Both the Hawke and Keating Labor governments (1983-96) gave some attention to the development of Asia-Pacific "security regionalism" as a means of strengthening the regional focus in Australia's security policies. While the rhetoric has changed, in terms of substance the Howard coalition government has continued many of the policies of its predecessor. At the same time, this government has had to adjust to the changed circumstances in Indonesia, and particularly the crisis in East Timor. Papua New Guinea, especially Bougainville, has been a concern for both governments; new problems have also arisen in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The emphasis on security regionalism complements the continuing importance of Australia's security relationships with both the United States and New Zealand.
Since Australia's intervention in East Timor at the head of INTERFET (International Force East Timor) in September 1999, the relationship between Australia and Indonesia has been a difficult one. Previous assumptions of close co-operation between the two countries are no longer relevant. Australia receives criticism from many quarters in Indonesia for attempting to project itself too much into Indonesian affairs. Given Indonesia's size, this setback in Australian-Indonesian relations is even more significant than the criticisms Australia has faced from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia over several years. Mahathir has argued that Australia is not "Asian" in any sense and therefore its attempts to become more involved in Asian affairs should be resisted by Asian countries.
The situation since 1999 raises questions about the future of Australia's attempts to engage with the Asia-Pacific region. In this article, the emphasis is on the security aspects of engagement. From the late 1980s, Australia put considerable emphasis on engaging with the region through the means of "security regionalism", that is, various schemes for developing co-operative security relations with the Asia-Pacific countries. Following the East Timor commitment, a major question is the extent to which security regionalism remains central to Australia's regional security policies. The focus here is on the policies pursued by the conservative coalition government led by John Howard (in office since 1996), compared with the previous Labor governments under Bob Hawke (1983-91) and Paul Keating (1991-96). The argument is that while the Howard government has had to face some different issues (including the changed situation in Indonesia and East Timor), in terms of substance, there has been a large measure of cont inuity with the policies of its predecessor. The differences have been largely at the level of rhetoric. The two governments have seen themselves as having different emphases in terms of the way in which they protect Australia's security interests in the region. In practice, the scope those governments have had for implementing distinctive emphases has been limited by the type of external developments that they have had to respond to.
Against this background, both the Labor government of 1983-96 and the post-1996 coalition government have put some emphasis on security regionalism as a component of their regional security policies. However, this approach featured much more in the rhetoric of the Labor government (particularly under Keating) than it has done under the Howard government. At the same time, both governments have often been preoccupied with developments in Australia's most immediate security environment, that is, maritime Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Indonesia has been a major concern in this respect, but the situation in Papua New Guinea (particularly Bougainville) and other parts of the Southwest Pacific has also been relevant. The problems in these areas adjacent to Australia have intensified during the period of the Howard government. The apparent decline in emphasis on security regionalism can be related to the greater preoccupation with various regional security situations that demand immediate attention. Nev ertheless, security regionalism does remain relevant. It is also important to emphasize the continuing importance of Australian links with both the United States and New Zealand as factors affecting the way in which Australia engages with regional security issues.
Historically, Australia has focused on Asia as a source of threats. Established as a federation of British settler colonies in 1901, Australia felt vulnerable to the emergence of hostile Asian powers. In the first part of the twentieth century, Japan was the major concern; the British Empire was looked to as the source of protection. Australian fears were realized with the onset of the Pacific War in December 1941. However, as highlighted by the fall of Singapore in February 1942, the reliance on the British Empire as the foundation of Australian defence proved problematical. Even though the link with the United Kingdom remained important in Australian defence thinking until at least the late 1960s, from 1941 Australia regarded the United States as the key to its security. It was the United States which provided protection for Australia during the Pacific War. Despite U.S. reluctance to formalize the relationship, the ANZUS Treaty was concluded in 1951 (involving New Zealand as well); this was essentially a quid pro quo for Australia accepting a lenient peace treaty with Japan. With Communist China as the major concern in the Pacific during the Cold War, Australia looked to the United States as its primary protector. Australia fought alongside the United States in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, as well as alongside Britain in the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s (and, in a more circumspect way, during Indonesia's Confrontation of Malaysia between 1963 and 1966).
The basis of Australia's strategy of "forward defence", involving an Australian military presence alongside that of its major protectors in Southeast Asia, was undermined by the British withdrawal from "east of Suez" from the late 1960s and by changes in U.S. involvement relating to the end of the Vietnam War. The changing U.S. position was indicated by Nixon's announcement in July 1969 that henceforth the United States would play a "back-up" strategic role in Asia rather than becoming directly involved in ground conflicts (the Guam Doctrine). Consistent with these changes, Australia moved in the direction of a strategy of "self reliance" from the early 1970s.  The U.S. alliance remained important as Australia's ultimate security guarantee, but Australia placed more emphasis on the need to provide for its own protection. Among other things, this involved developing a new strategy to underpin Australia's relationships with the Asia-Pacific. The Whitlam Labor government (1972-75) emphasized the development of an independent Australian foreign policy in the region. Its aspirations in this direction were made easier by the inauguration of the SinoAmerican rapprochement in 1972. The Fraser coalition government similarly emphasized the development of an independent strategy for Australia, while being more globalist in its concern with both Cold War and Third World issues. With the election of the Hawke Labor government in 1983 there was a return to a stronger regional focus. It was in this context that "security regionalism" became an important part of Australian strategy in the Asia-Pacific.
Australia and Security Regionalism During the Hawke and Keating Period (1983-96)
The Hawke Labor government (1983-91) put considerable emphasis on strengthening Australian relations with the Asia-Pacific. In part, this was a reaction to the globalist concerns of the Fraser government, but it also reflected a perception of where Australia's real interests lay. This could be seen most obviously in terms of trade: by 1994-95 Northeast Asia (Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea) and the ASEAN countries took 56.5 per cent of Australian exports, and provided 36.3 per cent of Australian imports.  The economic argument in favour of a strong regional orientation was stated most clearly in the Garnaut Report of 1989.  Entitled Australia and the Northeast Asian Ascendancy, the report highlighted the importance of Northeast Asia to the Australian economy. It argued for further integration with the economies of the region; liberalization of the Australian economy would put Australia in a stronger position to argue for …