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At last year’s conference, which focused on the oceans – ‘the blue zone’ – I spoke about the global commons – those domains in which the global community has shared interests.
In the ocean context I outlined three issues that, from a foreign policy perspective, demanded immediate attention if the global commons are to be protected and the interests of global citizens are to be advanced.
They were: fisheries, the exploitation of ocean and sea-bed resources, and climate change.
This year, we’ve moved from the seas to the skies.
But the principles remain the same. These are domains in which the international community has shared interest, but where interests can neither be effectively pursued nor achieved without international co-operation.
This insight is reflected in the existing international architecture of the space domain. The five treaties and five declarations and legal principles on space-related activities, developed through the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) all stress the principle that outer space itself, the activities carried out there, and whatever benefits may accrue from it, should have the objective of enhancing the well-being of all countries and humankind. It is a legal and normative framework which emphasises international co-operation.
The treatment of space is grounded in the understanding and acceptance that space is part of the global commons, and that it is open to all, for peaceful purposes.
Other speakers at this conference today will deal more specifically with the different elements of the space domain. But I’d like to focus on a couple of broader points.
In the 50 years since the Outer Space Treaty the domain has changed significantly. There are more actors, more reasons for space activities, more benefits, and more risks. And in recent years the global community has recognised there’s a need to strengthen the rules and norms of international behaviour in space to reflect these changes.
As the Secretary of DFAT, Frances Adamson, said in a speech last week we need rules and norms and standards in space to enable us to maximise the benefits while managing risks and tackling challenges – in areas such as safety, debris, traffic management, and sustainability.
In this regard we have a positive example of current Australian leadership outside of government: the team at the University of Adelaide leading the drafting of the manual on rules of military activities in space, to be known as the ‘Woomera Manual’ – clarifying and articulating existing international law applicable to military space operations. And, importantly, the team at the University of Adelaide is working in partnership with institutions from other countries, including the US Naval War College and Xiamen University in China.
Labor strongly supports the development of an Australian space industry as a national endeavour. To this end, last year we announced a Shorten Labor Government will invest over $51 million in an Australian Space Industry Plan. The establishment of the Australian Space Agency, which Labor welcomed, provides further opportunity for Australia to play a key role in leading international co-operative efforts.
This morning I would like to make a few remarks on why co-operation matters.
The four core interests that underpin the framing and delivery of Labor’s foreign policy are: the security of the nation and its people; the economic prosperity of the nation and its people; a stable, co-operative strategic system in our region anchored in the rule of law; and constructive internationalism.
Constructive internationalism is a fundamentally strategic concept. It’s an evolution of Gareth Evans’s ‘good international citizenship’ – of even more strategic value now as we seek to hedge against the consequences of disruption.
Constructive internationalism goes to the heart of Labor’s foreign policy and how we conceptualise Australia’s role in the world. Put simply, constructive internationalism is about working with others to achieve common benefit.
It reflects the insight I outlined earlier – that there are certain interests which can neither be effectively pursued nor achieved without international co-operation.
Whether it’s framed as ‘problems without passports’, or the global commons, or the need to generate global public goods – some challenges are inherently collective. They defy unilateral resolution.
And humanity cannot deal with these with any degree of success without co-operation.
Space is inherently a collective challenge and opportunity for humanity. But it is also a domain open to the increasing competition and rivalry which characterises current global dynamics.
There are three elements of constructive internationalism: principle, process and institutions.
First, as a matter of principle. Labor affirms the benefit of co-operation. Co-operation is not only an expression of our national interests. It is an expression of our values – values that we share with many members of the international community, values that have underpinned the norms and rules that have guided the international order for over seventy years.
By working co-operatively to resolve problems, we create critical international public goods – where we all draw benefit, even when the economic, environmental and security returns are different in kind and distribution. We see strength in agreeing and working towards shared purpose.
Put simply, we know we all do better when we work together.
But it also reflects the pragmatic observation I discussed earlier: that some issues – climate change, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, space, the oceans – require a collective response.
Outer space involves national security, civil, and commercial activities. Outer space involves state and private actors. Outer space is affected by rapid technological, industrial and geostrategic change. And its use will be critical to Australia’s national security and economic growth over the coming decades – as it will for many other countries. It requires both top-down multilateral treaties and bottom-up arrangements.
It is a complex, multi-faceted and multi-stakeholder issue that requires a collective response.
Second, constructive internationalism encompasses a commitment to collective and co-operative processes. We see this reflected in Labor’s tradition of multilateralism and regionalism: Evatt and the UN, Hawke and APEC, Rudd and the G20 – which was instrumental in the response to the Global Financial Crisis. This tradition is about forging groupings, associations and partnerships to act in the common good.
It’s about Australia acting practically, confidently, optimistically, and in coordination with our like-minded partners, to marshal our combined efforts to deliver effective, sustainable, and long-term action. It is a tradition which would be built upon and advanced by a Shorten Labor Government.
Third, Labor believes institutions matter. Indeed, the clearest example of constructive internationalism at work is strong, effective and inclusive international institutions. Strong institutions both protect and advance the values on which they are built.
Whilst there may be examples aplenty of institutions which fall short of the ideal, the counterfactual is a world without the frameworks nor forums for engagement and dispute resolution.
Without institutions we would likely see a more chaotic world. A world in which there is greater risk of conflict and escalation, and of hegemony. In such a world, outcomes would be more likely to exclusively reflect economic and strategic weight rather than compromise.
In a time of disruption and uncertainty, co-operation and multilateralism and institutions become even more important.
If countries close themselves off, turn inward and disengage from the world, the risks of misunderstanding, tension, rivalry and conflict rise.
So instead of talking about globalism versus patriotism, let’s talk about co-operation.
Let’s talk of working together to gain collective benefits. This is good for each of us, and good for all.
It’s a contribution Australia has historically made. And it’s one we must continue to make.
Australia has a direct interest in an open rules-based international order in which countries work together to resolve tensions and to tackle problems.
We have a direct interest in a global system in which those seeking to make or shape the rules do so through negotiation not imposition.
And we have a direct interest in being a co-operative and constructive actor – and playing a leadership role – on issues that affect us all.
In closing, I want to return to an issue that does affect us all. That affects all of humanity. That is, climate change.
This morning the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is releasing its special report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees.
Leaked drafts of the report indicate it will starkly and graphically outline the world we face: the prospect of exceeding a 1.5 degree temperature rise by 2040.
How old will you be in 2040?
How old will your children or grandchildren be?
And most importantly what do you want for them?
At 1.5 degrees we lose 70-90% of the world’s warm coral reefs (on top of loss to date). There will be more extreme hot days, and more extreme droughts.
At 1.5 degrees we will see the consequences of climate-related risks to our health, our livelihoods, our food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth.
This is a risk from which we cannot hide.
And the climate wars inside the Coalition cannot be allowed to hold this nation back any longer.
Let’s not say to the next generation that we failed to act simply because Tony Abbott liked a fight. Or because Malcolm Turnbull was too weak. Or because Scott Morrison hasn’t got a policy.
Australia can do our bit. At home and internationally.
And under a Shorten Labor government we will.
A Labor foreign policy will deal with the world as it is, but seek to change it for the better.
I commend this conference and the Perth USAsia Centre for its ongoing contribution to engagement and thinking on shared challenges facing the Indo-Pacific.
Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.