Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 01:37 | SYDNEY
Thursday 26 Nov 2020 | 01:37 | SYDNEY

Keating and the 'Asian country' canard


Allan Gyngell

27 November 2007 07:53

In a recent blog post about Australia's election, FT foreign affairs columnist Gideon Rachman replays the old canard that Howard’s predecessor, Paul Keating, 'had decided that Australia was an "Asian country"'. Note the authoritative quotation marks. I was Keating’s foreign policy adviser for most of his time as Prime Minister and a senior foreign policy official for the rest of period, and I can assure Rachman that Keating  never believed this, or said anything remotely like it. On the contrary, he is on the public record many times, including in one major speech televised to Asia, that 'Australia is not and can never be an Asian nation any more than we can — or want to be — European or North American or African. We can only be Australian and can only relate to our friends and neighbours as Australian.' 

I was interested to learn from Rachman that the source for a quote used by Samuel Huntington (that Australia's apparent determination to be Asian was being treated in the region with 'bemused tolerance') was in fact a Rachman column. As Keating wrote in his memoir Engagement, Huntington’s claim that future historians would see his government’s policies of engagement with Asia as a 'major marker in the decline of the West' was a reminder that 'there is nothing much about hyperbole that a politician can teach an academic in full flight.'

Howard has encountered similar claims that he tried to turn Australia into another American state.  They were just as dopey.

EDITOR'S NOTE: There's an exchange between Allan and Gideon Rachman on this issue in the comments section of Rachman's blog post.