Female DFAT boss would be a ‘milestone’

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the first female head of DFAT would be a milestone. Photo: Peter Rae Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with minister Julie Bishop on the hustings last week. Photo: Andrew Meares
Nanjing Night Net

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If Julie Bishop is about to appoint the first ever woman to head the prestigious and powerful Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade she kept her cards close to her chest on Monday.

Asked about reports that she and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would appoint former ambassador to China and current prime ministerial adviser Frances Adamson shortly after the July 2 election (if victorious), Ms Bishop sidestepped the question by invoking the ever-handy convention of “caretaker government.”

However she did note that “were it to be a woman that would be notable because of course it would be the first female secretary of DFAT and that is obviously a milestone, just as people often comment on the fact that I’m the first female foreign minister of Australia. The first always draws comment.” Ms Adamson was in the front row at the Lowy Institute as Ms Bishop made her remarks.

DFAT sits at the heart of Canberra’s security and intelligence decision-making and if Ms Adamson succeeds incumbent Peter Varghese​, it will send a powerful message through the bureaucracy.

Ms Bishop was diplomatic on what the consequences of Britain voting to exit the EU might be. But she said Australian interests would be best served if a “strong Britain [were to} remain”.

A recent Lowy poll found 51 per cent of Australians wanted Britain to stay in Europe  as against 19 per cent for departure.

Much of Ms Bishop’s speech had an economic focus as she joined the government’s ” jobs and growth” push in the last phase of the election campaign. She said her role in shaping Australia’s economic future was “no less relevant to the Turnbull government’s jobs and growth plan than other minsters in charge of domestic economic areas.”

The Foreign Minister warned that Australia could not compete in a “race to the bottom” on labour costs but had to focus on the relative cost of labour to the value of a product.

China, Japan and Taiwan were investing “huge sums in advanced manufacturing and robotics.” she said. “Even now a single $30,000 robot can assemble 100 iphones each day, at a cost of less than $1 each phone. “

And there were currently ” almost a quarter of a million manufacturing robots in China alone .. replicating 20 manufacturing processes traditionally performed by humans.”

On the international terrorism threat in the Middle East, Ms Bishop said Australia had “done more than its fair share as a nation far removed from terrorism central.”

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