15.09.2016

Who drafts the foreign policy white paper?


Australia’s first foreign policy white paper in 13 years is on its way, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said last month, adding meat to an election promise to deliver a “contemporary and comprehensive foreign policy strategy within 12 months of the election”.

At this point it’s unclear who will be leading the process, and thus how it should end up looking. The Sydney Morning Herald says it’ll be driven by Bishop and her new head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson. But that could mean anything.

Will it end up being a beast more reflective of Liberal Party values or the preoccupations of the DFAT? It’s likely the document will include plenty of references to free trade and so-called economic diplomacy — the hallmarks of Bishop’s foreign policy so far — but what should we expect beyond that? It’s hard to say at this point.

Traditionally foreign policy white papers “tend to be the work of a small focus group of people working on it and usually a single drafter within the Department of Foreign Affairs,” argues Professor Michael Wesley, director of the recently launched Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University.

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