Will re-elected Labor Party stabilize Australia's foreign policy?

13:11, September 08, 2010      

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Seventeen days after voters went to the polls, Australia's election result is finally in Labor's victory, though, does not bring much clarity and stability on Australia's future foreign policy.

The focus of the election campaign has been on domestic issues, especially concerning government services to rural and regional Australia. Foreign policy was rarely discussed as a major point during the campaign.

"The advent of minority government could mean Australia becoming a diplomatic backwater, as domestic politics would require more hands-on management,"Professor John Warhurst, from the school of Political Science and International Relations at the Australian National University, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Although foreign policy seems to share marginal impacts in the next term of government, Dr Graeme Orr, electoral law expert of University of Queensland, and the author of a new book "The Law of Politics", believed that the policy will change as the Labor- Greens alliance is to be an element of a new Labor government.

"The Labor relationship with the emerging Greens block may however soften policy in a few areas, such as treatment of asylum seekers,"Orr told Xinhua.

The Labor-Greens alliance signed last week allowed Greens become a genuine third force in Australian politics, which holds significant balance of power in Parliament. "On issue after issue, Labor is, as it was, from Venus and the Greens are from Mars,"senior international affairs analyst of The Australian newspaper, Russel Trood said on Monday.

"And in case it has escaped the independents' attention, the divergence in Greens and Labor ideas on foreign and defense policy is as great as in any area."

The divergences between the two parties, would introduce instability into the conduct of Australia's foreign policy, and compromise the nation's ability to act as a constructive actor in international affairs.

On Australia's commitment to Afghanistan, the Greens demand an immediate withdrawal of Australian forces from Afghanistan, while Labor has nevertheless sustained the force commitment during its period of office, and it intends to continue the policy.

"In the end there is a profoundly troubling problem with the Greens and foreign policy: more is owed to ideological conviction and idealistic purity than to the rational pursuit of the national interest,"Trood said.

"Their policies would only ensure that Australia's international voice is marginalized and some of our most important international relationships sacrificed.

"This is the risk to which Australia is now exposed. With the formation of the alliance, Greens ideology is about to become a powerful and malign influence on Labor foreign policy."

On the other hand, Australia's proposed mining tax remains in doubt due to the new hung parliament form that forces Labor to share power with Greens and independents MP in Parliament.

Greens want a higher mining tax, while the independents from regional Australia, as well as the Coalition pushed for the mining tax to be scrapped.

Economic analyst Andrew Peaple said that uncertainty over the tax will be hurt foreign investment, because it will not satisfy foreign investors, as well as businesses that want to make commitments based on a longer-term tax regime.

Although the unsorted mining tax to hurt Australia's investment market, analysts believed that a re-elected Labor government will enforce the nation's relationship with China.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised ousted leader Kevin Rudd a senior role in cabinet if the Labor wins the election; and it is widely speculated that Rudd will be foreign minister.

The mandarin speaking Rudd, who made 16 overseas visits, and had raised Australia's international profile during his first year of prime minister sees Australia's relationship with China as an important issue in the bilateral relationship.

According to senior political expert of Monash University Dr Zareh Ghazarian, Labor forming government will continue to build on their previous term in government. In particular, as in the past, there will be emphasis on building cultural, economic and defense ties with regional countries, especially with China.

"Indeed, the major parties in Australia have signaled their desire to build closer links with China and I would expect the new government to continue on this path,"Dr Zareh Ghazarian told Xinhua recently in an exclusive interview.

Source: Xinhua


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