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Divided DFAT lives with coup fear

Another spat is marring the unhappy marriage of the Foreign Affairs and overseas aid departments in Canberra with CPSU union delegates at each other’s throats in an escalating left versus right turf war.

Left-leaning young turks from AusAID, the department swallowed up by DFAT in one of the first acts of the Abbott Government last year, are accused of attempting to use their greater numbers  for an “undemocratic” takeover of the merged department’s union representation.

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The “less experienced” AusAID staffers are trying to stage a coup against DFAT union stalwart Christopher Lang, it is alleged, and senior CPSU figures are trying to broker a peace between the two factions.

The older, more conservative DFAT union delegates accuse their younger former AusAID counterparts of “juvenile, ALP party political bickering,” in a document circulated around the Foreign Affairs delegates.

Some DFAT veterans fear their traditionally conservative union branch will have a radical political agenda imposed by AusAID left-wingers and are now refusing to meet in an integrated workplace body.

The merger between the two departments has been beset by cultural differences and one memorable act of petty spite since it was announced, as part of the Abbott Government’s cuts to Australia’s foreign aid budget.

A clear north-south divide has emerged in the new department with former AusAID staffers referring to their CBD workplace as DFAT Civic in an effort to distinguish themselves from long serving Foreign Affairs officials, based in Barton.

DFAT regulars, meanwhile have shown no enthusiasm for “integration” if it takes them north of Lake Burley Griffin and away from the decision-making nerve centre of the RG Casey Building.

The DFAT union delegates have sent a blunt warning to their AusAID counterparts that internecine strife at this “dangerous and perilous time” will not be tolerated and trying to head off any move against Mr Lang, a 40-year CPSU veteran.

“We will not participate in such a shame for obvious reasons,” the DFAT delegates warned.

“We do not propose to engage in juvenile ALP party political bickering that can only harm the CPSU in DFAT.

“DFAT section delegates will now meet separately as a workplace organizing group in Barton.”

The Foreign Affairs officials say they have secured the backing of the Barton rank-and-file from their policy to “disengage” from any further integration  with their AusAID colleagues until “trust can be restored”.

“We have consulted with our members who agree with us that is our duty as their elected representatives to remain focused on their interests during this difficult and dangerous time,” the DFAT delegates wrote.

The union’s ruling Executive Council has voted to create one section in the merged department, with one section secretary, a move the DFAT forces are likely to resist.

An official union spokesman said that the row had nothing to do with party politics.

“All members in the newly amalgamated DFAT and AusAID areas will get the opportunity to vote on who represents them within the union,” the spokesman said.

“The notion this has something to do with party politics has not been raised with any CPSU representative before yesterday’s events and it’s just plain wrong.

31 comments

  • It takes a lot of gumption to be a union representative in a place like DFAT. I fear that the ex-AusAID young Turks, as well as being inexperienced in the byzantine ways of their new masters, are highly susceptible to being dazzled by the trinkets that can be laid at their feet.

    Commenter
    Justinian
    Date and time
    March 13, 2014, 5:03AM
    • Very true...an overseas posting an effective method to remove a troublesome union rep back in 75 - Jakarta or Lagos from memory. Jakarta not exactly a "dazzling trinket" in but was preferable to DFAT central any day!

      Commenter
      Philby
      Location
      ex DFAT central
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 9:06AM
    • For many mid-level public servants, an overseas posting is like a lifetime jackpot. One of the big weapons in the arsenal of the Dark Side, sometimes used to the detriment of good public administration.

      Commenter
      Coloseo
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 11:04AM
  • AusAID have finally been brought to heel and they don't like it one bit. Having experienced the diplomatic circuit their behavior as a 'separate' empire was well known as was their determination to fill the department with a particular gender. This integration is well overdue and they are now back under the control of those who do know something about international diplomacy. No I was not from DFAT but another agency who observed some of the AusAID blunders and the monumental amount of wasted money over the years on projects such as the PNG Police Project of the 90's. Take their latte's off them and pull them into line.

    Commenter
    Ted
    Date and time
    March 13, 2014, 6:55AM
    • Sorry Ted, which gender was that?

      Commenter
      Maddie
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 8:55AM
    • Yet funnily enough AusAID was not an organisation whose primary focus was diplomacy. If you think AusAID's functions are best subsumed into DFAT why not Defence's international engagement functions as well?

      Your attempted "latte" slander shows how little you actually know of AusAID. Ever seen the hordes of DFAT staff queuing up for coffee at the Brindabella Cafe in the RG Casey building moorings and afternoon? DFATers are no slouches when it comes to lattes.

      Commenter
      Red Fred
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 10:02AM
    • Latte drinkers is just code, Fred. Code for people who think they can go solo on their mission of saving the planet without being part of the team. And waste an outrageous amount of public money in the process. Sounds like AusAID. I'm with Ted on this one. Bring on the takeover.

      Commenter
      Gabby
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 10:18AM
    • I'm with Ted on AusAID's waste. I'm not with him on that gender comment. That was wrong.

      Commenter
      Gabby
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 11:38AM
    • ted +1, and it gets worse, i have heard there are spats about cake days. With one sex saying their kitchen rules and they should decide on cakes and DFAT staff trying to keep them out of the kitchen and stop them from trying to ban round cakes and sausage rolls!!

      Commenter
      stoney
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 12:49PM
    • Maddie: agenda?

      Commenter
      Maybe
      Date and time
      March 13, 2014, 10:11PM

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