Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:47 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:47 | SYDNEY

Labor foreign policy: Change is our friend


Michael Fullilove


18 January 2008 08:28

Soon after the federal election last November, I heard whispers from Canberra (and, indeed, arguments from respected colleagues) that the change of government would not result in a change of foreign policy. I took issue with this view in an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald. For most of the period since, the country has been slumbering. We’ve been much more exercised by the cricket than by international policy (we’re only human, after all). But even during this diplomatic interregnum, it seems to me we’ve already seen a significant amount of change.

Canberra has told its key ally, Washington, that it is withdrawing combat troops from an important alliance undertaking, the Iraq war – a clear break from an Australian government position established five years ago and defended against all comers. Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol in a way that energised the Bali conference on climate change. We are now engaged in a high profile effort to limit the activities of the Japanese whaling fleet – not really a first-order issue, but a clear indication of the different values that will animate Australian foreign policy in the future. And the new Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has confirmed that Australia will not be exporting uranium to India any time soon. All this, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is only just back from leave this week. Just wait until the new PM — a foreign policy specialist ambitious to make his mark — hits his strides.

No, Australia’s international policy will alter significantly over the next few years. It will be good sport to watch how those commentators who were cheerleaders for the Howard Government’s policies respond to this shift. Some will denounce it, but my bet is that over time many will accommodate themselves to the new order.