Not Quite The Sum of Its Parts: Public Diplomacy From an Australian Perspective

Written by Dr. Caitlin Byrne, Bond University


Dr. Caitlin Byrne is a former Australian diplomat, having served in a range of legal policy, diplomatic and management roles with the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1994 to 2001. From 2001, Caitlin continued her career in business management consulting, strategic social policy development, legislation reform, and community development projects; and has worked across a range of state government, private sector and community sector organisations across Australia. In 2010, Caitlin completed her PhD entitled “Public diplomacy in the Australian context: a policy based framework for understanding and practice.” Caitlin is currently Assistant Professor of International Relations at Bond University, Queensland, Australia.

Preface: Political Update

Whatever Happened To Kevin? How Change In The Domestic Political Environment Will Test Australia’s Public Diplomacy.

Since writing the paper, “Not Quite the Sum of its Parts: Public Diplomacy from an Australian Perspective”, the Australian political landscape has changed dramatically and quickly.  While the outcome of such political change is as yet uncertain, the new environment and its potential impact on Australian public diplomacy over the short and medium terms require attention.  This brief update highlights the key changes that have occurred, and concludes that while there will be an increasing role for Australian diplomats to inform, engage with and reassure foreign audiences, the opportunities to move towards creative and strategic Australian public diplomacy in the short term at least, have diminished.

Much to the dismay of those embedded at the epicentre of Australia’s political machinery, the close of the 2009 financial year saw former prime minister Kevin Rudd deposed by his own party ranks, and stable government turned on its head, all in a matter of weeks.  Swift political manoeuvring within the Australian Labor Party (ALP) factions led former deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard to challenge Kevin Rudd for his leadership role on the evening of 23 June 2010.  Gillard rationalised the move by claiming that under Rudd, “a good government was losing its way”,[i] and faced the real danger of losing the confidence of the Australian people at the next election.  The following day with overwhelming party support, Gillard was installed as Australia’s first female prime minister.  Meanwhile, the high profile, internationally regarded Rudd was relegated to the back-benches of parliament.

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