The Guardian August 29, 2001


Off to see the sheriff

Prime Minister, John Howard is off to Washington in a week's time to pay 
his respects to President Bush. In advance of his visit, Howard made a 
comprehensive statement on his Government's foreign policy on August 22. It 
did not contain any surprises but is notable for what he did not 

He claimed that APEC, (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) is the "peak" 
organisation in the region while failing to even mention ASEAN which 
embraces 10 of our nearest neighbours. Howard has words to say about a 
number of countries but does not even mention India which is one of our 
near neighbours and an important state.

The question of refugees does not get a mention either although this issue 
has foreign policy implications. Although he has just met the newly 
appointed President of Indonesia he did not mention his discussion with 
Megawati Sukarnoputri. Nor did he have anything to say about the South 
Pacific Forum meeting that has just taken place.

The Prime Minister claims that previous Labor Governments adopted an 
"unbalanced" foreign policy that tilted too much towards Asia. Howard said 
that "a preoccupation with one particular region, at the expense of others 
was ill conceived ..." This is a distortion of the foreign policy of 
previous Labor Governments but it also covers up the fact that Howard's 
policies, far from being balanced, have given undeviating priority to 
relations with one country  the USA. That is why his earlier remark about 
being the "deputy sheriff" of the US accurately defines the actual position 
of Australia in world affairs. 

Howard is all for globalisation and free trade and berates those who have 
criticised and opposed policies that have had such a disastrous effect on 
the economies on many countries. Howard declared: "the self-styled 
champions of the poor and the marginalised, speak for no-one but 
themselves. They certainly do not speak for the world's developing 

The Third World countries have often enough spoken for themselves on these 
questions but Howard does not seem to have heard their protests.

Howard supports the NMD being prepared by the US and would have us believe 
in the nonsense about threats coming from "rogue states."

The Prime Minister supports the action of the US in bombing the Kyoto 
agreements on climate change, but tries to cover his dishonesty by saying 
that "the nations of the world must take action to reduce or mitigate their 
emissions of greenhouse gases". He repeats and covers the excuses of the US 
when he says that "developing and developed countries must be part of the 
solution. And it is self evident that the involvement of the US is 

But Howard's main interest seems to be the "increasing instability and 
unpredictability in our near Pacific neighbourhood. We have a substantial 
and special responsibility in the vast expanse of the South Pacific. We 
need to keep our alliances and key relationships in good order and, by 
doing so, have greater influence than if we acted alone", he said.

In plain language what he is saying amounts to an assertion that when we 
blow the deputy sheriff's whistle we are doing so on behalf of others as 

Howard made a number of references to Australia's military forces and the 
"need to have an armed force that has the capacity to defend us if 
necessary, and to act with others, in support of regional stability." And 
who are these "others", if not the US and a resurgent Japan?

Australia needs to be a good friend and neighbour to our neighbours as a 
top priority. As Asian countries become stronger they will, more and more, 
reject any tutelage by Australia or the US.This is already beginning to 
happen and it is for this reason that the Government is beefing up its 
military strength. It intends "together with others", to try and fashion 
the region as the big corporations would like it. The real name for this 
policy is "neo-colonialism".
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