Speeches | 17 February 2012

Hearings of Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Research Fellows Fergus Hanson and Alex Oliver, together with Andrew Shearer as co-author of the 2011 report Diplomatic Disrepair: Rebuilding Australia’s international policy infrastructure, appeared on Friday 17 February 2012 at the hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Inquiry into Australia’s Overseas Representation.

The terms of reference of the inquiry include examining the work, structure and geographic spread of Australia's diplomatic representation overseas, and the way in which the emergence of e-diplomacy techniques and information and communications technology affect the activities of diplomatic posts.

Their written submission can be downloaded at the Download button. Their testimony can be heard in the Related Audio section.

  • Alex Oliver
  • Fergus Hanson
  • Andrew Shearer

Research Fellows Fergus Hanson and Alex Oliver, together with Andrew Shearer as co-author of the 2011 report Diplomatic Disrepair: Rebuilding Australia’s international policy infrastructure, appeared on Friday 17 February 2012 at the hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Inquiry into Australia’s Overseas Representation.

The terms of reference of the inquiry include examining the work, structure and geographic spread of Australia's diplomatic representation overseas, and the way in which the emergence of e-diplomacy techniques and information and communications technology affect the activities of diplomatic posts.

Their written submission can be downloaded at the Download button. Their testimony can be heard in the Related Audio section.

  • Alex Oliver
  • Fergus Hanson
  • Andrew Shearer
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Executive Summary

The scope of the inquiry follows closely the issues raised by the Lowy Institute over the last few years in reports such as Diplomatic Deficit: Reinvesting in our instruments of international policy, Fergus Hanson’s A Digital DFAT: joining the 21st century, and Andrew Shearer and Alex Oliver's Diplomatic Disrepair, which reported that Australia’s diplomatic network had been hollowed out by years of funding pressure under successive governments. Despite some positive developments in the last few years, Australia still has one of the smallest diplomatic networks in the developed world. It lacks sufficient diplomatic missions and diplomats abroad to promote Australia’s interests, particularly in emerging centres of power in Asia, where rapid power shifts are creating growing uncertainty.

These reports have argued that Australia’s diplomatic infrastructure is out-dated and inadequate, and the nation’s ability to influence important new international audiences is held back by poorly resourced and uncoordinated public diplomacy and a failure to embrace new media platforms.

In light of the steady erosion of Australia’s diplomatic capacity over several decades, the Parliamentary Inquiry is a welcome opportunity to focus attention on a problem which, the submission argues, threatens to undermine Australia’s future national prosperity and security.

Alex Oliver discussed aspects of the submission and report on ABC National’s Saturday Extra show with Geraldine Doogue and guest Clinton Dines, on 18 February 2012: 'Do we need more diplomats?' See Related Audio.