

    • Alfie says:

      06:32pm | 07/09/12

      @Drifter.

      Gillard has nearly cost me a new TV, on more than one occasion - every time I hear that “...we orstrlaians” condescending drone I feel like sticking the boot into it.

    • Charles says:

      07:53am | 07/09/12

      Kenny seems to think Gillard is something of a foreign policy wonk.  Which of course surprises the rest of us who can still recall the lamentable East Timor Solution, the Indonesian Live Cattle trade fiasco and sundry other mishaps around the world that Gillard has blundered into over the past two years.

      The only thing truly surprising about her performace though is the amount of trouble one pollie can get into in such a short space of time.  It could be a record I think for perfect uselessness..

    • robynne says:

      07:56am | 07/09/12

      Your comment:Gillard should stay in RUSSIA we don’t want te commo in australia

    • dovif says:

      08:07am | 07/09/12

      Julia is an absolute genius in foreign policy

      First there was the Indonesian Cattles, when she offended them by treating them as criminals
      then there was the announcement of the PNG solution, when interviewed, the PNG prime minister said that was the first he heard of it.
      then there was the announcement of the east timor solution, when interviewed the East Timor president said that was the first he heard of it.
      Then there was the Indonesian solution, ditto
      Then there was the malaysian solution, which Julia made illegal, and the Malaysian government had been abused as inhumane over it
      Then there is the EU, when Julia was boosting how the EU should be more fiscally competant, privately the EU ministers was looking at Australia’s accumulatkion of debt under Julia, Swann and Rudd and thinking that Julia, Swann and Rudd should have listened to the RBA and their own advise

      As for “So, yes, if I had a choice I’d probably more be in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings.”

      I for one would not like her near any classroom and teaching our kids to lie

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      08:32am | 07/09/12

      It never ceases to amaze me how some political reporters are so out of touch with the rest of the country. And always willing to sing the praises of this failed PM

    • Trent says:

      08:43am | 07/09/12

      I’m surprised she’s going, considering Putin is a well known homophobic.

    • Borderer says:

      08:50am | 07/09/12

      “I’m just going to be really up-front about this - foreign policy is not my passion. It’s not what I’ve spent my life doing,” she had said.

      Obviously why so many of her major policy decisions like the carbon tax and MRRT have no consideration for global markets and she’s left with that stunned look on her face when things go awry. Sure, blame the high dollar, blame a reduction in price, blame Tony Abbott but don’t for one second take responsibiity… you know that’s your job, to be responsible…
      Two words, “soveriegn risk” it has red hair and when business can’t rely on a government they take their business elsewhere.

    • Albie says:

      09:18am | 07/09/12

      “Will she be lecturing the EU leaders on monetary policy, this time? “

      Not the sharpest tool in the shed son. Julia is at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Perhaps you should look at a map and see where the EU is.

    • Anubis says:

      11:48am | 07/09/12

      @ Albie and you think that because it is the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit she won’t lecture about the European failings? Wasn’t it just this week she addressed the Miners and, rather than talking about mining and how her Government is screwing up the boom potential she chose to rant about her Edukashun Revlooshun that she has no idea how to fund or implement,

      So, just how confident are you again about what she will address at the APEC summit?

    • Albie says:

      01:17pm | 07/09/12

      Guess you missed the EU part anubis.

      Comprehension not your strong point?

    • Borderer says:

      01:59pm | 07/09/12

      Albie,
      You’re calling him dumb?? Re-read Anubis’ post.
      Still scratching your head?

      Gillard meets miners and talks about education.

      Gillard meets Asian leader and talks about the EU does seem likely as it is easier to confuse European and Asian leaders than it is to confuse a mine and a school. That is unless all the kids are playing in the sandpit of course or all the workers are carrying on like the CFMEU boys in Melbourne…

    • Anubis says:

      02:01pm | 07/09/12

      @ Albie - maybe you missed the part where it is being held in Russia and representatives of most of the European Union countries will also be present.

    • Albie says:

      02:31pm | 07/09/12

      I know, I know, you are thinking of the G20.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      02:39pm | 07/09/12

      I doubt the European Union leaders will turn up but certainly representatives from the European Union will be there. It is not unusual for APEC forums to issue communiques towards the EU although such forums tend to focus upon the Asia Pacific region

    • dibatag says:

      09:53am | 07/09/12

      who’s going to take any notice of her and what she says, we are only a very small cog in the works anyway you look at it, as for lecturing people on economic management if it was not for the minning boom we’d be in the same shit there in.

    • Margie says:

      11:35am | 07/09/12

      Poor old acotrel. Doesn’‘t even know that one needs heaps of brains to be a Rhodes Scholar - and that as well as a Bachelor of Laws, Tony has studied economics. He is also a rural fire brigade fighter, Surf Life saver and every year works in an aboriginal remote community for a week, giving up his time & expertise..
      Acotrel says he himself has a big mouth and no brains - How does that compare with Tony?  Acotrel is exactly the opposite and completely one -eyed to boot!

    • Jess says:

      02:29pm | 07/09/12

      omg He’s a surf lifesaver and a rural fire brigade fighter. Better vote for him…
      Please don’t vote for someone based on where they volunteer.

    • Looosy says:

      04:05pm | 07/09/12

      Jess, did you miss the part where Tony is a Rhodes Scholar, has a BA Laws and Economics?

 

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