Monday 29 Nov 2021 | 23:46 | SYDNEY
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Australians say our relationship with the UK is important, warm and grounded in history – but we’re not ‘best friends’

In the lead-up to an important new Dialogue between Australia and the United Kingdom, a new Lowy Institute poll has thrown fresh light on Australians’ attitudes towards the UK.

The Lowy Institute Australia-UK Poll has found more than 8 in 10 Australians see the relationship as important (with 28% saying it is ‘very important’). 

However, when asked to choose Australia’s ‘best friend’ from a list of six countries around the world, the UK ranks third in popularity behind the United States and New Zealand, with around a third (35%) of Australians saying the United States is ‘Australia’s best friend’, and almost a third (32%) nominating New Zealand as Australia’s best friend.

It seems that Australians feel closer to these other English-speaking nations than to their neighbours in Asia. When Australians are asked to choose our country’s ‘best friend’ from a list of six countries around the world, the United States, New Zealand and the UK rank well above China, Indonesia and Japan, with only 11% choosing any of these last three nations as Australia’s ‘best friend’.

Australians’ warmth towards the United Kingdom has been a consistent feature of Lowy Institute polling, with the UK scoring a warm 77 degrees on our ‘thermometer’ of feelings towards other countries of the world in 2013. However, it is not the UK’s economic and strategic power which underpins the value Australians place on the relationship.

When those who see the relationship as important are asked why, two-thirds say it is because of the ‘strong historical and cultural ties between the two countries’. Only 26% say it is because the UK is still a major economic and strategic power. Neither is it all about cricket, however. The ‘great sporting rivalry between the two countries’ is seen by only 5% of Australians as the reason they think the relationship between the UK and Australia is important.

‘This is a good time for our two nations to focus on our relationship and our shared interests in Asia and beyond. The United Kingdom is an important international actor and a fellow member of the G20 and the UN Security Council’, said Lowy Institute Executive Director Dr Michael Fullilove.

‘The Lowy Institute is delighted to partner with The Ditchley Foundation to convene the first Australia-UK Asia Dialogue, with the support of the Australian and UK governments. Our aim is strengthen our countries’ efforts to engage with the region that is becoming the world's economic and strategic centre of gravity’, said Dr Fullilove.

Ditchley Foundation Director Sir John Holmes said ‘We are excited that Ditchley is hosting this important new initiative to strengthen links and cooperation over Asia. Both countries have plenty of expertise, but we come at the issues from different geographic angles. We aim to bring these complementary views together much more systematically’.

This new annual Asia Dialogue was announced by the Australian Foreign Minister and the British Foreign Secretary at the Australia-UK Ministerial (AUKMIN) meeting in March.

The first round will be held at Ditchley Park in Oxfordshire, UK from 16-18 June, and will bring together experts and policy officials from the two countries to share perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in Asia, across strategy, economics and diplomacy. The dialogue will provide policy recommendations to the Australian and UK governments on steps they can take to advance their national interests in a changing Asia. 

The Lowy Institute Australia-UK Poll reports the results of a nationally-representative telephone survey of 1,207 respondents aged 18 years and over conducted by Newspoll between 2-4 May 2014.  The approximate error margin for the poll is +/- 2.8%