'Australia's foreign policy has been driven by a carefully defined sense of national interest, conducted with a realistic appreciation of the slope of our influence, focused and realistically selective in character and effective in achieving results and in building in to the process a positive image of Australia as a diplomatically active country, conducting a responsible foreign policy with imagination and energy.' Gareth Evans (Australian Foreign Minister) The nature of Australia's foreign policy has changed significantly since its initial beginning in the post-war period of 1945 to the 1990's. From Liberal to Labour Government which have governed Australia, the nature of foreign policy has been directed in various areas for many purposes. Australia's foreign policy since the post-war period of 1945 has seen as shift in connections between British Imperialism to that of growth in American influences. This shift in foreign relations has aided in growth and maturity of Australia as a country independent from its colonial shackles in seeking out alliances and trade agreements throughout Asia. With the change in nature of foreign policy over the years Australia has become a strong country with ties throughout the Pacific and Asia, linked by strong foreign relations.
The post-war period of 1945 of the Chifley government was a time of intense foreign relations activity for Australia, due mainly to the efforts of the Foreign Minister Dr. HG Evatt. Whilst simultaneously pledging his loyalty to Britain, the Empire and to the Western Alliance, Evatt was frequently abrasive in his criticism of the UK and US on many important issues. For the first time Australia was seen to project itself as a sovereign power, and Evatt was responsible for lifting the profile of Australia onto the world stage, in particular through the United Nations. 'Australian foreign policy under Evatt appeared to be reaching beyond the confines of national interests to an interest in international peace and the well-being of people throughout the world.' 'Australian foreign policy under Evatt had revealed a new level of maturity.' Evatt had realised that Australia could pursue an independent foreign policy directed to the maintenance of her own national interests. Such an independent foreign policy would require Australia to express view often different to those of her friends and allies.
It was his realization that Australia was destined to carry out more responsibilities in the Pacific area that lead to future endeavors with countries in the Asian region. Australia's response to the post-war world was an total identification with European and British recovery and to maintaining and extending major alliances including retaining the colonial presences, particularly British in the region. It also sought to protect the interests of smaller nations within the context of a vision of collective security under the auspices of the United Nations. Paramount in the eyes of the government of the time was the necessity to maintain Australia as a white European nation in the context of a very rapidly changing regional situations. In Russel Ward's view, 'Britain's inability to help in 1942 fractured the materially morally and politically dependant role Australia had so long accepted'. Events challenged Australians to think more realistically about their relationship with the rest of the world, particularly with their Asian neighbors.
They responded by assuming a greater degree of national self-awareness and responsibility for their own destinies. Those left of centre sought to build within the American alliance with a more self-confidential, independent foreign policies. Apart from the two or three years under 'Billy' Hughes at the end of WWI, Australia had never had a foreign policy of its own as distinct from self-appointed role of following Britain's lead in such matters. Australia's foreign policy shifted from its reliance on Britain as its protector, to dependence on the USA.
The USA was the only power with the resources to turn back the Japanese in the Pacific and a coincidence of overlapping interests in the Pacific after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ensured US involvement and protection for Australia. Australia now had to steer a course between its old traditional British Imperial linkages, and its new and seemingly more promising alliance with the US. Since the beginning of the 20 th century the USA, Germany and Japan had developed significant industrial capacities and competed with Britain for world market share. For a long time the Imperial system protected Britain from this competition through a system of trade preferences amongst the colonies and dominions of the Empire. The gradual decline of Britain as world power and the emergence of the USA, and later Japan as major world economic and military powers, forced Australia to re-organize its foreign policy thinking. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evatt pursued a far more positive, independent and enterprising foreign policy than had been seen before or was seen again until the re-election of Labor to power in 1972.
As Russel Ward infers Evatt did more for Australia's prestige and security than any other holder of that office before or since. When he was appointed in 1941 there seemed to be nothing to prevent a Japanese occupation of Australia. When he left office eight years later, firm and lasting bonds had been created with the United States. The principal tenant of Evatt's foreign policy was the 'Australia's voice must be heard'. By the end of the 1940's the conservatives led by Menzies returned to office following the federal election of December 1949 and remained in government for the next twenty-three years. Robert Menzies held little of Evatt's faith in the United Nations as the sole means of maintaining world peace.
