The new Federal Opposition Leader’s opening gambit on the populist rhetoric front has been to attack the Prime Minister over his decision to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. For my money it is a cheap and uncompelling shot, for all except perhaps the Liberal Party’s most sour-faced and envious supporters. Rudd has reportedly been on eight foreign trips over the past nine months, which to this taxpayer at least, does not seem excessive. Unlike the comparatively unilateralist era that was ushered in by the previous government, Australia under Federal Labor is once again interested in engaging the world with open arms, lead by a man who understands global politics arguably better than anyone who has ever held the position. It would be a waste for Rudd not to use his not inconsiderable diplomatic talents and experience on the global stage as much as possible; indeed it would arguably be contravening Australia’s national interest not to in most circumstances.
In any case, Rudd himself responded more than adequately, methinks, to this related question from Kieran Gilbert of Sky News:
GILBERT: You’re heading off to New York this afternoon. You’re going to miss the rest of the week in parliament. Why do you need to go?
PM: Well, this week in New York the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly will have heads of government from 122 countries around the world including the heads of government from 13 of the world’s 15 major economies.
There’ll be one subject, one core subject on people’s mind, and that is the global response to the global financial crisis.
And there are two schools of thought here. Either you can go down the populist road, the opportunistic populist road, which is what various people in politics are championing at the moment and not go, or you can act in the national interest. My judgment is that my responsibility as Prime Minister is to act in the national interest, which means working through with other heads of government the best response to this global financial crisis.
Australia has to have a seat at the table, not just sort of hang out to one side an expect everyone else to kind of solve it. That’s not how it works.
Apparently Malcolm Turnbull would prefer to bury his head in the sand and let the rest of the world discuss these sorts of pertinent problems without his, or Australia’s input.