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AUSTRALIA IN THE WORLD

Senator Robert Hill Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

22 June 1989

AUSTRALIA IN THE WDWT.n

Introductory comments by the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, to the Federal Council of the Liberal Party, Hilton Hotel, Sydney, 22 June 1989.

History will not look kindly upon the record and achievements of the Hawke Labor Government in Australia's international relations.

It will be remembered as the period in which Australia failed to recognise the changing aspirations of the small Pacific states and lost touch; as the period in which the Foreign Minister sought to intervene diplomatically in Indochina without giving due recognition to the interests and sensitivities of the ASEAN

states; when Australia unilaterally cut aid to PNG soon after completing a bilateral agreement and the period during which the Foreign Minister's unfortunate personal views on regional leaders

were published, further damaging Australia's international standing.

It will be remembered as a period of government in which foreign policy goals and priorities were unclear. There remains little guide as to Australia's foreign policy priorities, the Foreign

Minister having attempted only one comprehensive foreign policy

statement - to Parliament in 1985 - a nuts and bolts statement

that made little mention of economic or trade considerations.

It will be recalled as the period in which the Government contributed little to the intellectual debate on Australia's place in the world and showed little appreciation of the very

dramatic changes that were occurring in the world; a period in which Australia's foreign policy was conducted on a "Fix It" basis, paralleling the Hawke Government's more recent

contribution to economic debate.

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And of course the latter part of the Hawke years will be

remembered as a period during which Australia's foreign policy mutated into a reflection of the personal relationship between Mr Hawke and other national leaders - a relationship often based more on emotionalism than rational consideration of global,

regional and national issues and priorities.

To appreciate Australia's place in the world one must understand, as the Liberal Party does, the changes taking place both in the international system and in our region.

In many ways the bi-polar world of the 1950s and 60s has been replaced by a multi-polar equation involving major world actors - the US, USSR, Europe (the EC), Japan, China and India - and the NICs emerging as a force in their own right.

Whilst the US is likely to remain a central actor, and reports of its "decline" have been exaggerated, the multi-polar balance which is emerging is likely to involve a more fluid pattern of relationships than were typical in the 1950s and 60s.

The time when Australia's national interests could be preserved and enhanced purely through being a "dependent ally" and complementing US policies is past.

In this situation, creative, independent thinking by Australia is not an "optional extra" to be added onto the Alliance framework but a fundamental necessity which must underpin a viable Alliance relationship with the US.

In other words, in our national interest, there is a need for a much more vigorous application of our foreign policy than in the past.

Our capacity to influence events is seriously inhibited by the economic crisis into which Australia has been led by Labor and

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the continued reduction in foreign aid no doubt at least in part related to the economic difficulties.

It has also been affected by a lack of judgement on the part of Labor's political leaders. Mr Hawke said a few hours after a meeting with Deng Xiaoping that it had indeed been "stimulating and moving in a sense to see this grand old man who has committed

his life to seeing the uplifting of his people".

The Liberal Party makes no apology for stressing the importance of the Alliance and particularly what Australia can contribute to the joint effort of safeguarding the principles and values that are shared and so important to us. ~

We believe the caution we have advocated in Australia's dealings with the two major communist states has been sadly vindicated by recent events in the PRC. The reasons for such caution differ from those which shaped attitudes during the Cold War - they

derive not only from the military strength of these regimes but their political and economic weakness.

A genuine question mark exists over the capacity of both the USSR and the PRC to successfully manage internal change (both

structural and political). The process of reform itself is therefore a major potential source of instability for both.

In fact we believe that the Hawke Government's policies towards the USSR and the PRC are based on overly optimistic scenarios. In the case of the PRC there was clearly not a willingness to accept

political change, and not surprisingly, as Communism and individual freedom have never hitherto been compatible.

Whilst the USSR (along with Poland and Hungary) seems to recognise the fact that economic reform cannot be maintained without political reform, and the Liberal Party will encourage these changes, we do recognise the fact that individual economic

freedom will eventually threaten the control of political power. How the USSR will address this inconsistency is yet to be seen.

