MUNGO MACCALLUM. Morrison’s foreign adventures.

The past, they say, is a foreign country – which is just the way Scott Morrison likes it.

Against all evidence, he continues to assert that the Australian public is not concerned with five solid years of shenanigans and shemozzles within the ruling coalition – voters are firmly focused on the glorious future which awaits them once Morrison works out what it actually is.

The past, being foreign, can therefore be ignored. Foreign influences are to be summarily rejected. Which seems to be the way our Prime minister regards foreign affairs as a whole.

The closest he has approached it in his career was through the medium of tourism, hardly the most complex area he will have to negotiate. So it turned out to be a good thing that Malcolm Turnbull was on hand to deal with Joko Widodo in Bali last week.

Morrison’s thought bubble about moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had already turned into a lead balloon, but Morrison, being Morrison, was determined to pretend that it was still a serious option.

Apart from the former candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma it had  a few supporters in Australia from the Israeli lobby and the cultural warriors of the mad right. and internationally it was backed by Donald Trump’s America and Guatemala and almost nobody else

And in our own region the consensus was overwhelmingly negative, especially in the critical case of Indonesia. Morrison already knew that of course, but when Turnbull repeated it publicly after his talks with the president, our leader doubled down saying, essentially, that the views of the 250 million inhabitants of our nearest and most important neighbour were irrelevant: Australia alone would decide what was in our national interest.

When it was pointed out that gratifying the obsessions Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump had little if anything to do with our national interest, while the reaction to the volatile Moslem nation on our doorstep may be rather more pertinent, Morrison went to earth.

But he re-emerged to give a speech on the wider subject of foreign affairs, this time with the assistance of some of those who knew something about it. And after the ritual obeisance to Washington, with the ritual caveat that even friends could sometimes disagree, etc, it was across to the Pacific.

Our backyard, as Morrison like to call it, is more than somewhat miffed by the serial denigration of Peter Dutton (water lapping at the doorstep) and Melissa Price (it’s always about the cash). Whether Morrison’s reassurance that we really want the islands to like us more than they like the Chinese and we are a honestly trying to do something about it will do the job is uncertain.

But there will definitely not be ocean-wide applause at his set piece announcement of a new military base on Manus Island, which will provide some benefit to  Papua-New Guinea but a great deal more to Australia. Bill Shorten’s promise of a Pacific development bank sounded afar more welcome form of aid for the region.

But at least it can be said that Morrison has now moved a little on the Pacific Solution, and the billions being used to prop up our shameful record on Nauru and its corrupt regime. Perhaps that may be finally in the past too – and too foreign to contemplate.

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Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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