Richard Woolcott. The burning question – should Australia do more on the South China Sea?

My clear response is ‘No!’

China, as a major trading nation, now has the same rights as the US to protect its maritime and air approaches to its mainland.  Australia should avoid provocative statements and actions at sea or in the air.

When we talk about the need to support ‘a rules-based global order’, we overlook the fact that this order was framed mainly by the US after World War II.

The world has changed greatly over the last 50 years and rising countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Brazil will want to be involved in reshaping an updated international and regional order.  We should be involved in cooperative discussions with the US, the above five and all countries in the Asian region.

The Australian Government and the ALP – and the factions in both major parties – need to acknowledge this or Australia will be left behind.

Richard Woolcott was Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and the Phillipines and the High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ghana and Singapore. He was the Australian Ambassador to the UN and President of the UN Security Council. He was Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1988 to 1992.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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