Diplomatic disrepair: rebuilding Australia's international policy infrastructure

29 Aug 2011

A review of Australia's overseas diplomatic network and a comparison with the foreign services of other developed nations.

Three years ago, the Lowy Institute brought together a panel of eminent Australians to review the instruments with which Australia seeks to engage the wider world and shape our international environment in ways favourable to our economic, political and security interests. Australia’s overseas diplomatic network was a particular focus. Their report reached sobering conclusions. Australia’s diplomatic network was overstretched and hollowed out as a result of years of underfunding by successive governments and rising demands, particularly for consular services. It had not kept pace with our interests or with a changing world. Australia was diplomatically underrepresented abroad, particularly in emerging centres of power. Our overseas representation compared very poorly with almost all other developed nations’, including those located in more settled neighbourhoods and enjoying the diplomatic benefits of belonging to a regional bloc such as the European Union.

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