It’s Julia Gillard’s first overseas trip as Prime Minister, Kerry O’Brien noted on The 7:30 Report last night. A sharp learning curve, he suggested: “All domestic portfolios until now; suddenly you’re meeting 11 world leaders in a day. Have you found your comfort zone yet?”

Apparently not.

JULIA GILLARD: Oh, look, Kerry, I’m obviously working my way through. Kerry, I’m just going to be really up-front 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.

It would be kind of like those travelling businessmen who insist the novelty of luxury hotels and silver service wears off after a while. Except that the Australian Prime Minister — our representative head; our ambassador to the world — is entirely genuine in saying she’d rather be anywhere else.

Gillard may well prove an adept foreign affairs negotiator. There’s no evidence yet to say she’s anything but the “feisty advocate” for our interests. And there’s no doubt Kevin 747 needed to keep his feet on the ground more than he did.

But for our Prime Minister to say to the world she’s not having much fun is not just churlish, it’s decidedly undignified.

Peter Fray

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