In the view of Menzies, a nation like Australia should be interested, not in securing an independent voice for itself and other small powers but in acquiring' great and powerful friends', able and willing to support policies designed to further Australian interest. In particular Menzies saw Great Britain and the USA as being Australia's 'great and powerful friends'. In his own view, Menzies held a great reverence for the British parliamentary democracy. This idealism towards the British Imperial rule saw Australia as a home-base to Britain. These views and idealism's helped to fashion Menzies' mental outlook and explain his strong attachment to the British Commonwealth and to the British constitutional monarchy. According to him Australia should do all she could to strengthen Great Britain and hence the Commonwealth as a whole.
But he was only too aware of how two world wars had diminished much of the strength of Great Britain. The USA was now the greatest power in the Pacific. Therefore it was essential that Australia should maintain the closest and best possible relations with her and initiate and carry out Australian policies in the Pacific as far as possible in co-operation with her. Menzies' Minister for External Affair, PC Spender, out-lined the new Government's policy: '...
as far as possible, it is our objective to build up with the United States somewhat the same relationship as exists within the British Commonwealth... .' As the deepening Cold War pulled Australia even closer into the US-led Western Alliance, Menzies and Spender were more aware of the emergency of 'Cold War' conditions in the post-war world and were clearly willing to commit Australia to that power bloc of which the USA was the centre. Such a commitment on the part of Australia was clearly of an anti-communist nature. Communist revolutions had broken out in Indonesia and Malaya in 1948 while in 1949 Mao Tse-Tung had gain control in China. Menzies' government therefore pressed eagerly for some kind of Pacific security pact which would involve the USA.
The Menzies Government pursued such an aim with much vigour due to end of the wartime coalition of the USA and the USSR were at an end. (After WWII the United States largely took over Britain's role in the world. ) Australia recognised the change by signing a treaty with NZ and the US in 1951 in the ANZUS pact which bound the signatories to consult and aid each other in war time. 'Within the context of "Cold War' conditions operating within the Pacific area and Australian commitment to the side of the USA, some form of Pacific security pact involving Australia, New Zealand and the USA now became a practical reality.' The exclusion of Great Britain from the pact signified a change facts of power in the Pacific area. World War II had shown that Great Britain was simply unable to defend both herself and her former colonies simultaneously. The military power of the USA was now predominant in the Pacific.
The Australian government did not regard ANZUS as the complete and final answer to security in the Pacific. A coordinated effort by all Pacific countries was the means by which to oppose the spread of communism. Minister for External Affairs RG Casey, outlined the reasons for such a treaty, the 'great importance of Indo-china and Burma to the security of Malaya-and of South East Asia as a whole'. In 1954, the South East Asian Collective Defense Treaty was signed by Australia which also involved representatives from UK, NZ, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand and USA. The initial aim was embodied in a protocol which enabled member-states to join with the US in fighting communism in Indo-china.
Foreign relations with Asia during the Liberal government, had methodically changed. Since the end of World War II, Australia had at last come to terms with her Asiatic and Pacific environment. The post-war government in Australia realized that she would have to should increased responsibilities in the Pacific and Asiatic world and develop and maintain relations with the countries of this area. Post-war Asia completely differed to that of pre-war.
WWII had shown the initial supremacy of an Asiatic power Japan over the European powers, 'Thus whatever relations Australia was to develop with Asian countries could not be based on the old concept of 'white's uperiority'. Therefore, to a large extent SEATO defined in military terms, Australia's relations to Asiatic countries. But a purely military approach to the solutions of Asiatic problems was inadequate. The necessities of stability in economy and society were needed to be stabilized before political aid could be given. As a plan of economic aid and assistance to the underdeveloped countries of Asia, the Columbo Plan was instigated by Minister for Foreign Affairs Spender in July 1951. With the main purpose to help improve the under-developed countries in South and South-East Asia, in Russel Ward's view, 'the Columbo Plan benefited Australia by helping significantly break down the racist sentiment which still sustained the White Australia Policy.' The Menzies government spent $117, 283, 488 on scholarships to give Asian students professional and technical skills at Australian universities, teacher's training colleges and technical schools.
