The Coalition is reaching out to foreign countries to better position itself in government.
Shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has invited key international envoys based in Canberra to speak to Coalition MPs each week Parliament is sitting. The first meeting will be tonight with US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich, followed by China’s ambassador next week, Chen Yuming. ”I wanted to ensure my colleagues are as well informed as they could be of challenges facing Australia,” Ms Bishop told the National Times.
The sessions will be held in private, Ms Bishop said, to allow the discussion to be as frank and open as possible. She denied the Coalition was being presumptive in reaching out to foreign envoys. ”I’m in the process of ensuring that we have a foreign policy that is relevant and coherent,” she said, adding this was work Labor should have done before taking office.
Ms Bishop also took aim at her Labor opponent Bob Carr — the new Labor senator who Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised would ”wipe the floor” with Ms Bishop.
She hit back this morning, telling colleagues at a joint-party room meeting: ”It’s one thing to be a sparkling dinner party conversationalist, another to be a serious foreign policy practitioner.” Ms Bishop has been burnishing her credentials as an alternative foreign minister in recent months, travelling to Papua New Guinea and Zambia.
She was criticised on a visit to Indonesia this month over Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s pledge to turn back asylum seeker boats. She hosted representatives from South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea at the budget session a fortnight ago.
Ms Bishop has also invited the envoys from Israel, Japan and Indonesia to address Coalition MPs in what she calls ”conversations in diplomacy” as a chance to learn about challenges they face.