His master's voice: I have seen the future, and it looks like Australia in 2002

So when The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan wrote last week, “Australian diplomacy is in a dreadful mess. It is the least resourced and most thinly spread diplomatic tool of any country with which Australia could possibly compare itself,” he reckoned without the profoundly collegial spirit of Stephen Harper, who is always eager to make sure Australia can compare itself favourably to somebody.

Hence this extraordinary story in Le Devoir (warning: It’s published in Not English), which shows that between the Conservatives’ first, 2006-2007 budget and 2010-2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs budget will have been cut by $450 million, a 19% cut. This is way better than that piker John Howard, who merely held his country’s foreign-affairs budget stagnant for a decade.

Sections within the foreign-affairs budget that will come in for the biggest cuts include “diplomacy and defence of interest” and “bilateral relations,” each of which will be cut by more than one-fifth. The department’s commercial section is growing nicely, though.

(Le Devoir‘s reporter takes care to point out that much of the early reporting on this story was done by the Ottawa diplomatic weekly Embassy.)

The good news is that during the same period, the military budget will have grown by about one-quarter. Because when you want a bigger, more active army, it’s best not to know too much about the world in which it’ll be working.

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