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Foreign policy: Howard's use by date « Previous | |Next »
January 5, 2004

Stephen Fitzgerald had an article in Saturday's Australian Financial Review (subscription required) on Australia's foreign policy, or rather on John Howard's 'all the way with the USA.' Fitzgerald says that:

"John Howard certainly has a grip on foreign policy and has imposed a discipline on his party. DFAT appears to support him. The media, with honourable exceptions is largely unquestioning. Polls suggest popular support. There's also what Richard Woolcott recently called an unhealthy detachment by Australians about whether they are being told the truth about foreign policy."

Fitzgerald argues that this personality-driven foreign policy of locking Australia into the Bush administration and its global projects is not locked into the long-term. He gives several reasons.

First, there is widespread disagreement with Howard's policies amongst the elite foreign policy community( political, bureaucratic, business, academic) who have the power and influence to make foreign policy. There is widespread dissent on issues such as, seaborn refugess, Iraq, Indonesia, Asia, the US, internationalism etc. even if the dissent within government and the bureaucracy is not being publicly aired.

Secondly, some of the disagreements are substantive not those of emphasis. A key one has to do with how deeply Australia should integrate with Pacific Asian region in the sense of being a part of Asia. This has to do with being inside the Asian tent to take advantage of a multilateral Asia and an Asian regional economic and trade community. It has to do with a hegemonic China in a multilateral region of enormous economic and political power. It also has to do with expanding our knowledge horizons to manage this regional reality and vastly increasing investment in Asia education, research, and Asia-skilled people.

The dividing line is that in the 21st century Australia's relationship with China is as equally important, if not more so, as our relationship as the US. In making the US the exclusive focus the Howard policy appears as illogical, eccentric and old fashioned.
I see that Mark Thirwell from the newly formed Lowy Institute supports the above line of argument: that the distribution of economic weight in the world economy is moving back towards Asia and that Australia woudl benefit from a policy of global re-orientation to China and Asia.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:43 AM | | Comments (1)


So the elite foreign policy community is "Not happy John!". These were the suckhole elites who continually advised against upsetting our 'recalcitrant with apologies' northern neighbours(eg turning a blind eye to atrocities in East Timor or listening politely to Mahatir's racist drivel)Sorry chaps if you don't like the bright glint in your eyes from the deputy sherriff's badge we're busy polishing in the Solomons.

Are the FP elites really wetting their pants that China is about to impose economic sanctions on us and withdraw its diplomats? Fair dinkum!Spare me their chardonnay fumes. It's beer and shooting straight for us blokes now amidst all those Tiger Economies.