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Howard sends more Liberal mates overseas while Downer brings more Australian Embassy staff home.



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MEDIA RELEASE

Kevin Rudd Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs & Interational Security

01 April 2005

HOWARD SENDS MORE LIBERAL MATES OVERSEAS WHILE DOWNER BRINGS MORE AUSTRALIAN EMBASSY STAFF HOME

There is a sick irony in today’s reports concerning the appointment of yet another Howard political mate to an Australian diplomatic post abroad - with the rumours of his Chief of Staff’s possible appointment to Washington.

It is not just that the Howard Government has elevated the art of political appointments into a unique science - this would mark the 18th political appointment by Mr Howard over nine years contrasting with ten such

appointments by Labor over 13 years.

The really sick irony is that while Mr Howard ratchets up with gay abandon the number of Liberal party appointments abroad, Alexander Downer has overseen the single greatest contraction of Australian embassy staff in the history of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

When Mr Downer became Foreign Minister 618 Australians were posted to our embassies overseas.

Nine years later that number has been reduced to 506 - an 18 per cent reduction.

This reduction has occurred over a period of time when bold new challenges now present themselves both to Australia’s national security interests as well as to the security interests of the Australian travelling public.

Australian diplomats are supposed to be tasked with analysing global and regional security developments which impact on Australia’s national security interests. Their numbers have been so savagely reduced that they now spend much of their time acting as glorified travel agents for visiting Australian

Government Ministers and politicians. Our diplomats constantly tell me they no longer have the time, resources and staff to properly undertake the analytical and policy tasks associated with Australia’s national security interests.

In addition there is the ever-increasing number of Australian travellers overseas. Last year there were 4.5 million short and long-term departures by Australian citizens abroad. The sheer volume of Australian travel around the world creates a whole new set of challenges in terms of the quantity of consular cases involving Australians who are injured abroad, robbed and/or those who end up in legal difficulty.

Mr Howard and Mr Downer should spend less time and effort seeking appointments for their mates and more time looking at ways to supplement the numbers of Australian embassy staff overseas which they have slashed over the past nine years.

Ends.1 April 2005

Media contact: Alister Jordan 0417 605 823