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First impressions of the Gillard speech

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6 July 2010 11:32

Julia Gillard has just finished her first major speech as Prime Minister, delivered to a large (and remarkably patient — the PM was almost an hour late) Lowy Institute audience.

Here's  a copy of the speech, which was focused almost entirely on boat people and border protection, and not on the broader Gillard outlook on foreign policy. That's a speech we're still waiting to hear; it will presumably come at some point before the election campaign. 

Some early impressions:

  • The major announcement from the speech was a proposal to set up, in Timor-Leste, a regional processing centre for 'irregular entrants' to Australia. This was painted as a 'new broom' approach, though experts might ask how different this really is to previous off-shore processing efforts.
  • Gillard claimed that she had discussed this proposal with the Timorese President and the New Zealand Prime Minister, but neither seem bowled over by the idea. According to Gillard, Ramos Horta said he 'welcomed the conversation about this possibility', while John Key said he was 'open to considering this initiative constructively'. That's straight out of the Humphrey Appleby school of evasive language.
  • A short section at the end of the speech on refugee integration into Australia had an interesting change of emphasis from the Coalition Government. Gillard insisted that refugees play by the rules: learn English, get a job and send their kinds to school. In a sense, that's red meat conservatism, but notice that the cultural component that influenced Howard Government rhetoric ('the Australian way of life', 'Australian values') is missing.
  • I thought this might have been the moment to announce Australia's new ambassador to Indonesia, since Bill Farmer has just left his post. But nothing doing.

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