Paul Keating once said Asia was there to fly over on the way to Europe, yet later claimed to be an “Asian expert”. Julia Gillard seems to have had her Damascus moment. On the 7.30 Report, 5 October 2010, she said
Oh, look, Kerry, I’m obviously working my way through. Kerry, I’m just going to be really upfront about this: foreign policy is not my passion. It’s not what I’ve spent my life doing. You know, I came into politics predominantly to make a difference to opportunity questions, particularly make a difference in education. So, yes, if I had a choice I’d probably more be in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings. That’s what took me into politics, that kind of education work. But obviously in this role I will serve as Prime Minister doing the full job, and the full job includes coming to places like Brussels to be a feisty advocate for Australia’s national interest. And that’s what I will do. It’s what I’m doing here.
Perhaps her lack of interest in foreign policy explains why she thinks learning a foreign language is the most important part of Australia increasing its engagement in the “Asian Century” – in an interview with Jon Faine (29 October), the very first example of a policy initiative from her White Paper:
Things like making sure kids have got access to things like studying an Asian language.
Personally I wish she did have a stronger interest in foreign policy, she would be less likely to damage our children with her vision of a national curriculum.