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Smith confused and misleading on support for Rudd's Asia-Pacific union.

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The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 22 September 2008)

Comments by the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, that Mr Rudd’s proposal for a European Union-style Asia - Pacific are on track are just another example of how quickly this Government has lost touch with reality.

The Foreign Minister is clearly being disingenuous at best when he says he is 'pleased with the response' he has received in the region, said the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP.

"In the last month I have travelled right across the region including visits to Washington, Jakarta and Papua New Guinea. No one has raised this proposal with me and nobody in these countries know enough about it to discuss it when it is raised with them.

"Over the same period of time there have been negative comments made about Mr Rudd's proposal from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

"Since this proposal has been announced there has been embarrassing revelation after embarrassing revelation.

"India didn't even know anything about it until it was raised by the media. The US, New Zealand, Japan and Indonesia were not consulted before it was announced.

"And the Prime Minister backed out of a planned visit to South Korea - a country that would be pivotal to any new regional union.

"Foreign missions based in Canberra can't even get any detailed information on this proposal out of the Government.

"And the Prime Minister's chosen envoy was only told two hours before the announcement and there have been no staff or funds allocated to make it work.

"Then we have the ludicrous situation where Mr Rudd at first proposed a European Union for Asia but now back-tracks by saying it will be nothing like it!

"This would be a joke if it wasn't so serious. It reflects very poorly on Australia.

"On top of that, Mr Smith also seems confused about exactly what he is proposing by saying it could be either 'evolution or the creation of a new body'.

"This stands in sharp contrast to last weekend's comments by Mr Rudd that this proposal would be 'a modest evolution of what already exists' and 'centred institutionally on APEC'.

"This is no different to the Howard Government proposal to include India in APEC and aim for closer regional ties.

"The Government is spinning its wheels on so many policy areas, including the critical foreign affairs portfolio."