RICHARD WOOLCOTT. In the general election, do you think the government’s and the ALP’s foreign policies are sound?

Jun 16, 2016

This was a question asked of me by the Australian Institute of International Affairs. My answer is ‘No’ for the following reasons.

Australian foreign ( and security ) policy should be much more balanced and
focused on strengthening  Australia’s international independent identity; showing
some understanding of Russia’s concerns about the U S (and our)attitudes to NATO
activities,the Ukraine and Crimea ; avoiding provocative comment and action on the
South China Sea claims ( understandably,China sees itself as reacting to US actions,
including its encouragement of Vietnamese,Malaysian and Philippine criticism of
China and support for their claims) ; and on the evolution of an Asia Pacific community,
as all countries share the need for a peaceful, stable and economically growing region.

I would want both the Coalition and the ALP leaderships to show REAL leadership,
rather than just respond to what they assess to be popular public attitudes.

On both sides there is a clear contradiction between good international citizenship
and national decency on the one hand ,and the present often cruel handling of asylum seekers, widely criticised overseas ,on the other. Again, this an opportunity for leaders to show real leadership .

Both sides should cease their excessive support for the TPP. It will not get through
the U S Congress now ,despite earlier U S pressure on Japan ( which agreed in the “containment of China “context ) and on major growing economies like India and Indonesia which will not join.

Richard Woolcott was formerly Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and several other countries. He was Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was also President of the UN Security Council.

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