Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 04:03 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 04:03 | SYDNEY

Rudd first big foreign policy speech


Sam Roggeveen


27 March 2008 07:30

With the proviso that I have only read the prepared text of Kevin Rudd’s speech and not the speech ‘as delivered’ (media coverage here; I will post a link to the speech when I can find one. UPDATE: Here it is), count me as underwhelmed by his remarks, delivered tonight in Sydney. Rudd himself builds the speech up as his first on foreign policy since becoming PM, and it comes on the eve of his 17-day overseas trip.

So it is surprising that the speech is so insubstantial. Rudd talks mainly about the challenges Australia faces and mentions a few ongoing negotiations, but he announces no new initiatives, and states some pretty obvious truths. Nor are there any ‘big ideas’ or attempts to weave Rudd’s foreign policy vision into a historical or philosophical context. Instead, it’s largely a rather bland commentary on the global economy. (I speak as a non-economist; the dismal scientists may find some gems in Rudd’s remarks.)

Rudd does talk about ‘creative middle power diplomacy’ and claims that ‘Australia’s voice has been too quiet for too long across the various councils of the world’. This is curious: there may be much to criticize about the Howard Government’s foreign policy, but was inactivity really its greatest sin? Perhaps Rudd was referring mainly to the UN, but if so, why so obliquely? And last, if Rudd wants to turn this perceived lack of activity around, how does he propose to do so while cutting the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s budget?