While Defence continues to enjoy its place in the sun, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) continues to languish in the shade at the bottom of the bureaucratic pile. The government’s dire warnings about uncertainty and a rising tide of global insecurity notwithstanding, diplomacy is not a tool of choice for the Morrison government.
The 2022-23 Budget provision of just over $8 billion is barely $50 million higher than the previous budget – less than the $65 million allocated to the refurbishment of the High Commission in Honiara. Rather than merely treading water, Foreign Affairs continues to sink.
Australia continues to rank among the lowest of the OECD members in funding its diplomatic service. The Department is over-worked and under-staffed. Foreign policy is never an election trigger point. Yet a sustained strategic policy might be expected to extend beyond the direct defence of Australia to the serious task of collaborating with our neighbours to shape the strategic environment, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The 2022-23 Budget continues the Morrison government’s trend of underfunding and undervaluing diplomacy, especially in times of crisis.