|Subject: Fitzgibbon heads Rudd's defence
Fitzgibbon heads Rudd's defence team
November 30, 2007
JOEL FITZGIBBON is Australia's new defence minister, with Kevin Rudd also appointing two junior ministers and two parliamentary secretaries in the area.
NSW member for Hunter Mr Fitzgibbon, 45, retains the portfolio he carried into the election campaign.
Warren Snowdon, who represents the sprawling NT electorate of Lingiari, will join Mr Rudd's outer cabinet as minister for defence and science personnel.
Victorian MP Alan Griffin, 57, is to be minister for veterans affairs.
Former ACTU leader and first-time MP Greg Combet will be parliamentary secretary to the minister for defence, with responsibility for the controversial area of procurement.
"This is an area of government which represents billions and billions and billions of taxpayer dollars, and frankly very few if any previous governments have got this right," Mr Rudd said.
"We need someone who has the intelligence, the commitment, the drive, the energy to take with both hands the challenges which that represents."
And former military lawyer Mike Kelly has also been named a parliamentary secretary for defence, with his special responsibilities yet to be announced.
Mr Snowdon, 47, has taken a hard line in the past over alleged Indonesian military abuses in East Timor.
Mr Snowdon said yesterday he was awaiting briefings from his new department but was looking forward to meeting again the 6500 Territory-based defence personnel.
"I can tell them federal Labor is determined to recognise the service and sacrifices of ADF personnel by offering them and their families well-earned support," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tough role, especially as the boss is the diplomat
Hamish McDonald Asia-Pacific Editor
December 1, 2007
SO IT'S literally a case of Mr Smith goes to Washington - and Beijing, Jakarta, Port Moresby and wherever the foreign policy needs of the Rudd government takes its new foreign minister, Stephen Smith.
We haven't had a foreign minister so completely overshadowed by the diplomatic credentials of his prime minister since the hapless Don Willesee, another West Australian, took the job under Gough Whitlam.
By their very nature, prime ministers usually come to office as domestic-model politicians, and only gradually turn to the international stage as they gain confidence and develop wider interests. Bob Hawke and John Howard took their time.
Both Rudd and Whitlam arrived after showing off their prowess to the Chinese leadership - Rudd, aka Lu Kewen by his speech in Mandarin to the visiting Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, at the APEC meeting, and Whitlam, whose main foreign tongue is Latin, in his public dialogue with the late Zhou Enlai.
Moreover, Hawke and Howard had to accommodate the battered ambitions of the party leaders and contenders they had recently ousted, and foreign affairs was the ideal portfolio to give them their run and keep them out of the main game. Hence we've had a succession of very high-profile foreign ministers, with Bill Hayden setting the model followed by Lionel Bowen, Gareth Evans and Alexander Downer.
Smith, a former lawyer, Keating staffer, WA state party secretary and education spokesman, comes to foreign affairs with little known about his thoughts on the wider world. But his appearances during the election campaign showed him as intelligent, measured and a team player, and anyone smart from Perth - the resort and shopping mall of the Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore elites - will have an appreciation of the immediate region.
Rudd will probably want to keep a close eye on what happens with the relationships with the United States and the big north-east Asian powers. What should Smith do? Quickly learn Hindi, perhaps. India is one area where the Howard Government's belated interest has left catching up to do, and the Rudd government will fast need to sort out its thoughts on nuclear non-proliferation and uranium exports.
But Smith will have his work cut out in the immediate ring of neighbouring countries.
With Indonesia, he faces several potentially explosive issues, including the possible execution of the young drug couriers in the Bali case, border-crossers including more Papuans, a possible Balibo war crimes prosecution, and conflicts between development and ecology. As always with Indonesia, the relationship involves a delicate balance between keeping the Jakarta power circles quiet and encouraging the civil society elements that are deepening the roots of the post-Soeharto democracy.
In the smaller countries from East Timor round to the Pacific islands, nearly all wrestling with severe crises of constitutional rule and governance, there's a need to re-establish dialogue with leaders made hostile by what they saw as supercilious and cold attitudes on the part of Howard and Downer.
Labor has indicated it's ready to throw more resources into supporting these countries, after a careful review of how effective are the existing aid mechanisms. Rudd has assigned two of his most experienced senior hands - Keating's former justice minister, Duncan Kerr (a senior counsel and former dean of law at the University of Papua New Guinea) and veteran former minister Bob McMullan - as Smith's parliamentary secretaries responsible for Pacific island affairs and the aid program respectively.
In addition, one of the newcomers Rudd has on the back bench is NSW North Coast MP Janelle Saffin, a former state upper house member and for the past several years, speechwriter and adviser to East Timor's foreign minister (now President) Jose Ramos-Horta in Dili.
In all of these countries, the underlying challenge is one of developing human capital and channelling development into wider employment opportunities. Howard recently tried to address this through his network of "Australian technical colleges", while rejecting the pleas for Australia to follow New Zealand in its seasonal labour scheme (so far highly successful).
But by trying to keep Pacific islanders at a distance, Howard seemed to ignore a reality that many analysts in the universities and international development institutions hope the new government will accept: that the island countries are becoming economic satellites of Australia (and New Zealand, and the US) through labour migration and remittances.
The gradual embrace of Pacific islanders as extensions of the Australian labour pool is fraught with obstacles and fears, but may come to be the defining challenge of whether we continue to live in a benign and secure neighbourhood through this century.