Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Australia's Minister for Defence - who?

Up until tonight, I could not have told you the name of Australia's Defence Minister. Names of the senior cabinet members have certainly been bandied about, yet after 15 months in the position, his profile has remained particularly low.

Tonight I heard a radio interview with the Minister - Joel Fitzgibbon. The interviewer was trying to draw out information and thoughts about Australia's engagement in Afghanistan. As does happen, the interviewer was trying to extract more information than he felt he needed to give or was wise to give. So he wasn't saying anything meaningful in the first part of the interview. However, he got to the point where he was willing to enumerate a set of (four) principles for Australia's involvement in Afghanistan, and he let flow. They were rather a complex set of principles on strategy - where often enough you hear just a few tactical comments. And when pressed on particular points - naming names, so to speak, he was clearly not going to give away anything that could be diplomatically sensitive.

He could have simply fobbed off the interviewer with a few bland comments - but ultimately he made some meaningful points. Although I can usually tell which side one's ideological bread is buttered, it's not so easy with Afghanistan, because a strong case can be made for an involvement that helps that nation gain some stability and infrastructure that it scarcely ever seems to have had. That issue aside, I have to be impressed with Joel Fitzgibbon's capabilities. And he hasn't said anything yet to give me cause for alarm in a political sense, but it is still early days.

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