The Guardian August 9, 2000


Editorial:
A very mixed bag

As the possible alternative government when next year's elections take 
place, the decisions of the recent Labor Party National Conference on major 
issues are of importance.

The Conference set out foreign policy issues in a document of over 20 
pages. On several issues the policy document bears the unmistakable imprint 
of Laurie Brereton, the ALP's Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. This is 
apparent on the question of East Timor, where the ALP has changed its 
attitude from the Whitlam and Hawke/Keating years during which the Labor 
Governments' policy was "all the way with the Suharto regime".  Now the 
Labor Party recognises the independence of East Timor and the necessity to 
renegotiate the Timor Gap Treaty.

Brereton's vocal opposition to the US National Missile Defence (NMD) is 
also inscribed in the document. The NMD is described as "disproportionate, 
technically questionable and likely to be counter productive. It has the 
potential to undermine non-proliferation and derail world progress towards 
nuclear disarmament."

On the vital question of the use of Pine Gap by the US it says that 
"Australia should not support or be involved in NMD research, development 
or trials".

The policy statement is peppered with commitments to "peace and 
cooperation" among nations founded on "international justice" and our 
concern for "universal human rights" and "democratic processes".

So far so good. However, the statement has nothing to say about such basic 
foreign policy principles as non-interference in the international affairs 
of other states, the equality of states, the right of nations to 
independence and the right of peoples to choose whatever social system they 
want without interference.

The statement reaffirms the Labor Party's commitment to the US alliance. It 
says that the US is a "vital global partner". The ALP is "firmly committed 
to maintain and strengthen Australia's close relationship with the US". It 
claims that this relationship is founded "on common democratic values and a 
shared commitment to international security and justice."

The reality is different. The aim of the US rulers is world domination and 
this can no longer be disputed. That's what the NMD is all about. 
Furthermore, the US in the years since WW2 has been involved in more wars 
and actions to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries than 
any other country in the world. Being tied to the apron strings of the US 
will, and is already, resulting in Australia's increasing isolation from 
Asian countries.

Relations with Asia are given top billing but in a rather patronising way, 
the ALP says that it "strongly supports engaging and integrating China with 
the emerging Asia Pacific security community" as though China is not 
already deeply involved (to a much greater extent than is Australia) not 
only in Asian affairs but in global politics. China is a permanent member 
of the UN Security Council.

The ALP does not have anything to say about the key issue regarding China 
which is the recognition of "one China"  that is, the recognition that 
both Taiwan and Tibet are an integral part of the Chinese nation.

Relations with China are given only one paragraph but Tibet gets no less 
than five. The ALP statement makes it clear that it is in favour of Tibetan 
independence and claims that Tibet was an "independent nation prior to the 
Chinese invasion and occupation in 1949/50". Such a statement arises from 
an abysmal knowledge of history and is not true. It is refuted by no less a 
person than Gregory Clark, former officer of Australia's External Affairs 
Department in his book In Fear of China (Lansdowne Press, 1967). 

The ALP statement has to be judged not only on what it says but also on 
what it does not say and in this respect there are many holes through which 
a future ALP Government would be able to wriggle. Basically, the ALP will 
continue the same foreign policy that has been pursued by successive 
governments, both Labor and Liberal, which revolves around being the 
southern anchor of US policy in the Asia-Pacific region. It's a position 
that will become less and less comfortable as time goes on and actually 
undermines Australia's interests and security and could place Australia in 
considerable danger in the future.
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