Australia spending too little on diplomatic missions
A University of Melbourne academic has released a report that highlights the discrepancy between Australia’s military and diplomatic expenses, reports Bridget Backhaus.
A University of Melbourne report found that increases in expenditure in Australia’s military were much higher than that in the country’s diplomatic missions and this would have an impact on Australia’s international representation.
“A particular example of the increase was that in 2010 – 11, [expense in] defence was increased by just under two billion dollars. And that was almost twice as much as the total level of expenditure on diplomacy,” said Mr John Langmore, author of the report and Professorial Fellow in the Department of Political Science in the University of Melbourne.
“This is bizarre because our responsibility under the UN Charter is to act peacefully, to try resolve dispute peacefully and diplomats are the first people who are involved in discussions with other countries, with which we may have conflict, and try to resolve the conflict.”
He also said Australia has reduced the number of diplomats overseas in the past 15 years and it was during the period when spending in other areas had been increased.
“We continue to have fewer diplomats overseas than we had 15 years ago and to have fewer embassies and overseas missions than every other member of the G20.”
Langmore spoke of his experience in a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council, where of all the 54 members in the Council, Australia and Mali were the two countries absent from the meeting.
“I worked in the UN for a while and there weren’t enough diplomats in the mission there to attend all the meetings that were held,” he said. “It was an absolute negligence of Australia’s interests.”
If the trend continued, Langmore said this would mean that Australia would not be well represented overseas.
“There are lots of countries where we ought to have missions and embassies but we don’t. And as well as that, we don’t understand as well as we should – the nature of those countries and their problems.”
Langmore said the Lowy Institute released two reports looking into the issue, which found that there should be much better funding and much more recruitment of diplomats.
The Federal Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has also looked into the issue in March this year. The report is currently being completed.
“It will be interesting to see what the report recommends, but when it’s completed and the recommendations are published, I hope that will shake the government into taking some actions,” he said.
Originally broadcast on The Wire.