If Morrison wins the election, he needs a new foreign secretary

A few weeks ago, coalition officials were openly speculating that it would be a “khaki” election dominated by the darkening of the international scene.

It seemed likely that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its implication in the potential for conflict posed by China’s growing power in our own region would cause voters to focus on national security issues more than any other. time since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. .

During the campaign, the Coalition certainly tried to exploit this public concern, underscoring its perceived strength in foreign and defense policy while claiming that Chinese President Xi Jinping hoped for a victory for the PLA. He tried to portray the PLA as inexperienced, weak and vulnerable to Chinese influence, citing the example of former Labor senator Sam Dastyari.

The Coalition has some significant accomplishments, including the landmark foreign interference laws, the AUKUS defense pact with Britain and the United States, and its more realistic approach to China.

However, a few days from the end, the Coalition failed to prove its superiority over Labor on the issue. The reasons for this failure are multiple, including the fact that the Labor Party has made itself a very small target by endorsing practically all the positions of the Coalition.

Yet the Coalition should also look to its own failures, particularly those of Foreign Secretary Marise Payne.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison felt the need to congratulate her at his campaign launch on Sunday, expressing pride in her “realism” and dedication.

In fact, she was a weak link. She must take responsibility for diplomatic failures under her leadership that likely contributed to adverse national security consequences for Australia, such as the China-Solomon Islands security pact.

She should have spoken in person with her Solomon Islands counterpart about the deal before it was signed, but instead left the job to bureaucrats and a junior minister.

Although knowledgeable about her portfolio, she has had little impact as a representative of Australia on the world stage. Compared to former foreign ministers like Julie Bishop, she has been almost invisible in the media and actively avoids it. Public diplomacy is an important part of the job, but she has pretty much given up on that aspect.