The Foreign Policy White Paper begins to confront the disruption we currently face and recognises the various political, economic and strategic contributors to that disruption – something Labor has been describing for some time.
Labor thanks DFAT Secretary Frances Adamson, White Paper Taskforce Head Richard Maude and their staff for their work articulating Australia’s foreign policy through this White Paper.
The Foreign Policy White Paper correctly identifies the way in which economic power is being applied in our region and that this is a new dynamic with which we must deal.
It urges that we approach this period with confidence – as Labor has long asserted.
It focuses on the shape and stability of the regional order – we identified this as one of our four national interests in July reflecting the centrality of this to the nation going forward.
Australia is a trading nation. We rise and fall on what we are able to sell to the rest of the world. 1 in 5 jobs is linked to trade.
The White Paper makes it clear that the big economic and trade reforms of the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments have boosted the average Australian family income by $8,488 a year.
The White Paper also recognises there is rising scepticism about free trade around the world. It also recognises that Australian businesses are facing challenges dealing with non-tariff barriers in many countries. We look forward to seeing what the Government will do to address these important challenges.
It is reassuring to see the White Paper include a chapter on Climate Change but that rings hollow without domestic policies which will enable Australia to meet its international obligations.
The Paper’s reference to support for a “more resilient Pacific” also rings hollow in light of the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s massive aid cuts; as does increasing our soft power.
More than $11 billion has been cut from the aid budget since 2013, bringing it to the lowest levels as a percentage of GNI on record. These cuts did not spare our region, and send a very bad signal to our neighbours about our interest in, and leadership of this region.
The challenges outlined in this white paper are substantial. The interest Australia has in advocating and prosecuting those national interests are substantial.
It is unfortunate that such an important document has come at a time when the Government is deeply divided and unable to articulate a clear vision for the nation.
Labor urges the Government to put aside these divisions and chaos and to build on the Foreign Policy White Paper and set out a clear vision of Australia to our region, and the world.