Monday 26 Sep 2022 | 04:44 | SYDNEY
Monday 26 Sep 2022 | 04:44 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Rudd\ honourable failure

6 January 2011 09:05

Andrew Carr, a PhD student at the University of Canberra, writes:

What seems to have emerged out of the Asia-Pacific community (APc) debate is that, while few countries wanted Rudd's new institution, there is strong support for his 'vision' of greater US engagement and reform of the region's forums. As Aaron Connelly rightly argues, we've moved closer towards this goal thanks to Rudd's efforts.

Only you probably wouldn't know it in Australia. While foreign policy watchers have many valid critiques of Rudd's approach, we should not forget to welcome the former Prime Minister's attempt. Otherwise the message Australia's political class will take from Rudd's failure is that there is little to gain for being interested in foreign policy. Rudd's overseas travel was frequently mocked, and his critics heavy with their pessimism for any initiative. Yet Australian foreign policy is littered with examples of bold and innovative policy-making benefiting the national interest (from Evatt at the UN, Hawke's APEC or Howard's Bali Process).

Gareth Evans recently said that Australia should 'declare victory and go home' on the APc idea. Domestically at least, it's a good idea. If we want to avoid another foreign-policy-free election as we saw in 2010, there needs to be more respect for politicians who pay attention to foreign policy. In the US, a strong foreign policy focus is a necessity to rise politically; here it is a burden.

Many lessons in organisation and implementation need to be learnt from Rudd's APc efforts, but as the 'odd man in' of the region, Australia has the independence to push for controversial ideas without risking much harm to its position or reputation (none seems to have arisen from the APc). Graeme Dobell’s post was aptly titled; it was a failure, but an honourable one.