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Friday, May 15, 2009

Oops moment for Australia's diplomacy

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith-pictured here sometime before the day in question- inadvertently tabled in Parliament on Wednesday a document summarising the current situation in Australia's negotiations with over 80 countries on various matters. The front page of the document included a note in bold saying the "sections of this schedule dealing with bilateral negotiations should not be tabled in any parliament or any committee of a parliament, or otherwise placed on the public record," but the Minister's spokeswoman states the document was not classified. The Minister has apologised for a breach of international etiquette. Significant harm is unlikely- these things happen. The incident may even prompt more regular intentional release of information about what's happening out there in our dealings with other countries. That very busy reader of these pages, Anonymous of Canberra, left this comment this morning:
"Smith in making his apology for the accidental tabling of a DFAT document listing the bilateral treaty negotiations currently underway, mentioned that he is looking at extending the publication regime currently in place for multi-lateral treaties, to also cover, the usually more sensitive, bilateral treaties. Front page stuff for the Canberra Times print version, but can't find it on their webpage. The full text of Smith's apology isn't online at The Australian or the SMH, nor his website (though it was this am) - odd."
I can't find the statement either.

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