Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Why Labor is the best choice on foreign, aid and trade policy at this election

Why Labor is the best choice on foreign, aid and trade policy at this election
Published 4 Sep 2013 

Senator Bob Carr is the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Earlier in the campaign, The Interpreter carried a piece from Shadow Foreign Minister Julie Bishop making the Coalition's case.

I debated Julie Bishop at the Lowy Institute recently. One thing is clear: under a Coalition government, Australia's foreign policy would lack sophistication, miss opportunities and fail to capitalise on the value Australia offers the region and the international community more generally.

It would fail to employ the creativity in its foreign policy a middle power like Australia needs. By Ms Bishop's own admission, under a Coalition government Australia's foreign policy would become retrospective. It would become inward looking. It would look to Menzies. Back to the Anglosphere, to use the Abbott formulation. A Coalition government's foreign policy would fail Australia.

Under this Government, Australia has rarely been as well positioned to deal with our biggest challenge: the rise of the Asia Pacific and our place in it. There is also continued global economic uncertainty and seemingly intractable trans-national challenges such as climate change, possible conflict over natural resources and human security.

For Labor's part, our record speaks eloquently. We've deepened our ties with Asia. We are now comfortable in Asia, ready to take charge of the opportunities the Asian Century offers us, such as a rising China, with which we are now a strategic partner. An emerging India which wants to harness with us the potential of our Indian Ocean partners. A vibrant South Korea, a middle power just like Australia, which sees us as a model for stability and prosperity. An increasingly resilient Japan, one of our largest trading partners and a critical security partner. And a stronger Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country. A country we have supported since 1947. A country the territorial integrity of which we respect and which we understand is fast becoming one of our most important security, trade and economic partners.

All among our closest partners. All sharing our desire for closer cooperation and integration. [fold]

We have recalibrated our relations with the Pacific. Neglected under the previous Coalition Government, our relationship with Papua New Guinea has matured. We now talk not in terms of an aid relationship, but economic partnership. We have been a champion of small island developing states. We, like them, understand environmental fragility.

Our ties with the US have never been stronger, more mature. It has been this Government's efforts that have contributed to US re-engagement in the region. This has built confidence, and, ultimately it means great stability and prosperity.

We have continued Australia's long tradition of being a first respondent in times of humanitarian crises: Syria, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel.

We have ensured our aid is effective. We have set benchmarks. We have lifted literacy and improved health for many suffering from the burden of extreme poverty. This has allowed millions, particularly women, to pursue economic opportunity and lift entire families out of poverty. We have plotted a sound position on the Middle East, because we know a two-state solution is the only option for peace.

And on trade, the only thing that Ms Bishop seems to be able to speak to, we are negotiating nine free trade agreements. Among them are China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

If this Government is re-elected, we will build on these achievements. We will continue to develop our already strong relationships in the Asia Pacific by advancing the commitments made in the Asian Century White Paper. We will seize the opportunities offered to us by our time on the UN Security Council and our membership of the G20. We will make multilateralism work for Australia. To strengthen the international economy. To address trans-national challenges head-on. To ensure continued regional stability and prosperity.

And we will continue to champion the habits of consultation. Where we can contribute to regional and international dialogue and action, we will. When the time comes to lead such dialogue and action, as we have in the past, we will.

Why? Because a Labor Government's foreign policy will always reflect a commitment to strengthen Australia's place in the world. It will always look to export our values, our talents and our experience in building peace, prosperity and pluralism.

You may also be interested in