Monday, September 22, 2008

The Left Hand... & the Right

It doesn't look as though the federal government's left hand knows what its right is doing:

On the one hand: "Deep within the recesses of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, a highly sensitive log is steadily being compiled. It is a secret database of every contact, every communication between Australian diplomats, ministers or other officials and representatives of foreign governments over a 4-year period. Not unlike the privacy diary of a lovelorn teenager, recording kisses or rebuffs from those he would court, it catalogues how other countries feel about Australia. More specifically, it records where 191 countries stand on Australia's bid to win a 2-year seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2013. The vote will take place in 2012. Are they committed to Australia? If not, could they be persuaded to vote for us? Or are they a lost cause?... Despite all the plaudits for the Rudd Government's efforts [the indigenous apology, ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, increase in foreign aid, setting up an International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament etc], however, many UN experts believe it will not be enough. They say Rudd's decision to contest the 2013-14 seat is premature, and his government needs more time to convince the international community of its commitment to the UN. Dr Marianne Hanson, of the University of Queensland, says 'a lot of people aren't aware of how badly Australia's reputation has suffered in the UN and that, unfortunately, is a result of the Howard government's foreign policy'. Australia, says Hanson, is seen as too close to the US, and must defeat the perception that it is America's deputy sheriff without an independent foreign policy. This is particularly important if Australia is to win African and Middle Eastern votes." (UN mission is an uphill battle, Cynthia Banham, Sydney Morning Herald, 6/9/08)

On the other: "Kevin Rudd made perhaps the most important speech of his prime ministership to the RSL national congress in Townsville on Tuesday... Two things about the speech stand out in terms of force structure. Rudd wants an army, not just a special forces unit, that can fight a war if it has to, not merely conduct peacekeeping operations. And the commitment to defending Australia's sea lanes of communication, because of our dependence on trade, is a very long distance indeed from the traditional continental-defence-of-Australia school with which Labor was once associated. Australia's key sea lanes of communication are through the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia and through the Straits of Hormuz in the Middle East. It is absolutely inconceivable that any Australian navy, no matter how much it was expanded, could conduct operations in those waters on its own. Therefore Rudd is talking about defence of Australia's sea lanes of communication in coalition with the US, the world's dominant naval power." (PM seeks balanced military, Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, The Australian 13/9/08)

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