There’s an argument to be made that Jeffrey Bleich is one of the most powerful people in Canberra. And you’ve probably never heard of him.
The US Ambassador to Australia sat down with Bernard Keane this week for a wide-ranging chat on the stateside alliance, defence spending, copyright, the rise of China … and of course WikiLeaks. He speaks on how diplomacy has been forced to change thanks to Julian Assange:
“As a result of things like WikiLeaks, if people feel anxious that they can’t have a fair conversation, what am I going to do? I’ll get worse information, so I want to understand what’s going on in the region. When I get that information I’m not going to share it as broadly as I should because I’m afraid it could leak, so I keep to too tight a grip. And I’m probably encouraged to do it by phone or in person as opposed to writing it down, so it doesn’t come back to bite anyone, which means the information degrades rapidly.”
There’s no degradation in the relationship between Australia and the US, no matter who is in the Lodge or the White House. Which makes Bleich a pivotal figure. He has the ear of the President — he served as an adviser to Barack Obama before being dispatched here — and acts as the point man to Parliament on relations with our most important ally. And there’s no doubt Australia doesn’t do too much beyond its borders without consulting the US first.
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What Bleich thinks matters. More from the Ambassador tomorrow.