The dark arts of diplomacy and international relations are largely unfathomable even to those who practice them.
“Peace in our time” is one of the classics – where the UK Prime Minister was duped by the National Socialist dictator, Adolf Hitler. And the Communist dictator Joseph Stalin was similarly lulled into a false sense of security with Hitler signing up to a nonaggression pact.
The Prime Minister’s recent overseas trip tells us not much has changed in the area of matters diplomacy.
Pious words spoken at Glasgow about the need to curb atmospheric pollution as 400 private jets are lined up on the tarmac told the tale. “Practice what you preach” is clearly not taught at diplomatic school.
Nor, it seems, is credibility. Accounting for about thirty percent of the world’s emissions, whilst quadrupling its nuclear arsenal, building the biggest navy in the world, the operator of a sophisticated space program and whilst lending money all over the world, China with a completely straight face says to the rest of the world that it is deserving of “developing country” status. Really? Who is kidding whom? How many of our journalists called this out for what it is? Use of the Australian vernacular is avoided for fear that the topic of methane might come up.
Before Glasgow, we also had the unedifying spectacle of the French President Macron claiming our Prime Minister lied about the nuclear submarine deal with the United States and the United Kingdom. Now that is a big NO NO in diplomacy. Diplomacy 101 surely teaches phrases that might have the same import without the ugliness of using the “L” word.
“Economical with the truth”, “an interesting version of events”, “recollections clearly differ” are some of the more genteel, sophisticated ways to give expression to the same sentiment.
Having uttered as he did so undiplomatically, the French President broke that rule as well as divulging what one suspects was a private conversation – another diplomatic NO NO. And blundering into all this was our former Prime Minister (who, yes, had gotten himself overseas on a private jet) claiming that his successor was well-known for being a liar, backing the French President rather than his own Australian Prime Minister. All this from the very same person who said,
“I’m not going to be, uh, you know, running a commentary on my successor…”
The virtues of loyalty or silence are clearly not in his mindset.
Confronted with a hugely damaging assertion by the French President and the most embittered of our former Australian Prime Ministers, our Prime Minister’s integrity was restored by the mysterious appearance of a text message from the French President to our Prime Minister. Now protocol suggests that this is a NO NO. One suspects whoever made the text message available was aware of this protocol.
Nevertheless, the text message’s mysterious and timely appearance, to use an analogy the French won’t understand, bowled the French President middle stump whilst Malcolm Turnbull looked quite forlorn at silly point.
But what seems even stranger than the dark art of diplomacy was the ABC’s delight in playing the French President’s and former Prime Minister’s now demonstrably false accusation that our Prime Minister had lied about the French submarine deal. And when confronted with the evidence that the allegation was false, affected moral outrage was conjured up as to the leaking of the text message.
No moral outrage (affected or otherwise) about Mr Macron’s breach of protocol alleging lying and divulging a conversation, which one assumes was private, but we witnessed an outburst of righteous indignation that someone thought to expose an undenied text message which completely refuted the French President’s claim. On top of all this, the media (mostly) failed to mention the crucial context of the upcoming French election, where bashing the Anglosphere always plays well for votes. It seemed they were on France’s side – not Australia’s.
Someone clearly thought fighting fire with fire was the quickest way to close down the false allegations. It did. But not in the way you would learn in Diplomacy 101.
While some get all energised about the Rome and Glasgow goings on, most quiet Australians want us to be on the world scene being neither bullied nor cowered into making the wrong decisions about our country’s future, be it on matters climate change or our defence capacity. Prime Minister Morrison has delivered on both counts.
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Senator Eric Abetz is one of the longest serving federal parliamentarians in Australia, representing Tasmania in the Liberal Party since early 1994. He emigrated to Australia from Germany with his family at a very young age, and his father worked alongside many other immigrants on the Tasmanian Hydro Schemes. He worked as a part-time taxi driver and farm hand while studying Arts and Law at the University of Tasmania, and has been a member of the Liberal Party since 1976.
His Parliamentary career is long and distinguished, and the full details can be read here.