Yesterday we reported that former treasurer and now Australian ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey had skipped a counter-terrorism meeting with Julie Bishop and Marise Payne in Washington, choosing to stay at the Republican National Convention to see Donald Trump deliver his speech to the party faithful. It was quite the snub, with Hockey ignoring convention that the ambassador be on hand to meet the minister, especially as Bishop is Hockey’s boss. Today, a tipster who has experience in such matters says Hockey:

“… should have dispatched the Deputy Head Of Mission or Political Counsellor to the GOP Convention, and the Dems in Philly this week too. There will be no serious work to do at either convention (tweeting is not serious work) and if he is just networking then he could just as easily do that in DC before and after the Conventions.”

Hockey’s attendance at the RNC can’t be viewed as a sign of his political allegiance, as he is already in Philadelphia for the Democrats’ conference. Our tipster says “the serious work in Australia’s national interest will be done in DC with Bishop and Payne, and Hockey is once again missing in action”. We were also reminded of a story that appeared in Crikey back in 2005, when Alexander Downer was minister for foreign affairs and had a particularly pointed reaction when ambassadors didn’t abide by his exacting standards. From the archives:

“John Campbell was ambassador to Chile when Downer arrived on an official visit in 1993. Because of an honest misunderstanding, the embassy’s official car was not at the airport to collect the minister, who had to take a taxi. Later during the visit, the car developed mechanical trouble. Not long afterward Campbell was recalled to Canberra and he subsequently took early retirement from DFAT.

“When Jeff Kennett, as Victorian premier, visited Greece, the ambassador Dr Robert Merrilees arranged for him to meet the Greek president and prime minister — Kennett’s itinerary was arranged long before his visit and input from the Melbourne Greek community paved the premier’s way in Athens. Not long afterwards, Downer was accorded neither privilege — as it turned out the president was away and the prime minister’s diary was full. Merrilees was recalled and took early retirement.”

Looks like Hockey is lucky that Bishop, not Downer, is in the office.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey