Why now more than ever, Julie Bishop needs to slow down.
Many Liberal eyes are already on Julie Bishop. And given she’s indicated that if there were to be a leadership contest she’d likely be in it, the Foreign Minister will come under increasing scrutiny in coming months.
As a contender she would have the advantage of not being Malcolm Turnbull, but the handicap of questions over her economic gravitas.
These days Bishop seems in the public eye all the time, put there often by events – most recently the Vanuatu cyclone and the air crash in the French alps – but also by her desire for a high profile.
Polling indicates the public has become increasingly aware of and impressed by Bishop.
But colleagues, when thinking about whether, if Tony Abbott can’t hold things together, they should turn to Turnbull or Bishop, both electorally popular, will apply tougher standards.
A scrappy few days have highlighted the hazards for Bishop if she doesn’t both pace herself and display the needed depth when talking outside her portfolio.
She returned from a Sunday flying visit to Vanuatu, a bit off colour and looking tired, to read on Monday that her foreign aid budget was expected to suffer a small cut in the budget. Given the report was in The Australian she’d have assumed this had likely been briefed out by the Prime Minister’s Office or Treasurer Joe Hockey.
She reacted tartly in her public comments, saying she’d be talking to Hockey about it.
This brought a quick result, with Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann assuring her the aid budget was safe.
Whether this very public muscling up was appreciated by colleagues might be another matter, although it did show she was willing to defend her patch. On the other hand, she had previously lost some $11 billion from aid. It is not clear whether the claim about the cut was a deliberate leak or looser speculation.
Bishop’s eye rolling incident in the House the same day was problematic for her. Sitting on the front bench, she looked exhausted and grim even before Hockey made what he obviously intended as a joke about Malcolm Fraser’s great achievement in setting up the expenditure review committee. It obviously came as salt in the Bishop wound, given the aid kerfuffle.
Bishop’s exaggerated gestures, including covering her face with her hand, made the news bulletins and led to unhelpful publicity about tensions among senior ministers. She’d have done better to appear to play along with the heavy-handed Hockey humour.