'Australian post-war government still retained what was the 'White Australia' policy towards immigration with an increasing degree of flexibility which endeavored to avoid giving offence to sensitive Asian governments and peoples.' Australian relations with Japan have undergone considerable readjustment since World War II. The Japanese conquest of Singapore shattered Australian self-confidence and forces Australia to face the painful realization that British naval power was no longer the pivot of Australian security. The Menzies government whose view of a strong peace treaty to keep Japan in check, discovered that a 'tough' peace treaty was not a possibility. The development of the 'Cold War' conditions in Asia and the outbreak of the Korean war lead to the USA reassessing the role of Japan in the post-war world. Japan was to be built up as an effective counter-balance to the spread of communism in Asia. 'The Australian government thus had to adjust its policy realistically to these changed circumstances, obtain the guarantee of the USA for Australian security through the ANZUS pact and consciously build up friendly relations with post-war Japan'.
The most significant means of improving the relations between Australia and Japan has been the increased trade between the two countries. In July 1957, the Australian Minister for Trade, John McEwen visited Japan to complete negotiations for a Trade Agreement. Such an agreement was considered by many to be the most significant development in Australian-Japanese relations since the end of the war. Gerard Henderson's article 'Trade winds of change' rightly alludes to effect of the trade agreement on Australia. 'There is no doubt that the Australia-Japan Trade Agreement in itself did much to heal the wartime wounds. In 1957, Japan was already Australia's second largest market.
But the agreement, which was negotiated for Australia by John McEwen, contained benefits for both nations. Australia would no longer discriminate against Japanese imports. In return Japan agreed not to impose a duty on Australian wool and to provide freer access to certain specified agricultural products. McEwen and his advisers understood the importance of trade between Australia and Japan.
Robert Menzies and External Foreign Affairs Minister Casey, shared the United States view that it was vital to have Japan on-side, rather that off-side during the Cold War.' Australia's foreign relationships with China differed to that between her and Japan. In the immediate post-war period diplomatic representations between Australia and China had been maintained at a high level with both countries raising their diplomatic missions to the levels of embassies. Even after the success of the Chinese Communists in 1949, Australia still wished to establish relations with the new Communist government. Chinese intervention in the Korean War and the development of 'Cold War' conditions in South East Asia led to dissipation of all diplomatic relations between Australia and the Chinese Communist Government. Although recognition of relations on a commercial basis led to a renewed relationship with China. Australia rejoined relations with China on a commercial purpose despite strong objections from the USA, Australia sold to China not only wool but also large quantities of wheat.
The end of the conservative era in Australia signaled the beginning of a transition to a more questioning Australian foreign policy approach. The incoming Whitlam government moved quickly to 'shake some of the cobwebs out of the foreign policy establishment'. Remaining Australian troops were immediately pulled out of Vietnam and 'Red' China was recognized diplomatically. Whitlam in his speech in 1972 dictates the direction to which Australia's foreign policy would take: 'The change of government provides a new opportunity for us to reassess the whole range of Australian foreign policies...
Our thinking is towards a more independent Australia... an Australia which will enjoy a growing standing as a distinctive, tolerant, cooperative and well-regarded nation, not only in the Asia and Pacific region, but in the world'. Despite a more 'radical' leftist rhetoric, the Whitlam government remained completely committed to the American alliance and differences in foreign policy with their conservative opponents were ultimately more of style than of substance. He stated that Australia's foreign policy would continue to be directed at maintaining the nation's security and integrity, but new initiatives would be pursued.
As a major step towards attaining more friendly relations with Asian powers, the Whitlam government sought to reduce Australia's commitment to alliances and military groupings which identified particular nations at potential enemies on the theory that such arrangements generated enmities and suspicion. Although the Whitlam government aimed to diminish the sense of automatic obedience to the will of the protector-USA- and desired also to decrease the militarist aspects of former Australian commitment, it nevertheless placed great value on the maintenance of the ANZUS pact. 'The maintenance of our alliance with the United States under ANZUS remains most important for out security, since by its very nature it has created the guarantees in the Pacific... to pursue political, economic and social goals without fear of hostile intervention or attack'. The Whitlam government merely accelerated the pace of change within Australia's foreign policy, change that the conservative governments of the late 1960's and early 1970's were politically unable to make. The conservative government that followed after the Whitlam government continued on with this more independent foreign policy style, 'adopting many which conservatives had criticized when they had be advocated by the Whitlam government'.
The Fraser Liberal Government in its foreign policy endeavors sought to 're-establish a warmth in American-Australian relations'. Fraser and his minister for Foreign Affairs Andrew Peacock made strong efforts to clarify their intention to cooperate with the USA and clearly aligned themselves with US President Jimmy Carter's 'human right's policy'. Mr Peacock declared that the relationship with the USA was 'founded on the shared values and aspirations of the American and Australian people'. The Fraser government also displayed its intention to sustain a strong working relationship with Asian nations. Malcolm Fraser went to great lengths to demonstrate his continuance of Whitlam's detente with China, his visit to the communist country was a confirm ment of this commitment. The government also actively promoted co-operation with ASEAN.
