Yesterday we chided the Prime Minister for her cringeing provincialism on the world stage (“If I had a choice, I’d probably be more [comfortable] in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings”).

In the interests of even-handedness, however, it should be noted that she’s not the only Australian political leader on the world stage with a monopoly on cringeing provincialism. This is an excerpt from this morning’s ABC Radio AM report on Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s visit to Britain:

RACHEL BROWN: Some critics have said Tony Abbott was trying to steal the PM’s thunder, meeting his Conservative counterpart before Julia Gillard met her prime ministerial one. But Mr Abbott says Australia’s oldest friend, Britain, was due a visit.

TONY ABBOTT: You have a strong supporter base. You are so infused …

DAVID CAMERON: (Inaudible.) They’ve been with me a long time. How long have you been leader?

RACHEL BROWN: On that note, the cameras were ushered out and Mr Abbott got his 15 minutes with David Cameron.

This was the trip to Birmingham that was so important to Abbott that he rejected the opportunity to visit the Afghan battlefront on the way over (“I didn’t want to get here in a jet-lagged condition so I’m in a position to make the most of this opportunity”). The trip where he spent 15 minutes with the British PM. The trip where he wasn’t invited to say even a few words to the Conservative Party conference.

Julia and Tony do Europe … it could be dialogue straight out of an episode of Kath and Kim — except the last thing Australia needs is Kath and Kim running our placement on the global stage.

Peter Fray

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