CONFUSION over what to call Burma, or Myanmar, depending on who and where you are, seems to have surfaced once again. The PM changes back to the past with Burma directive.
The people of Myanmar like Myanmar
what are we talking about?
For decades, Australia's foreign service referred to the Southeast Asian nation as Burma, but after democratic reforms, the previous Labor government in 2012 changed all official references to the Union of Myanmar.
Now it's been confirmed the Abbott government quietly switched back to Burma in late 2013, as rumoured, when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website suddenly reverted to the old title.
Consistency seems to be lacking, though.
DFAT's country brief uses Burma, but the Smartraveller website opts for Burma followed by Myanmar in brackets.
Liberal Senator Helen Kroger appeared unimpressed that references to Myanmar remained at all, given the directive from the prime minister in November.
In particular, the eagle-eyed senator grilled DFAT officials at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday about Australia's top envoy being confusingly called the ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
"There was a directive from the prime minister in relation to this foreign policy matter," Ms Kroger told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.
"So you're saying that his word doesn't amount to anything?"
DFAT secretary Peter Varghese assured Senator Kroger his officials were "faithfully implementing" the prime minister's policy changes by the book.
Under the somewhat confusing guidelines, the government's policy is for diplomats and envoys to switch freely between Burma and Myanmar, depending on the circumstances.
When dealing with the government in Yangon or countries that prefer Myanmar, Australian officials follow suit.
But in domestic contexts or dealing with the US or UK, the older Burma title is adopted.
"Our ambassador to Myanmar would be our ambassador to Myanmar, because the country to which she is accredited is Myanmar, in the eyes of the government of Myanmar," Mr Varghese said.