Mr. Peacock described the Association as 'an example of the best sort of practical regional self-help and co-operation.' Australia's foreign policy in South East Asia was inextricable tied to ASEAN which was formed in 1967. 'ASEAN is an example of an regional association whose effectiveness has grown steadily, largely because it has gradually expanded its role according to need rather than be definition.' The ASEAN group developed the potential to be a very influential force in Asia and the Pacific, its importance can be judged by the fact that the ASEAN nations now constitute Australia's second biggest export market, ranking only behind Japan and ahead of the European Community and the USA. A recent development, stemming from the effectiveness of ASEAN is APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Council). Launched in 1989 at Seoul, on the initiative of the Australian delegation. To an even greater extent than ASEAN, the membership of APEC bridges ideological differences and brings together nations that were formally antagonists.
The fifteen members of APEC are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and the USA. The Fraser government's direction of foreign policy differed in some aspects to that of the earlier and later governments. Fraser during his time in office was adamant in his anti-apartheid stance in which he sought to ban certain racial groups from entering Australian. The Hawke-Keating government (1983-1996) saw the further development of multi-lateralis t approach in Australia's foreign policy, and an activist role for Australian foreign ministers, first under Bill Hayden and then under Gareth Evans.
Hayden worked assiduously to cement positive relationships and to facilitate trade, commerce and investment between Australia and its Asian neighbors. On the other hand, Evans stressed that Australia's foreign policy was directed to pursing its own interests with maximum effectiveness, but in a way that would make a positive contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world. Australia's two major assets were said to be its status as a 'middle power' with a capacity to exert effective influence and along-side south-east Asia on the Pacific rim. Evans was a fervent advocate of the policy of 'enmeshment' with Asian nations: the process by which the trade, investment and commercial relationships between any two given nations become so inter-dependent. Great political and economic changes occurred in the international system during this period, the rise of Japan as a rival to the US in the economic realm, the emergence of East Asia as a world economic powerhouse and the demise of the Soviet Union and subsequent ending of the Cold War, in which the US emerged as the world's sole superpower. Although the Australia-US alliance remained important to Australia, a new foreign policy approach was needed.
Before Evans, the interpretation of Australian foreign policy was though the lens of dependency upon the US, mainly though the central institution of the ANZUS alliance. From the mid-80's Australian foreign policy emphasis increasingly shifted to multi-lateralis m and coalition-building within international relations and collective security within a region alist setting. Australia identified itself as a 'middle power' capable of acting as an honest broker on the international stage. Australia began to more view itself as one of a group of states with liberal-democratic traditions which could act in concert to influence the larger powers, recognizing the limits of a 'middle-power's tate acting unilaterally. Nevertheless, the familiar pattern of reliance upon a great protector remains. For all the rhetoric of 'closer engagement with Asia', the US remains the central factor in the actual execution of Australian foreign policy.
For all the treaties with the countries of South East Asia, most Australians would know that should Australia call for assistance in the time of need, such assistance will not come from within the region. Australia's 'Near North' will remain an area of instability for some decades to come and the sources of most security threats to Australia. Despite Australia's high profile in the UN, this organization is slow to react and politically unreliable. Thus, despite seemingly radical changes in policy stances Australia will probably continue to pay its political dues the US in order to secure US military backing in time of threat. Hence, the nature of Australian foreign policy from 1945 to the 1990's has changed dramatically since Evatt's initial UN involvement which inextricably brought Australia into the limelight of the world stage to that of ongoing Asian foreign policy endeavors throughout the 1990's. A significant change in foreign policy nature from the post-war period to the 1990's has lead Australia to become powerful country with multi-national allies and trade agreements.
Both Liberal and Labor governments of Australia throughout the post-war period of 1945 to the 1990's have aided in creating a strong foreign policy for Australia, in which the country is symbolized for. 'Australia's foreign policy has been driven by a carefully defined sense of national interest, conducted with a realistic appreciation of the slope of our influence, focused and realistically selective in character and effective in achieving results and in building in to the process a positive image of Australia as a diplomatically active country, conducting a responsible foreign policy with imagination and energy,' Gareth Evans (Australian Foreign Minister.