Murdoch Puts Australia to the Test

By Murdoch, Rubert | Business Asia, November 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

Murdoch Puts Australia to the Test


Murdoch, Rubert, Business Asia


News Corp supremo RUPERT MURDOCH this month addressed the annual dinner of the Asia Society's AustralAsia Centre in Sydney. Following are edited transcripts of his speech

Australia is engaged in what some Nations in this part of the world have Australia is engaged in what some have called the most significant change in the country's foreign policy since the end of World War II.

We all have to be concerned that the current reappraisals of Australian foreign policy -- driven by recent events in East Timor -- come out right.

Australia must decide whether to base its foreign policy on some notion of a moral imperative or on a clear eyed understanding of the national interest. In making that choice it must keep three things in mind: one, that what is often dressed up as morality is really emotionalism; two, the fact that American attitudes towards Europe do not extend to this region of the world; and three, the fact that pursuit of a foreign policy based purely on moralism can lead to a massive loss of sovereignty.

On the second point, America's attitude is clear.

Whatever led America to extend help to beleaguered Kosovo, did not apply to East Timor. Australia was doomed to disappointment when it attempted to convert its historic loyalty to America into reciprocal behaviour by the Americans.

If Australia seeks to assert a moral basis for intervening in this region, it will find that its problems will be exacerbated by the fact that it will be a predominantly white nation intervening in the affairs of non-white countries.

America's policy towards its trading partners in East Asia generally affects the economic health of those countries which are also Australia's trading partners. And that is why we have a vital interest in the position America takes in this month's World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting in Seattle.

I do not want our recent disappointment with America to prompt us to forget what Prime Minister (John Howard) recently pointed out: that "continued American involvement in the region is vital to our security". Or to obscure the fact that America and Australia share not only interests but important, fundamental values.

Nonetheless, Australia must pursue an independent foreign policy within the framework of its American alliance, and in the framework of its other alliances.

The economic relationship between Australia, Japan and the United States is a good example of this triangulation. Despite Japan's recent economic problems, it remains by far Australia's largest export market. Australia naturally wants its Japanese market to grow. And for that to happen Japan will have to cure its current economic problems and continue to open its markets to imports. America can be a powerful ally in both connections, so long as its policy is consistent and sensitively handled.

So, too, with China. That great country is edging its way into the world economy.

Australia is doing its bit to help by supporting China's application for membership in the World Trade Organisation. The goals are clear: to open potentially massive Chinese markets; to help its leaders in their modernisation program; and to contribute to the stability of the region by helping to resolve the disputes and tensions that periodically arise.

Australia can play a role in shaping American attitudes towards Japan, China, Indonesia and the entire region -- if its diplomats prove to be as skilled at whispering in the right ears in Washington as their British colleagues have been for many years!

I do not mean to concentrate solely on relations with Japan and China. …

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