I’ve been accused by some of bias for my stand against what I see as a baffling string of blunders by the new Abbott Government regarding our relations with the world. But this afternoon my view is getting some high-powered support from conservative forces. Geoff Kitney of the AFR has written a stinging critique of Abbottism that is well worth your time:
The alarm bells about the Abbott government are becoming deafening. And they are ringing around the world. What started as a rumble in Jakarta is now echoing through the capitals of every nation which has any dealings with Australia.
And it’s not hard to imagine that the first question being asked about Abbott’s Australia is: “What on earth is going on?”
What is happening is that a dramatic re-positioning of the way Australia relates to the rest of the world is under way.
…It took a while, but we are now seeing the true colours of Abbottism. For those who expected an Abbott administration to resume where the Howard government left off, what we are now seeing will be a surprise. This is a completely new brand of conservative politics.
The new “brand Australia” that the Abbott government is presenting to the world is neo-conservative nationalism, with a populist twist.
…The first big foreign investment decision of an “open for business” government is to slam the door. Hockey now faces a daunting task to explain what the exceptional circumstances were that forced him to block the sale.
…Australia’s most important regional relationships – Indonesia and with China – have entered dangerous territory since the Abbott government came to power.
In both cases, this has not been because of actions initiated by the government but by its responses to external events which have revealed its basic instincts.
And what this has revealed has been a worryingly narrow vision which seems to take too little heed of the economic dimensions of Australia’s foreign and strategic interests.
…The elevation of the boat arrivals issue to the level of a threat to Australia’s security and the Abbott government’s go-it-alone, populist “sovereign borders” policy for dealing with it have deepened the gulf of misunderstanding in the relationship.
The danger of this gulf was emphasised in Abbott’s initial domestic-audience targeted response to Indonesia’s anger about the spying revelations. The idea of Indonesia as an economic friend rather than a strategic threat is completely missing from the Australian domestic debate.
…The soaring tensions between China, Japan and the United States over China’s muscular assertion of its ownership of the disputed islands in the East China Sea have spread to our relationship with China.The tit-for-tat diplomatic protests between Canberra and Beijing in recent days have confirmed that China sees Australia as a US proxy.
Abbott has defended Australia’s protest to Beijing as an assertion of Australia’s “values and interest”. The use of the word “values” will be especially noted in Beijing: It’s a strong echo of the US conservative language about why China is a strategic opponent.
Hear hear. This country needs a governing compass beyond Tony Abbott’s (or is it Mark Textor’s) limited political instincts. It needs it now.