Contrary to recent claims that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has become left-leaning and bureaucratic, DFAT serves the national interest in a way with which most Australians can be justly satisfied, and sometimes proud.

I worked for 40 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and have kept in touch with it since, but on reading Mark Higgie’s piece in The Australian last weekend about DFAT’s leftist tendencies—“Ill-served by left-leaning diplomats”—I did not recognise the place.

Interesting, because for two years when I was chief of staff to a Coalition foreign minister, Andrew Peacock, officials generally busted their guts to give Peacock and Malcolm Fraser advice consistent with government policy, and this was right after the alleged inundation of DFAT by “Whitlam thought”.

Interesting, also, because when I was posted on three occasions to our embassy in Washington, including as ambassador in the 1990s, our officers spent time persuading Canberra of good American arguments as well as acting as Australian advocates to Americans. This is a far cry from what Higgie terms our diplomats’ “alleged dream of Australia less aligned with the United States”.

Of course, times change. There is questioning not of the fact of the ANZUS alliance but about what the alliance should mean, and how it should be shaped, when all Australians know the world is changing.

Please click here to read the full “Australia’s diplomats are reliable in a volatile world” article which first appeared in the Australian and was republished in Australian Outlook with permission, written by Mr John McCarthy AO FAIIA, Chair of the Australia-India Council, Deputy Chair of the Australia-India Institute, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Griffith Asia Institute and Co- Convenor of the Australia -Indonesia Dialogue.