Launch of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Diplomatic Academy

  • Speech, check against delivery

JULIE BISHOP: Iacknowledge our friends here today - my colleague Minister Fierravanti-Wells, DrBrendan Nelson, agency heads, secretaries, Excellencies from a number of themissions based here in Canberra - friends, all.

Frances said that it is not every day that you can get such a crowd at8.30 in the morning - perhaps only in the nation's capital. I was on FM radiothis morning at 8am on Kyle and Jackie O, and they informed me that they are intreaty negotiations with Ireland to ensure that we swap preferences in the Eurovisionsong contest so that - according to Kyle and Jackie O - Jessica Mauboy wins theEurovision song contest. I asked them how the negotiations were going. Giventhat Ireland has won seven times in the past, could they be sure that theirnegotiations were fair but that Australia was going to win? Well, their answerworried me somewhat, so I did suggest that Kyle Sandilands be an honorarymember of our Diplomatic Academy, and so I have spent some time this morninginforming Sydney FM radio about the Diplomatic Academy. So you never know wherewe are going to get our diplomats from now on.

It is a real pleasure to be here to officially launch the Department ofForeign Affairs and Trade Diplomatic Academy in the presence of the AdvisoryBoard and our partners and clients.

As Frances also mentioned, last year we released the Foreign PolicyWhite Paper. In that paper we reflected our values and interests. We are anopen liberal democracy. We are committed to freedoms, the rule of law,democratic institutions. We are an open export-oriented market economy. Wedepend on our ability to sell our goods and services around the world for ourstandard of living, for our growing economy - now in its 27thconsecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth.

The White Paper was designed to be a framework to set out ourinternational engagement and our activities over the next decade or so. Wecan't predict the future but we can certainly recognise the threats, thechallenges and the opportunities.

We are in a world where there is a growing realignment of global powers,where there is a challenge to that international rules based order that hasserved the globe so successfully since 1945 – that network of alliances, andtreaties, and conventions, and norms underpinned by international law – that isnot only under strain, but in fact under challenge by some.

We are in a world where the rise of protectionism and nationalism insome quarters is of deep concern.

It is a world of enormous technological change. Technological advancesare disrupting the way we live, work, connect and engage. The sheer scale andpace is daunting.

There are massive environmental challenges.

We are facing security challenges - some unprecedented in terms ofterrorism, and we are seeing the proliferation of weapons once again. But withall these challenges there are also opportunities. Rising prosperity means thatthere are opportunities for us to find new markets to sell our high-qualitygoods and services.

What this all means is that in a highly competitive and complex world,Australian officials have to be highly skilled to negotiate the challenges andopportunities. They have to have specialised expertise. They have to have theability to adapt, to be flexible and to be innovative. They have to beprofessional. I have often said that one of Australia's greatest asset, infact, our greatest natural asset, is our people. We need our people to beskilled, to be able to embrace change, and be able to operate internationallywith skills that promote and protect our interests.

We have about 2,400 Australians working overseas as part of ourdiplomatic network across 23 Australian Government agencies in 117 embassies,high commissions, trade posts and consulates.

I was delighted that in Tuesday night's Budget we were able to announcethe opening of two more posts in Kolkata, our fourth in India - and in Tuvalu,our 14th post in the Pacific.

When I became Foreign Minister I was determined that Australia wouldexpand our diplomatic footprint overseas and not take the rather shortsightedview that previous governments have taken, that if you need to balance thebudget, you just close another overseas post. Very misguided in my view, so Iwas determined that we would increase our diplomatic footprint in line withAustralia's growing interests.

I am pleased that as of Tuesday night's announcement we have expanded by14 the number of diplomatic posts that we have - it is the largest expansion ofour overseas network in over 40 years and I am determined to continue.

There was a very interesting article written in the New York Times in February by Nicholas Kralev. He's the ExecutiveDirector of the Washington International Diplomatic Academy. The article speaksabout the trade craft of diplomacy, and he lists all of the skills that arerequired when having to engage with other governments - having to understandtheir cultures, their languages, having to conduct very complex negotiations,representing your countries interests but getting outcomes that not onlybenefit you country, your region and the like. And he concluded that theseskills that must be acquired, that diplomats are made, not born. No one is bornwith all the skills to conduct international diplomacy at the highest level, theyneed to be acquired.

That is why this Diplomatic Academy is so important. Our officials, ourpublic servants must treat diplomacy as a profession, and as a profession,there must be ongoing training and professional development.

We join about 60 other countries who have a professional trainingacademy, and I am confident that ours will be among the best available becauseof the commitment, the vision, the energy and dedication of those who areworking within the Diplomatic Academy.

It was originally the brainchild of then Secretary Peter Varghese, avery experienced and well respected diplomat. Peter saw this as a key resource notonly for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but for the entireAustralian Public Service. Frances Adamson has taken on the vision that Peterhad and we now have this Academy today.

I am also very keen for it to be a hub for former and current DFATmembers to exchange ideas, to exchange experiences and to work together as afamily, if you like, of diplomats supporting each other.

It is not the only innovation of the Department of Foreign Affairs andTrade in this building. When you came in this morning on the left-hand side youwill have seen the doors to the innovationXchange. This was another idea we had- to build an innovation hub within the Department - not physically, it's overthe road from the Department - but a laboratory of ideas, challenging thestatus quo, challenging our thinking. Can we deliver our aid budget moreeffectively, more efficiently, more creatively and more innovatively? What canwe do as a Department that can be more flexible, and adaptive, and innovative?Our innnovationXchange is groundbreaking for the Australian Public Service, andit is so highly regarded by other departments around the world who actuallycome here to see what we are doing in our innovationXchange.

I want the Diplomatic Academy to be likewise, as highly regarded.

Not only are we working with other members of the Australian Public Serviceand our own DFAT staff, but we are also offering opportunities for otherforeign ministries, and I'm delighted to know that we have exchanges in placeso that young diplomats, in particular from partner countries, can spend timein our Diplomatic Academy, and young Australian diplomats can likewise spendtime in Foreign Ministry's Academies.

There is a group called MIKTA – a group of G20 countries: Mexico,Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia, MIKTA - and we have alreadyensured that young diplomats from these countries are spending time in ourDiplomatic Academy and vice-versa.

This truly is an opportunity for our diplomats to operate at the veryhighest level. I am already immensely proud of the work that our diplomaticcorps does overseas. I know that all of our agencies involved in internationalactivities send delegations overseas to be involved in some very complexnegotiations or activities, and we want them to be as well prepared as they canbe to operate at the highest level internationally.

This will ensure that our diplomatic corps continues to be one of thefinest, and continues to represent Australia's interests, and promotes ourvalues overseas at the very highest level.

Congratulations to all those involved. We now have a purpose builtfacility with a nine faculty curriculum providing a service to ensure that theAustralian Public Service remains one of the world's finest.

It is with great pleasure that I am here this morning to launch theDiplomatic Academy.


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