Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 11:03 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 11:03 | SYDNEY

Turnbull leaves the reservation


Sam Roggeveen


12 October 2011 09:13

Last week I linked, without comment, to Malcolm Turnbull's speech at the LSE, called 'Same Bed, Different Dreams — Asia's Rise: A View from Australia'. It's been pointed out to me that Turnbull said something worthy of specific attention:

The best and most realistic strategic outcome for East Asia must be one in which the powers are in balance with each side effectively able to deny the domination of the other.

I'm not aware of any other senior politician, Liberal or Labor, saying anything like this. Kevin Rudd has in the past hinted at the inevitability of relative US decline, but he hasn't taken the subsequent step of endorsing a regional balance of power to compensate for that decline. More common is the tone taken in Prime Minister Gillard's Washington speech and Christopher Pyne's remarks in London, which either imply or (in Pyne's case) explicitly endorse a continuation of US primacy in the region.

What's missing from Turnbull's remarks is anything about how a balance of power would work. Without a political arrangement that lends the balance of power legitimacy, such a balance could merely create the instability we are trying to avoid. Still, for someone as senior as Turnbull to publicly confront the looming problem of Asia's power shift (to borrow a phrase) is encouraging.