John Menadue. The accident prone Julie Bishop.

Dec 23, 2014

I have written before about Julie Bishop’s mistakes as Foreign Minister despite the media spin that she has successfully generated. Those articles were: ‘Julie Bishop – Substance and Style’ on the 18th November; and ‘Julie Bishop -‘Undiplomatic, politically partisan and wrong’ on 22 November. Just recall her foolish attack on President Obama over the Great Barrier Reef.

Since then Julie Bishop has continued on her merry way with a pliant media.

In the recent budget cuts Julie Bishop volunteered a further cut in her foreign aid allocation of $3.7 billion. Together with the May budget cuts that she agreed to this represents a cut of over $12 billion in our aid program over four years.

Julie Bishop has clearly decided that it is easiest to attack politically soft targets like the poor in our region. Australian foreign ministers do not have a domestic constituency to defend and so she attacks people who can’t vote or protest about her decisions.

Michael Keating in this blog has noted that foreign aid has been the fastest growing item in the UK budget over the last four years, increasing by 25%, while expenditure on most other UK government functions has fallen. Indeed the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, is on record as saying that the increase in foreign aid is his proudest achievement in government. In Australia, however we are moving in the opposite direction with Julie Bishop cutting help for the powerless and the poor.

As Caritas has pointed out, ‘The budget cuts mean that in terms of OECD rankings, Australia’s contributions to overseas aid are now at the lowest level ever since OECD records began in 1954. These cuts are severe and will put Australia near the bottom of OECD rankings as a contributor to international aid and development. … Australia is the third wealthiest country on a per capita basis in the world yet we will now slide to around 20th position as a contributor to international development.’

Perhaps we have also forgotten that Julie Bishop led the charge against Julia Gillard over the so-called union ‘slush funds’. I recall the day when she was the sole opposition questioner and every question was directed at Julia Gillard’s association with Slater & Gordon and the AWU. Accusations of criminal conduct were made against Julia Gillard, but the Royal Commissioner Deyson Haydon has now found that there were no grounds for criminal action over Julia Gillard’s involvement in the so-called slush fund.

Julia Gillard has called for her accusers to show decency and apologise. But Julie Bishop who led the charge has said nothing and the media continues to give her a free ride on this and on the litany of mistakes she has made.

Julie Bishop was the loyal deputy to both Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. She sided with leaders who took diametrically different positions on climate change and the need to address carbon emissions. She shows great flexibility in all things.

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