There was a decent media contingent here at the Lowy Institute for Tony Abbott's first major speech on defence and national security as opposition leader, so you'll see some coverage later today. We'll also have a full recording of the event on our website on Monday. (UPDATE: Text of the speech here.)
Meantime, these are my initial impressions, which I reserve the right to disown totally:
- This was a safe speech. An alternative prime minister cannot enter an election (due later this year) having said nothing substantive on foreign and defence policy, so Abbott ticked that box today without doing himself any harm.
- The only real news was a commitment that the Coalition would buy three Global Hawk reconnaissance drones; every other policy statement (notably, that the Coalition, if elected, would have an open mind on sending more troops to Afghanistan) seemed to be a re-statement.
- Abbott opened with something just short of an apology for the fact that defence and foreign policy were not his areas of expertise — this was disarming on a personal level but perhaps not reassuring from an alternative PM.
- His formal remarks started with a defence of the Iraq war, clearly a formative experience in the development of his foreign policy views.
- This introduction began a thread which tied together the entire speech — defending the Howard Government's security and foreign policy record.
- There was strong criticism of China over the Stern Hu matter; the phrases 'show trial' and 'star chamber' both appeared.