Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 07:08 | SYDNEY
Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 07:08 | SYDNEY

Rudd on right track, but with wrong vehicle


Rory Medcalf


23 June 2008 12:49

Geoff Barker claims (subscribers only) in today’s Australian Financial Review that criticisms of Prime Minister Rudd’s recent initiatives on Asia-Pacific regionalism and nuclear disarmament are all of a kind. He writes:

…it is also important to note that Rudd’s critics are offering only counsels of despair on regional security and disarmament. Assuming the posture of hard-headed realists, they are saying it is futile to try to improve regional security co-operation and to try to strengthen and preserve the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Perhaps Geoff doesn’t read The Interpreter as assiduously as its contributors would like him to.  In a series of recent posts, a range of Lowy Institute and other analysts and commentators have sought to criticise the various Rudd announcements on disarmament and regional architecture, not by way of dismissing them or their ideals as futile but rather by constructively suggesting ways to pursue similar ends more effectively. For instance, on regional architecture, I have argued on this blog, and in Geoff’s newspaper, that much more could be done to utilise existing mechanisms such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. And in nuclear disarmament, the problem is not that the Rudd Government is finally focusing on the issue – that much is to be welcomed – but rather that yet another expert report may not be the best use of the very limited resources the government seems to be willing to throw at the problem.

The foreign and security policy debate in Australia is not a simplistic dichotomy of idealists who want to solve the world’s problems and realists ‘offering only counsels of despair’. If the Rudd Government is serious about wanting to see its ideals turned into reality, then it needs to be rigorous, strategic, credible and often less-than-flamboyant in the way it deploys its resources to that end. There’s not much point being on the right track with the wrong vehicle. Thankfully this is a problem it is not too late to fix.