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Why Julie Bishop should be our next Coalition PM

Date

Peter Reith

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop brief the press shortly after MH17 was shot down.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop brief the press shortly after MH17 was shot down. Photo: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

The Coalition has not yet elected a female parliamentary leader but the day will come and it would not surprise me if it were Julie Bishop. But it would not be because she is female, nor because someone has written a book of her life story, but because she is a class act.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have not only done a good job handling the tragedy of MH17 but have enhanced Australia’s standing in the world.

Hockey has made a solid start as Treasurer but don’t just watch the boys: the foreign minister is no average Julie 

Bill Clinton, a former Democratic US president, summed up the feelings of many when he said: "I was very proud yesterday to be in this country when the Australian Foreign Minister spoke at the UN."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks to reporters after a tense encounter with Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks to reporters after a tense encounter with Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov. Photo: AFP

Needless to say, Tony Abbott has set the right tone and provided the leadership that was so needed given the reluctance in Europe and elsewhere. But the role taken by Julie Bishop may have repercussions not yet fully appreciated. Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who has been respected around the world for his comments to the Security Council, paid our Foreign Minister this compliment in noting how Australia had taken the initiative for the successful MH17 resolution: “Especially the personal commitment of Julie Bishop who made this possible. Without her, the resolution would not be carried today and adopted by the Security Council."

What is now evident is that Bishop is a totally professional and assured foreign minister. She is already on par internationally with Gareth Evans and, more recently, Alexander Downer. The first thing to say is that she has not put a foot wrong from day one. She started with more than her fair share of tricky problems but she did a good job managing Australian relations with Indonesia, especially at a time of tension following revelations of Labor's spying on the Indonesians and the thorny matter of asylum boats.

Bishop has some good qualities. She is consultative. She does not have too high an opinion of herself – a common flaw in politics. She can be feisty in her own polite way. A reliable source recounted to me that when, still in opposition, Tony Abbott announced on the ABC's 7.30, without any consultation with the shadow cabinet, that the Coalition would abandon its support for individual contracts, she was the first person to Abbott's office to confront him when he got back from the studio. She gave it to him with both barrels for his failure to consult and for abandoning a long-standing Coalition policy.

Julie Bishop's efforts at the United Nations Security Council drew praise from former US president Bill Clinton.

Julie Bishop's efforts at the United Nations Security Council drew praise from former US president Bill Clinton. Photo: AP

My spies tell me that it was not the only time she has been forthright in her views. She also has clear views on key topics. She has not been confused about federalism, she disliked Abbott’s support for constitutional reform of local government and she is not a supporter of ever bigger government. I doubt she ever agreed to the paid parental leave scheme although admittedly she was not alone on that one.

Labels are not very useful but within the party she is more dry than wet, modern on social issues but more aligned to economic reform. In this sense, within the parliamentary party she is slap bang in the pragmatic mainstream of Coalition MPs and well qualified for the top job.

I am not saying there is likely to be any leadership change in Tony Abbott's first term or even his second term. Gillard's knifing of Rudd with the support of Bill Shorten and others is not about to be replicated by the Coalition. However, of Australia's 28 prime ministers, only seven have been in office for more than four years so it's not unreasonable to suggest that after Abbott has had the job for at least four years or more, anything could happen.

Joe Hockey is obviously a future candidate. Hockey knows that the principle criteria for leadership is performance. His success as treasurer is a function of his own endeavours but also it is in part determined by prime ministerial participation in setting the economics parameters.

Hockey obviously wanted to go further on budget cuts.  And he was right to push for that outcome.  But although that sort of comment is understandable, as Keating/ Hawke and Howard/Costello likewise could testify, the public airing of disagreement is not in his interests or the government's.

Hockey was quick to set the pace on policy when he took on business welfare and the car industry. It was a very encouraging start but the budget remains Hockey’s first big test. Regardless of the outcome in the months ahead, I think it's fair to say that the treasury gig is the hardest job after prime minister. However, it gives Hockey the opportunity to not only show he can manage the economy but also the PM job.  

Hockey has made a solid start as Treasurer but don’t just watch the boys: our Foreign Minister is no average Julie.

Peter Reith was a Howard government minister and is a Fairfax Media columnist.

163 comments

  • She is only doing the job she is appointed (and paid for) to do, hardly PM material. I am still waiting for that PM material to arrive at the LNP horizon

    Commenter
    Marg
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 28, 2014, 1:31PM
    • Here's two of many examples confirming she's no better than Tony Abbott, Australia's worst ever PM:

      On Israel and Palestine
      "Australia’s foreign minister has said that the international community should refrain from calling settlements illegal under international law, without waiting for their status to be determined in a deal with the Palestinians.

      In an exclusive interview with The Times of Israel, Julie Bishop suggested that, contrary to conventional diplomatic wisdom, the settlements may not be illegal under international law. She refrained from condemning Israeli initiatives to build additional housing units beyond the Green Line or from calling on Israel to freeze such plans, merely saying the fact that settlements were being expanded showed the need for the sides to quickly reach a peace agreement." - Times of Israel

      On Sri Lanka
      "The Abbott government is resisting a push by its closest allies to establish a United Nations investigation into war crimes and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, where Australia has returned more than 1100 failed asylum seekers in the past 18 months." - SMH

      Like Tony, she's on the WRONG side of history.

      Commenter
      Juan Term
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:36AM
    • Well Tony sure isn't getting it done. 9 Bills passed through Parliament in 9 months. Tony has revealed himself to be utterly one dimensional and both his intellect and work ethic both have to be questioned.

      Commenter
      GOV
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 12:56AM
    • Hasn't anyone noticed that when it comes to getting promoted in within the Libs, 'it's raining men'? The former Lawyer for James Hardy made the breakthrough but it's hardly 'hallelujah, amen!'

      Commenter
      meatatarian
      Location
      over the rainbow
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 6:22AM
    • Read e,g. "Julie Bishop's time as a solicitor for asbestos miners is under the spotlight" (Daily Telegraph, NOVEMBER 18, 2012, and make up your own mind if she's PM material.

      Commenter
      Hmm
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 7:15AM
    • I find it intriguing that Reith, master of an alternate reality, has bypassed Diamond Joe and flicked Turnbull, to anoint Julie.

      What is desperately intriguing is that Julie and Julia are identical - lawyers, no children, same name - and the only way for Julie to get power is if Abbott is knifed.

      I tell you, that will be hysterical. I will be finally convinced that God exists, and her name is Julia, and that karma is among us..

      There will be a lot of very happy people if Abbott is knifed (about 13 million) but the LNP should stick to its stated values and keep Tonee. He makes a marvelous boat anchor for the good ship LNP and no doubt, will write a stirring concession speech

      "I did it the Rich's way"

      Commenter
      Axis
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 7:43AM
    • Only if Peta Credlin thinks it's OK....

      Commenter
      erol
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:00AM
    • She may be a bit better than Abbott but that is not saying much.

      Commenter
      Nelly
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:05AM
    • No one can be on the "wrong side of history". There is no such thing, or time, or era.

      Commenter
      David Morrison
      Location
      Blue Mountains
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:08AM
    • She looks adoringly at Tony Abbott as if he were a God!

      Commenter
      vera
      Date and time
      July 29, 2014, 8:10AM

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