Washington’s reluctance in
appointing an ambassador to Australia shows how much we’re regarded by
the Bush administration as a US colony.

Bush’s mate Tom
Schieffer was shifted from Canberra to Tokyo in record time and took up
his appointment there in January, while the embassy he vacated is run
by a state department professional. Schieffer tore up the diplomatic
rule book when he was here and Howard and Downer let him get away with

He regularly commented on local politics, which is a
diplomatic breach so serious that if a representative of another
country followed suit, he or she would have been read the riot act by
the Foreign Affairs Department. Obviously Schieffer knew he could get
away with it otherwise he would have remained silent. And the fact that
Howard and Downer went so far to endorse what the former ambassador
said, showed they either didn’t know the form or if they were too
scared to speak up.

Close allies do not leave their embassies
without an ambassador for any length of time – Britain, Japan, China,
Canada and New Zealand are swift to seek Canberra’s agreement of their
new representative usually before the departing ambassador leaves. Bush
traditionally appoints his mates to the diplomatic jobs – could it be
he’s running out of them or those approached aren’t interested in our
bush capital?

Whatever the reason, it’s been seven months
since the former ambassador departed – and eyebrows in Canberra are
certainly raised.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey