Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 17:07 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 17:07 | SYDNEY

PM must be mindful of symbolism

7 February 2012 18:30

Rawdon Dalrymple is a former Australian ambassador to Israel, Indonesia, the US and Japan.

At a time when the Government has announced its intention of taking steps to enhance our capacity to engage with Asia, and has appointed a task force to make recommendations, it is interesting to wonder what observers in Asia made of the Australian Prime Minister choosing the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce to give what the ABC described as an important address.

Why not one of the several institutes or organisations promoting our relations with regional countries which are increasingly important trade, political or defence partners of Australia?

Australia has from the beginning been a faithful supporter of Israel and that will continue. There are dimensions to Australia's relation with Israel which enhance its relevance to Australia; for example, the strong influence Israel has in Washington. But Israel ranks 46th as a trade partner of Australia and in terms of Australia's core interests, is obviously of far less importance than China, Indonesia, India or Japan, to mention just the largest of the regional countries with which we have to make our future.

Public gestures and symbolism are important in our foreign policy. The Prime Minister should seek opportunities to exploit these gestures and symbols to raise Australian community awareness of the importance of the region to our future, and to show the region that this is a government priority. That is vastly more important to our national interest than using the Prime Minister's office to raise the profile of Israel in Australia, where it is in any case never out of the news.

Photo by Flickr user ComSec.