Australia's incoming top diplomat a hard-nosed realist

Australia's incoming top diplomat a hard-nosed realist
Some analysts say Ms Bishop's emphasis on trade over Rudd-style "big ideas" may actually be welcomed by regional leaders.

SYDNEY - Although she is about to become Australia's chief diplomat, Ms Julie Bishop can sometimes come across as a tad prickly. She has become known for her stern manner and long glaring "death stares" that she throws at those who cross her path.

A sharp, strong-willed political combatant, the incoming foreign minister is one of the most trusted advisers of incoming prime minister Tony Abbott. But Ms Bishop's sometimes petulant style can be misleading.

In private, the 57-year-old former lawyer is known to be warm, entertaining and bubbly - and she will be hoping that her charm will soon rub off on the region's leaders.

Ms Bishop has repeatedly insisted her main goal as foreign minister is to base the nation's foreign policy on economic self-interest. A hard-nosed realist, she has often rejected grandiose aims favoured by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, especially his plan for an Asia-Pacific community.

Ms Bishop frequently cites her party's foreign policy catch-cry: "More Jakarta, less Geneva."

She says she wants to pursue free trade deals across the region - particularly with China, Japan and South Korea - and to build on extensive business ties in China.

"Our strategy will be based on economic diplomacy," Ms Bishop said during a debate last month with outgoing foreign affairs minister Bob Carr.

"(It will be) a practical approach to align our foreign policy with our national economic interests¬Ö We are a global nation with global interests but, increasingly, our focus will be on our region."

Ms Bishop also believes Canberra can bolster relations with Jakarta even as the Abbott government embarks on its tough policy to "stop the boats" of asylum seekers coming from Indonesia. It will be a tough ask.

She said on Sunday that the new conservative government would work with Indonesia "where (it needs) to" to implement sensitive plans.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has said Jakarta would reject the new government's plans to tow back asylum-seeker boats from Indonesia in a military response while buying up fishing boats to keep them from the hands of people-smugglers, embedding Australian police in villages and paying locals for intelligence.

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