Australia in International Politics: An Introduction to Australian Foreign Policy (3Rd Edition)

By Butcher, Andrew | New Zealand International Review, September-October 2012 | Go to article overview

Australia in International Politics: An Introduction to Australian Foreign Policy (3Rd Edition)


Butcher, Andrew, New Zealand International Review


AUSTRALIA IN INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: An Introduction to Australian Foreign Policy (3rd edition)

Author: Stewart Firth

Published by: Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, 2011, 356pp, A$55.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Stewart Firth, visiting fellow in the Melanesia programme at the Australian National University, has written a third edition of his book Australia in International Politics. The book is sweeping in its coverage. It is divided into four parts: the evolution of Australian foreign policy, security, economy and issues in foreign policy. The book charts Australian foreign policy from 1901 onwards, giving particular attention to foreign policy under prime ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard.

The preoccupations of these three prime ministers are then used to frame discussion on Australia's role in and attitude toward the United Nations, regional security, nuclear challenges, intervention and state building, globalisation and the global financial crisis, international trade, and the environment, foreign aid and human rights. Published in 2011, the book includes material relevant to Julia Gillard's early period as prime minister, though only in passing and, in turn, Kevin Rudd's period as foreign minister.

The book is clearly designed as a textbook, presumably for undergraduate students, with bullet point discussion questions beginning each chapter and 'assessments' and recommended reading, in the form of an annotated bibliography, ending each chapter. Pitching well to his undergraduate readers, Firth explains terms as he uses them, and provides a useful glossary at the end of the book as well.

The book is strongest when Firth writes about the South Pacific (which given his background is no surprise), particularly in the section on 'intervention and state building', where he focuses on Australian intervention in East Timor, Bougainville, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga. But Firth is ambivalent on Australia's intervention in the Pacific because

   Australian state builders are political actors themselves,
   empowering some people at the expense of others, and influencing
   political outcomes. That is why the whole idea of
   state building, however humanitarian in motive, remains
   contested, and why Australia's policy of regional intervention
   may not endure. … 

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