Julie Bishop talks to the Capital Jewish Forum

June 10, 2010 Agencies
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Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop recently addressed Canberra’s Capital Jewish Forum.

Julie Bishop with CJF founder Manny Waks

Julie Bishop on the Gaza Flotilla Incident:

  • • 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.

Julie Bishop on Defence:

  • • 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:
    • o 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.
    • o 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.

Julie Bishop on Diplomacy:

    • • 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.

Julie Bishop on Development:

    • • 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.

Some of the issues raised in the ensuing Q&A session include:

    • • Growth in energy demand is going to increase drastically – mostly from China and India. Assuming the Rudd Government’s tax is defeated, demand for iron ore and steel will continue to be of vital importance to Australia.
    • • Ms Bishop was critical of the Defence White Paper – it reaches questionable conclusions and does not appropriately address concerns raised.
    • • The relationship between Australia and Japan is very strong. Change of government in either country is of little significance in terms of the impact on the relationship. However, cynical actions meant for domestic consumption with political considerations at its core (i.e. the whaling issue) are not conducive to enhancing the relationship.
    • • There is a pattern emerging where Mr Rudd does not consult with his cabinet, making highly politicised decisions. The consultation process occurs only after an announcement is made. Often decisions are made either by Mr Rudd himself or by the group of four (Prime Minister Rudd, Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Lindsay Tanner). In many cases, due to the ramifications which are not considered, decisions are either back-tracked or the Government chooses to dig its heels.
    • • Ms Bishop is greatly concerned by the rise of antisemitism during periods of heightened tension in the Middle East. Ms Bishop herself has recently been a victim of antisemitism – soon after her views on the “Passports Affair” were aired her office in Western Australia was targeted twice with antisemitic graffiti. Both sides of politics must demonstrate leadership on this issue and publicly condemn antisemitism.
    • • Ms Bishop noted the hypocrisy in that she was deemed a “national security threat” by the Government for allegedly divulging national security material while the Government divulged  sensitive information about national security activities (in relation to Israel’s non-confirmation/denial in the “Passports Affair”).
    • • The Rudd Government is seeking to gain votes from the Arab/Muslim countries for a temporary Security Council seat in 2013/14. There appears to be a direct link to its actions (e.g. criticising Israel and its UN vote on Israel). The timing of the expulsion of the Israeli diplomat was cynical – it refocussed attention from the mining tax debacle as well as attracting votes from the Arab/Muslim states for Mr Rudd’s quest to gain a Security Council seat.
    • • The Coalition will not pursue a Security Council seat. Not only is this unlikely to succeed but there are too many compromises that need to be made. The Government is yet to cogently explain the benefits of a Security Council seat.
    • • Australia has a role to play in the Israeli-Arab conflict but this must not be over-stated. Currently the biggest problem is that the Rudd Government’s primary foreign policy concern is gaining a temporary Security Council seat.
    • • Ms Bishop agreed to follow up a security funding allocations request for the ACT Jewish Community Centre.

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