‘Dummies’: Paul Keating takes aim at foreign policy fundamentals

Mr Keating advocates an independent foreign policy.

Mr Keating advocates an independent foreign policy.

Paul Keating says America takes its allies for granted and called for a complete rethink of Australia’s strategic policy and its pillars including the AUKUS security pact.

An alliance with America has been at the heart of Australia’s security policy since the end of the Second World War and, according to current bi-partisan consensus, is essential to national defence.

During an interview on Wednesday night as part of a La Trobe University event, Mr Keating made his latest pitch for Australia to adopt an independent foreign policy as a nation not “owned” by America.

“The United States and the people who represent the US these days are not interested in thinking allies,” he said.

“They basically have an open book for sycophants, not thinking allies. They want dummies…

“This idea that the US is an exceptional power, that they have God’s ear, proselytising democracy, was fine in the 20th century.

“The 20th century was owned by the US; the 21st century belongs to someone else.”

Mr Keating then criticised elements of security policy that have grown out of close American ties.

He said the AUKUS trilateral security pact with the United Kingdom and the United States announced last year with support from both major parties, and which will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, would “subjugate” Australian sovereignty.

“It’ll be a tragedy for Australia,” he said. “We should walk away.”

Mr Keating has questioned what defensive need long range nuclear submarines fill; he instead argues they would serve interests other than Australia’s and might elevate the risk of conflict with China.

“We’ve moved away from the capacity to defend our island continent with a with a class of boats which are competent at it,” he said.

“What we’ve signed up to is a hunter-killer submarine which has got one purpose […] to sink Chinese submarines.

“We don’t have to be brought into the Liberal Party’s dumb story.”

Mr Keating said his early criticism of the agreement had not been taken on board by Labor. Before and since coming to office the Labor government has shown its intention to retain all the fundamentals of Australian foreign and strategic policy.

Mr Keating said America should refrain from raising the stakes in its strategic rivalry with China by warning the latter against an invasion of Taiwan because, he said, it would lose any resulting military conflict with potential ramifications for Australia.

“The chances of the Americans having a victory over Taiwan are nil in my opinion, and why would we want to be part of that defeat?”

And he decried as “nonsense” the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue grouping, which brings together the US, Japan, Australia and India in a bloc designed as a counter to a rising China.

“Could you imagine a flotilla of Indian naval vessels entering the Straits of Malacca and exiting into the South China Sea to fight the Chinese for Western values?,” he asked,

“Not a chance.”

A visit to a Quad summit was one of Anthony Albanese’s first engagements as Prime Minister just after winning the May election.

Mr Keating ridiculed other concepts underpinning western foreign policy including a frequent refrain that Australia and its allies are upholding a “rules-based” international order, a phrase foreign policy makers and commentators often use when drawing a contrast with China.

“Walking into Iraq what rule was that? Afghanistan, what rule was that?” he said.

Topics: Paul Keating
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