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Whether it will be able to adapt its economic system to utilise advanced tecnnology, redevelop agriculture and meet consumer

demands and cope with the political ramifications of "Glasnost" and "Perestroika" is unclear. It is also unclear how it will handle the sensitive and potentially explosive nationalities issue.

Thus, our caution. And we recognise that the instability inherent in the two major semi-reformed Communist regimes can have an unpredictable (and potentially negative) influence on their foreign policies as the recent events in the PRC have

demonstrated. We further recognise that our region, the Asia-Pacific region, already contains areas of unresolved conflict (such as Cambodia, the Spratly and Paracel Islands, the Korean Peninsula and Japan's Northern Territories) and their

resolution can only be complicated by serious domestic instability of a major regional power such as the PRC.

Thus, the emphasis in "Future Directions" upon the importance of the Alliance, an alliance in a changing environment, and of Australia's growing responsibility. Thus also we reinforce the indissoluble link between foreign and defence policies. And we

recognise the inhibiting factor of a weak economy and poor trade

record under Labor upon our capacity to influence events abroad to our national objectives, indeed on the perceptions our neighbours have of us and on our very standing in the region.

Beyond the Alliance we have stressed our first responsibility is our own region.

Under a Peacock Government this region will be given its proper

priority not only in rhetoric but in substance. No Australian politician knows PNG better than Andrew Peacock. No Australian politician has had a longer involvement in the Pacific Basin

concept than Andrew Peacock, whose work in the 1970s contributed in part to the first Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference.

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Not a "new boy" like Mr Hawke who had a sudden conversion on the

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plane to Seoul, hijacking the work done over so many years by Australia, Japan, South Korea, the US and others as a "Hawke Initiative."

The Liberal Leader has in fact confirmed that in Government we will pursue closer and deeper economic links within the Asian-Pacific region are self evident.

Last week I successfully moved for a Parliamentary inquiry to look at Asia-Pacific Regional Economic Cooperation to provide Parliamentary input into this complex but important concept.

Within the South Pacific we must rebuild Australia's relationship with the small Pacific states. We must understand their aspirations. It is important that they again have confidence in us.

In Asia it is time we added substance to the relationships. Governments cannot dictate private investment patterns but it is noticeable that Australian investment in Asia has not met levels in traditional markets. Ultimately, political interaction in Asia needs to be accompanied by concrete economic interaction as much as possible.

Trade development, cultural and educational exchange, greater teaching of Asian history and culture (not just languagef the

focus of some recent Government efforts and even then

unsuccessfully) carefully targetted developmental aid, support for regional organisations, defence cooperation and astute diplomacy can all play a part in building Australia's

understanding of the region and our respect within the region. The benefit will be to our long term political and economic

advantage.

This short address has sought to concentrate on two priorities,

the first being our contribution to the Western Alliance, the

increased responsibility that we are going to have to accept and the ongoing importance of the Alliance in safeguarding

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fundamantal freedoms. The second is to set the priority of our contribution and responsibility within our own region and the importance of trade.

Andrew Peacock referred yesterday to the goal of an Australia as "one of the great trading nations of the 21st century". We have talked at this Council a lot about reform of the domestic economy to be more efficient and competitive. Australia must also be more economically outward looking and foreign policy more effectively used to promote trade opportunities.

It has not been possible in these brief comments to look at the many other issues of foreign policy, some long standing and some new.

Two exceptions must be made.

The first is China. We have been horrified by the violent suppression of the pro-democracy movement in China and the continuing purge. We have been disappointed that the Australian Government has not responded as positively as other western

nations and in particular has not sought to be part of an

international coordinated protest. Chinese students died for the freedoms we regard as fundamental and in such circumstances a letter of protest by the Australian Prime Minister to the Chinese

Premier is a feeble response.

The second exception is Papua New Guinea. Australia does have a special relationship with Papua New Guinea and the Liberal Party does recognise not only the achievements of PNG, but the particular difficulties it is presently facing. We would seek to do all that we can to assist PNG in its further political and economic development, not in any paternalistic sense and not in

any way wishing to meddle in internal matters but in a spirit of

true friendship.