Sunday, October 12, 2014

Member comments: stay focused on East Asia, not Middle East

By  Peter Dawson

"When media refer to Tony Abbott and ‘other world leaders’ in the context of the events in Ukraine and the Middle East, Australian breasts may swell with pride but could we be fooling ourselves. One of Abbott’s better slogans has been ‘more Jakarta and less Geneva’ but we are now committing resources to these faraway conflicts which, according to some of our best informed commentators, we should approach with caution. Importantly we divert intellectual and policy effort from our own region to these highly complex conflicts which we struggle to understand.   

"Australia has significant expertise in regard to the countries of the East Asian region and especially in regard to South East Asia. These countries are also self-evidently of the most immediate strategic importance to us. The emerging tensions in the region need no emphasis but it will be critically important that we read them correctly and respond appropriately.  The real ‘elephant in the room’ is the aforesaid ‘Jakarta’.  Here we have a new administration under a President who has no experience of or with Australia.  He also has no foreign policy background so will, presumably, rely on advice. His panel of transition advisors is mixed but not particularly reassuring from an Australian viewpoint. How are we handling the development of this relationship which in every sense is far more important than those with either the Ukraine or Iraq?"

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