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EXCLUSIVE: Julie Bishop backed in by US as frontrunner for ambassador role

Julie Bishop has been backed in by the United States as a frontrunner to take over as US ambassador from Joe Hockey after Labor leader Bill Shorten yesterday said he wanted to discuss the role with her.

In an extraordinary display of bipartisanship, Mr Shorten said Ms Bishop was “good at most things” and saw the potential of her stepping up to take on a diplomatic posting.

Former Liberal treasurer Joe Hockey has been US ambassador since 2016 but will return to Australia in January.

“I think Julie Bishop is good at most things she does,” Mr Shorten told The West Australian’s Leadership Matters breakfast. “She said she wants to work in the private sector but I’ll certainly be talking to her, I know that her and Penny (Wong) have a very good working relationship.”

Julie Bishop with former US President Barack Obama in 2016.Julie Bishop with former US President Barack Obama in 2016.
Camera IconJulie Bishop with former US President Barack Obama in 2016.

When asked if she would replace Mr Hockey, he said: “I’m not going to put her name against a label because we haven’t even won, but I’m saying to you, quite unreservedly here, that I’ve got a lot of respect for her, (my wife) Chloe and I know her well. She’s a good person and we can’t waste talent.”

Ms Bishop as ambassador was backed-in by the US. A spokesman for US Ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr said Ms Bishop, the outgoing member for Curtin who announced she would not recontest her electorate following a failed tilt at the leadership in August, was very highly regarded by his country.

“While this is a decision entirely for the Government of Australia, we can say that the United States is highly appreciative of Ms Bishop’s significant contributions to the US-Australia Alliance over the years,” the spokesman said. “She is an outstanding representative of Australia.”

Ms Bishop would not comment yesterday when contacted by The West Australian. Last week she said she was looking forward to pursuing a private sector career.

Mr Shorten even admitted he had admired Ms Bishop from afar.

“She’s served this country well,” he said. “I haven’t always agreed with everything she’s said, but I always rate her very highly for when the plane of Australians was shot down over Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine, and I hope that if I was seeing Vladimir Putin, the way she stood up to the Russians, I hope that in the same circumstances I would behave like her.”

He said other former PMs and MPs should also have their talents fully utilised.

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