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Green Foreign Policy: Feeling Queasy

By Andrew ShearerDirector of Studies and Senior Research Fellow, Lowy Institute for International Policy

As the horse-trading continues to see whether Labor or the Coalition can form a government, one thing about this election is clear: the Greens have emerged as a big winner. Bob Brown and friends will wield the balance of power in the Senate from July and have emerged as a serious force in Australian politics.

What are some of the implications for Australian foreign and defence policy?

Over 1 million Australians voted Green, but somehow I doubt many of them read the fine-print. While masquerading as an environmental party to woo inner-city sophisticates – evidently a successful ruse – the Greens are merely the latest incarnation of the Loopy Left in Australian politics. Here’s just a selection of their campaign ‘principles’ and commitments:

Reinvigorate ‘peace research’ in Australian universities and ‘peace education’ in schools (the next phase of Building the Education Revolution?).
Close the Lucas Heights reactor (which provides medical isotopes to treat cancer patients, support for research on the environment and climate change, and expertise so Australia can contribute to international non-proliferation efforts).

End uranium exploration, mining and exports (and with them, masses of jobs, much-needed revenue and a major contribution to reducing global carbon emissions).
End the ANZUS Treaty (which, according to the 2010 Lowy Poll, is regarded by 86% of Australians as either very important or fairly important for Australia’s security) ‘unless Australia’s membership can be revised in a manner which is consistent with Australia’s international and human rights obligations’. I guess we’d have to check with the UN Human Rights Council.

Support the right of ADF personnel to conscientiously object to particular military actions (military service a la carte).

End foreign military training in Australia (presumably that would include peace-keeping and disaster relief exercises).

Reduce Australian defence spending; after all, ‘climate change represents the greatest threat to world peace and security’ (just ask South Korea or Israel).
Close Australia’s ports and waters to nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed vessels. Of course, this doubles as another handy way of ending the US alliance – as the Kiwis can confirm. Maybe this would be for the best though, as ‘Australia’s reliance on the US nuclear weapons umbrella lends our bases, ports and infrastructure to the US nuclear war fighting apparatus’.

Increase aid to 0.7% of GDP in a ridiculously short time-frame – irrespective, it seems, of the reality that AusAID is already struggling to deliver the ambitious bipartisan commitment to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of GDP by 2015.
This sort of wackiness may be OK in a fringe party that can luxuriate in its irresponsibility, safe in the knowledge it will never influence national policy or be held accountable for the results. But on Sunday morning, Australians awoke to a very different political landscape. The implications are still sinking in. But they are real.

The vast majority of new Green votes came from Labor. The ALP will be increasingly vulnerable to pressure from the Left. A minority Labor Government facing a rampant Green bloc in the Senate would, for example, find it even harder than Kevin Rudd in his halcyon days to face down the ideologues and overturn the nonsensical ban on selling uranium to India. And Labor’s enthusiasm for the ‘good war’ in Afghanistan will come under greater strain, particularly as the combat toll rises, public support wanes and more European countries start to head for the exit.

As Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott has rightly extended firm bipartisan support for the deployment in Afghanistan (in contrast with Labor’s opportunism over Iraq). If a minority Abbott Government is formed, it will be interesting to see whether Labor maintains the principled position it has taken on Afghanistan in government or reverts to form in opposition.

This article was originally posted on the Lowy Institute’s blog, The Interpreter.

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  1. August 27, 2010 at 11:08 AM

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