Steady as she goes or wait and see? Some (mostly) non-Main Stream Media views of the Foreign Policy White Paper

The Foreign Policy White Paper would not have escaped most reasonably alert people’s notice, even as there began the cricketing equivalent of the Battle of Brisbane though, in that case, the Australians’ antagonists were Americans. (That battle was 75 years ago, pretty much precisely.)

Hugh White of the Australian National University did a quick analysis for Australian Foreign Affairs (though you need to be a subscriber), which presumably anticipates his just released Quarterly Essay. He draws our attention to Figure 2.4, which is about the size of the region’s economies.

In Guardian Australia, mainstream but a little quirky, overseas aid bureaucrat Tony Milne reckons the White Paper is stuck in strategic costiveness and eschews important issues.

Security gets 207 mentions, inequality gets 8. Trade gets 182 mentions, poverty 29. Terrorism gets 40 mentions, climate change 29 …

A nation blessed with abundant sun, land, waves and wind and with Pacific neighbours facing raising oceans should be leading the world on renewables and action on climate damage. A nation with the geographical advantage of China, India and Japan on our doorstep should be crafting a more independent foreign policy. The nation of the “fair go” ought to be championing reducing economic and gender inequality, including domestic policies and global pressure to ensure corporations pay fair taxes and living wages, wherever they operate.

A nation with aspirations to have a meaningful role in shaping the world for the better ought to be significantly increasing aid and ensuring that aid is used to advance the global sustainable development goals and tackle poverty.

Out of the main stream but notable for writers with lots of experience and knowledge, John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations blog offers pieces by Mack Williams, Allan Patience, and Bob Carr (previously in The Australian).

The 2017 White Paper displays, yet again [says Patience], Australia’s foreign policy complacency, its misplaced middle power imagining, and its awkward partnering in its region. It is a failure as a strategic map for advancing Australia’s security and prosperity in the “Indo-Pacific” region and the world.

The Conversation has Tony Walker and Susan Harris Rimmer. They take slightly different tacks, befitting analysis of a paper from an opaque land.

These disparate audiences usually mean careful phrasing [says Rimmer]. This white paper is a little different: it is certainly filled with the usual “risk … but opportunity” stock phrases, but at moments is also unusually blunt in tone and stark in its delineation of options.

For recent Honest History posts in this subject area, the best place to go is here and start scrolling down. Also look at Alison Broinwoski’s chapter in The Honest History Book.

David Stephens

27 November 2017 updated

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