Unspoken Realities: A Comment on the Howard Era

Recently Penny Wong was asked, What’s your vision of the best Australia can be, in the world?

She replied: I have a view that foreign policy is obviously an expression of the assertion and prosecution and protection of one’s national interests and values; it is also the expression of identity.

Referencing Gough Whitlam she continued stressing that it is: connected with and driven from who we are, and that is how we should think about our foreign policy. We are a vibrant multicultural dynamic nation we’re a nation that has at its best views about human rights and equality, we have a view about the world and the sort of world we want to live in. We have a view about the importance of nations working together. We are supporters of peace. We are supporters of shared prosperity. We are supporters of a world in which countries and peoples can be what they aspire to be. So, we need to bring that identity to our foreign policy.

I’m in broad agreement with Senator Wong and I accept that being this Australia is a multifaceted task. It involves projection of these values through initiatives in our direct political and economic diplomacy but also through soft diplomacy. The latter might involve cultural diplomacy, effective communications, the projection of our capacity as an educated nation, foreign aid, and assistance to our neighbors in times of crisis.

My story Unspoken Realities explores a time when, under the Howard government, Australia began to depart from such values, beginning a process that is most evident in our present foreign policy settings.


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