Rice visit throws spotlight on WA

Posted July 25, 2008 10:04:00
Updated July 25, 2008 10:19:00

Condoleezza Rice and Alan Carpenter at a state dinner in Perth.

The former foreign minister, Alexander Downer, prided himself on his international contacts, but Labor's Stephen Smith appears to have some pulling power too.

Australian's Foreign Minister convinced the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to drop in to Perth last night for a whirlwind visit and what's more, to give him a lift home as well.

Shortly after she landed in Perth, Dr Rice, shrouded by tight security, was a guest at a private dinner hosted by the Premier, Alan Carpenter.

About two dozen protesters braved the cold and the rain, but police kept them well away from the University Club.

Police had turned out in huge numbers on foot, on horses, and on motorbikes, patrolling the area and keeping it secure.

Inside the Club, the traditional Noongar welcome was much warmer.

Condoleezza Rice was presented with a message stick which was made for her, with a parchment explaining its meaning. The stick told the story of the relationship between Australia and the United States.

Mr Smith said the idea was to expose Dr Rice to a wide range of the people of Perth.

"From academia, from business, leaders of religion. I thought it was a very good night and I thought that her speech about the power of education was a very, very powerful speech," he said.

"Just making the point that the most important thing you can do for a young kid, whether they're an Australian or an American, is give them a decent education. It sets them up for life."

Alan Carpenter said the visit showed the importance of Western Australia in international terms.

"It shows the power of personal relationships," he said.

"It shows how valuable it is for Western Australia to have Stephen Smith as a Foreign Affairs Minister, but also it does reflect, I think, our standing now.

"The West Australian community, the West Australian economy - our standing in world affairs. We shouldn't underestimate it."

The former federal Labor leader Kim Beazley - now with University of Western Australia's Political Science Department - said the visit had great significance.

"A few people have asked me questions about whether or not it's worthwhile having somebody at the end of a particular administration coming through," he said.

"One of the things about the United States, the Secretary of State is always important to the day they leave office. They are always being called in to trouble spots to engage.

"So for her to find a couple of days for us - [that's] pretty good."

Based on a report by David Weber for AM.

Tags: government-and-politics, foreign-affairs, australia, wa, perth-6000