Tuesday 05 Jul 2022 | 07:31 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 05 Jul 2022 | 07:31 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: An independent foreign policy

12 June 2012 09:18

David Lang writes:

When I think about the future of the United States in Asia, I become concerned with the myriad of challenges that Australia is likely to face. As has been eloquently explored across many public fora, the times they are a-changing. However, Daryl Morini's piece on Malcolm Fraser’s Gough Whitlam Oration was more distillation than discussion, and given the current stresses on the relationship between the US, Australia and China, the latter is of far greater value.

The relationship between the US and China will surely become the great power rivalry of the 21st century. With Australian security long having been guaranteed by our alliance with the US and Australian economic prosperity being underwritten by China, Australia will have to perform a masterful strategic balancing act to come out of these regional power shifts unscathed. Given the current policy directions, it seems unlikely.

What is concerning however is Australia’s inability to ensure that foreign policy is independent of outside pressures. While policy makers would appear to pursue independence in our aid and development activities through a purposeful focus on the Asia Pacific region, they have failed to ensure that our defence strategy remains at an arms length from the US. The ANZUS treaty was intended as a contingency plan for times of trouble, and though it has been largely symbolic, it has also come to be the cornerstone of both defence and foreign policy decision making. This is problematic for Australia in the Asian Century.

Almost forty years ago, Gough Whitlam offered his vision for Australian foreign policy:

"The change of government provides a new opportunity for us to reassess the whole range of Australian foreign policies and attitudes...Our thinking is towards a new independent Australian stance in international affairs, an Australia which will be less militarily orientated and not open to suggestions of racism; an Australia which will enjoy a growing standing as a distinctive, tolerant, cooperative and well-regarded nation, not only in the Asia and the Pacific region, but in the world at large".

Today, the Australian Government shapes the future of the region by strengthening the US alliance through enhanced military cooperation. Kissinger notes that countries which find themselves in the middle of struggling powers should avoid the pressure to privilege one relationship over the other. As the 2014 Defence White Paper is prepared, Australia must demonstrate to China that its foreign policy is developed in line with Australian interests — independently, rather than through the rubric of ANZUS and American influence.