Thursday 1 March 2007


Kevin Rudd's foreign policy views are very persuasive. He's overlooked one issue though.

Kevin Rudd’s willingness to sit by the computer and put some substance to the soundbites is a welcome development. His piece on Christianity and politics in The Monthly was a good read that ruffled the Abbott feathers no end.

His latest foray in The Diplomat magazine is another good read.

Rudd accuses the Howard government of being driven by political battles and lax on policy. He writes “ history will record the Howard government as one of the laziest governments since Joe Lyons was prime minister in the 1930s – a government of politics first and foremost and of policy last and least.”

Rudd then sets out to draw clear distinctions between the government and Labor on foreign policy issues. On the US alliance, he supports a strong alliance but one with a capacity for differences. On multilateralism – he laments Howard’s obsessive bilateralism and proposes a course of “middle power diplomacy” where Australian influence in international bodies such as the UN can be strengthened. On Asia he proposes a concerted push to make Australia an insider in regional groupings. He views the Pacific as a notable failure of the Howard government and proposes less paternalism and more investment in the development of educational, cultural and economic ties in addition to the current military and policing roles.

It’s a persuasive piece indeed.

But its failure to present a Labor view on the Middle East and especially Israel was remarkable. The Howard government’s lockstep position with the US administration in support for Israel has distinguished Australia from an international community that, whilst largely supportive of Israel’s right to exist, is increasingly uncomfortable with Israel’s actions.

How does Kevin Rudd view Australia’s position as one of the Israeli government’s most unquestioning allies? How does this position play out in the Middle East, with our most important neighbour Indonesia, and in our own Middle Eastern community? Does it accurately represent our democratic and human rights based traditions? Does it serve our security interests?

It would be hard to argue that these issues are not amongst the highest of Australia’s strategic priorities. Why then did Kevin Rudd’s lengthy piece not reference them?

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