Bill Shorten says he will talk to Julie Bishop about the possibility of her becoming Australia’s next ambassador to the US, in a move that would allow an incoming Labor government to lever off the former Liberal foreign minister’s global network of connections and conservative ties in the US.
The Opposition Leader, who will need to find a replacement for US ambassador Joe Hockey if he wins on Saturday, said he rated Ms Bishop highly for her response to the shooting down of MH17, and hoped he would stand up to Vladimir Putin and “behave like her” if he was prime minister.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for her. She’s a good person and we can’t waste talent,” he told a business breakfast in Ms Bishop’s hometown of Perth.
“She said she wants to work in the private sector, but I will certainly be talking to her.”
Pushed on the prospect of Ms Bishop taking the plum diplomatic post, Mr Shorten said he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.
“I’m not going to put a name against a label because we haven’t even won,” he said, but declared Australia should make better use of its retired political leaders rather than “pushing them on the scrap heap”.
Mr Shorten suggested there could be a role for Malcolm Turnbull — “love him or hate him, he’s got skills” — and said Kevin Rudd and John Howard could also have more to contribute.
Ms Bishop is close Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong, and there is precedent for PM’s reaching across the aisle for important diplomatic appointments — Mr Rudd appointed Tim Fischer as Ambassador to the Holy See, and former foe Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the EU and NATO.
Ms Bishop this week batted away questions about her potentially replacing Mr Hockey in Washington, but did not rule it out.
“I have had the number one diplomat’s job in Australia. I was foreign minister for five years, and that’s the best job you can have in the foreign service for Australia,” she said.
“I’ve been the foreign minister. I’m not looking to get a government job. I’m very happy to pursue other duties in the private sector.”