Issues in Australian Foreign Policy: July to December 2004
By the end of 2004, John Howard and his Coalition Government had emerged unequivocally victorious over the Labor opposition. From July 2005, the government will control the Senate and its increased margin in the House of Representatives will make it difficult for Labor to take government at the next election, due in 2007. Pilloried as a foreign policy dilettante in his first term of government, the subject of extensive criticism at home and abroad, particularly in Asia, Howard has placed his imprimatur on Australian foreign policy. The Hawke/Keating/Evans legacy of foreign policy has been well and truly erased by Howard and Downer. Support for multilateralism has been replaced unequivocally by bilateralism and an independent foreign policy within the US alliance has been replaced by slavish devotion to US security aims. Through the Australia/US Free Trade Agreement and a series of other bilateral trade deals, the Howard Government has shifted the direction of trade policy. Terrorism now dominates Australia's foreign policy and has huge implications for Australian law. But perhaps most surprising has been Howard's acceptance in Asia (at least for now) despite a myriad of mistakes and domestic electioneering. The commitment in January 2005 of a billion dollars to aid the Indonesian victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami generated widespread support both at home and in the region. Never one to lose himself in hubris, as was the case with his Labor predecessor, Howard has succeeded where Keating failed. No doubt Labor's efforts in the 1980s and 1990s were important for allowing room for Howard's mistakes in Asia, but the irony must be delicious for Howard, Downer and the Coalition: the affectionate, doting, even obsessed Asiaphile losing out to the US-enamoured, hard-to-get Anglophile.
Australian Journal of Politics and History
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