Richard Broinowski writes in response to the interview we did with The Age's Dan Flitton:
I would take issue with both Dan Flitton's and Don Arthur's analogies about public perceptions and foreign policy. For informed Australian with long memories, the Liberal-conservative coalition was irresponsible in confecting a Communist menace in order to scare the electorate into voting for them in elections. It was Bob Menzies and Percy Spender who couldn't wait to join US forces in Korea to stop what they wrongly saw as Moscow-planned and directed North Korean forces from invading the South.
It was Menzies and Paul Hasluck who constructed spurious regional motives for the Chinese Communists — that Beijing was bent on regional conquest in South East Asia through its surrogates in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. The Liberals (assisted by the Democratic Labor Party) also invented the fallacious domino theory about the inevitable fall of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to Communist regimes once Saigon fell, leading inevitably to the fall of Australia.
Menzies' tactic was to punish Labor for being 'soft on Communism', and keeping Australians in fear so they would vote for him. And never a reflective moment of regret for policies that proved to be patently wrong.
For much of its post-war history, Labor, by contrast, had a more responsible approach to the formulation of Australian foreign policy, beginning with HV Evatt's pioneering work with a fledgling United Nations.
Gough Whitlam, with the electorate behind him, recognised China and brought the troops out of Vietnam. Hawke and Hayden had enlightened views about Vietnam and realised, unlike Fraser before them, that Hanoi had no intentions of remaining in Cambodia. Gareth Evans and Paul Keating developed responsible nuclear non-proliferation policies. Labor engineered post-Pol Pot elections in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, the ALP today is basically indistinguishable from the Coalition when it comes to foreign policy. There has been little if any criticism of Howard for sending Australian troops to participate in the illegal invasion of Iraq. Gillard unreservedly supports Israel and its policies on Palestine. Labor has 'maintained the course' in Afghanistan. Both parties are equally tough in a most unprincipled way on boat people. Gillard has welcomed US Marines to Darwin, no matter what signals this sends to Beijing.
If Labor loses the September elections, and everyone says it will, it will be because of the relentless denigration of Gillard* and her government in the media, rather than perceptions about the Coalition's more 'robust' or 'responsible' foreign policies.
* We received this riposte before the leadership change.