PM Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne announce the change in policy to move the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
PM Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne announce the change in policy to move the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

PM’s ‘captain’s call’ backfires spectacularly

EVIDENCE is growing the controversial decision to consider moving Australia's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem was a rushed captain's call by Scott Morrison.

The Prime Minister sprang it on some of his most senior colleagues and officials with little warning. Our military leaders first knew of it from news reports.

Selected journalists had been briefed on the matter the day before the announcement but Defence Force chief General Angus Campbell had been kept in the dark.

It also surprised and angered some of our most important neighbours, particularly Indonesia.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne revealed today she had been told of the new position on Sunday, October 14 - two days before Mr Morrison's October 16 public announcement.

And at the time she was in transit to Belgium on official duties. She had to speed back to stand alongside Mr Morrison when he made his announcement on the Tuesday.

 

PM Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne make the announcement about moving the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas
PM Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne make the announcement about moving the Australian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

The Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Frances Adamson said today she was told at 1pm on the Monday before Mr Morrison's announcement.

The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta were told about 9pm that Monday, Canberra time.

On Monday this week, officials from Mr Morrison's own Prime Minister and cabinet department told a Senate committee they had heard of the embassy review decision on Monday, October 15.

The information came in a telephone call from Mr Morrison's office.

Also last Monday, government upper house leader Mathias Cormann was unable to detail to a Senate committee when the embassy policy change was discussed by the government leadership group, and who was involved.

General Angus Campbell at the Senate hearing. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
General Angus Campbell at the Senate hearing. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The most devastating evidence of a hurried consultation process was that of General Campbell. He first heard of the decision from news reports.

General Campbell had this exchange with Labor's Senate Leader Penny Wong at a Senate hearing late yesterday.

Wong: Would you prefer that your commanders were made aware of significant foreign policy decisions before the media?

Campbell: Senator, I am very comfortable that our active mechanisms of Force Protection Review consideration and adjustment achieve their objective and continue to achieve their objective in giving our people the best circumstances to achieve their missions and to return home safely.

Wong: I have no doubt as to your professionalism. I am asking is it better practice for you to be advised before the media?

Campbell: (10 second pause) Yes, Senator.

Labor is likely to attack the Prime Minister's surprise announcement as rash and possibly aimed at boosting the Liberal vote in the by-election the following Saturday in Wentworth, which has a significant Jewish community.

If that was the aim, it didn't work.

 

Liberal candidate Dave Sharma after delivering his concession speech at the Liberal Party Wentworth by-election. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Liberal candidate Dave Sharma after delivering his concession speech at the Liberal Party Wentworth by-election. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

 

Ms Payne told a Senate estimates committee today Mr Morrison had canvassed views on the status of the Israel-Palestine peace process during his first seven weeks as leader.

"And the Prime Minister has determined that he thinks that it's an appropriate time for Australia to review policy, without prejudice, in relation to some of these matters," she said.

"As Prime Minister he is entitled to do that and the government is entitled to do that."

She said Mr Morrison had considered Australia's national interests after the change of leadership with the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.

"The new Prime Minister has decided there is a number of matters of policy which he wishes to review and these matters are among those," she said.

 

Senator Penny Wong questions General Campbell. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Senator Penny Wong questions General Campbell. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch


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