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Australia

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop drops truth bombs after a huge week


Posted

June 14, 2018 17:48:00

She’s the Foreign Minister renowned for self-discipline and her care with words.

But Julie Bishop cut a little loose when she fronted the Australian British Chamber of Commerce today.

Here are three moments when Ms Bishop gave us a surprisingly frank assessment of a world in great upheaval:

Truth bomb #1: The Singapore summit was deeply surreal

Foreign policy watchers were left slack-jawed this week by the sheer spectacle of US President Donald Trump meeting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore.

But Ms Bishop has been determinedly circumspect in the face of the unprecedented geopolitical upheaval, sticking to careful talking points.

Not today. You could hear disbelieving chortles in the audience. This was Julie Bishop Unleashed.

She admitted it was disorienting to see the leader of the free world chumming up to a man who oversees a vast gulag of political prisoners.

Particularly in the wake of an acrimonious G7 meeting which saw Donald Trump take furious pot shots at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is not exactly a traditional enemy of the United States.

“The US trade representative said there was a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau, while President Trump said he had a special bond with Kim Jong-un, aka Little Rocket Man,” Ms Bishop said.

“I mean, with the US fighting Canada and making friends with North Korea, who knows what’s going on?”

She then veered into gentle mockery, admitting she had been transfixed by the pictures beamed back from Singapore.

“After a while I became quite mesmerised by the contrasting hair styles of the two leaders,” Ms Bishop said.

“And then I started hallucinating — do you think the third-most-recognisable political hair in the world had something to do with this?”

Truth bomb #2: She’s worried Trump will give away too much

Its not the sort of language you normally hear from a foreign minister, even about North Korea.

“I wouldn’t be taking my foot off the throat of North Korea until I saw very concrete steps that this time, they were genuine,” Ms Bishop said.

She didn’t criticise Mr Trump in any way, but the underlying message was clear: don’t give anything up for no good reason.

Don’t halt military exercises, or lift sanctions, in return for nothing more than empty promises which have been made many times before.

The official Government line has been that the President’s disruptive instincts and desire to ramp up pressure on the North have created an opening which might — just might — help the West bring the North to heel.

But Australian foreign policy officials, like many around the world, remain deeply sceptical about the North’s motives.

After all, North Korea has not given any concrete commitments to give up its nuclear weapons program, and the documents its Great Leader signed is painfully thin.

Truth bomb #3: Bishop wants a bigger aid budget

Ms Bishop has made a striking contribution to the long and rancorous debate over Australia’s aid budget. And it was only one word long.

Her mask slipped just a little when she was asked a very simple question by the event’s host, Ticky Fullerton.

“Do you need a bigger aid budget?” Ms Fullerton asked.

The Foreign Minister could not resist the temptation to give a very simple answer.

“Absolutely,” she enthused.

She smiled. She scanned the room.

Then she picked out the cameras right at the back, and raised her eyebrows knowingly, with a grin.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

federal-government,

foreign-affairs,

australia



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