Australia: Background and U.S. Relations
Australia: Background and U.S. Relations
Updated August 8, 2008
Specialist in Asian Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade
Australia: Background and U.S. Relations
The Commonwealth of Australia and the United States are very close allies.
Australia shares similar cultural traditions and values with the United States and has
been a treaty ally since the signing of the Australia-New Zealand-United States
(ANZUS) Treaty in 1951. Australia made major contributions to the allied cause in
both the first and second World Wars and has been a staunch ally of Britain and the
United States in their conflicts.
Under the former Liberal government of John Howard, Australia invoked the
ANZUS treaty to offer assistance to the United States after the attacks of September
11, 2001, in which 22 Australians died. Australia was one of the first countries to
commit troops to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In October 2002,
a terrorist attack on Western tourists in Bali, Indonesia, killed more than 200 persons,
including 88 Australians and seven Americans. A second terrorist bombing, which
killed 23, including four Australians, was carried out in Bali in October 2005. The
Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, was also bombed by members of Jemaah
Islamiya (JI) in September 2004.
Kevin Rudd, of the Labor Party, was elected prime minister on November 24,
2007. While Rudd has fulfilled an election promise to draw down Australian military
forces in Iraq and has reversed Australia’s position on climate change — by signing
the Kyoto protocols — relations with the United States remain very close. Rudd has
initiated a review of Australia’s defense policy that is expected to reaffirm
Australia’s traditional view that the United States is a key source of stability in the
The previous Howard Government and the U.S. signed a bilateral Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) and negotiated a Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation that would
require Senate ratification to come into force. Despite the strong strategic ties
between the United States and Australia, there have been some signs that the growing
economic importance of China to Australia may influence Australia’s external
posture on issues such as Taiwan. It is likely that Australia would not support a
policy of containment of China if the United States sought this.
Australia plays a key role in promoting regional stability in Southeast Asia and
the Southwest Pacific. Australia has led peace-keeping efforts in the Asia-Pacific
region, including East Timor and the Solomon Islands, and has supported U.S. efforts
and worked closely with key regional states in the war against terrorism in Southeast
Asia. These actions demonstrate Australia’s resolve to promote stability in Southeast
Asia and the South Pacific. Australia has also worked closely with Indonesia to
counter terrorism in Southeast Asia.
The Rudd Government .........................................1
Australia’s External Posture .....................................1
Bilateral Developments with the United States.......................3
Australia and the Environment ...................................4
Background on Australia........................................6
Domestic Political Context......................................7
Relations with the United States......................................8
Economic and Trade Issues.........................................12
Australia’s Identity and Asia....................................14
Australia’s Asian Engagement...................................15
Rudd’s Asia-Pacific Community Concept......................15
Regional Dynamics in the Southwest Pacific.......................20
The Solomon Islands......................................21
Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and East Asian Summit.............21
List of Figures
Figure 1. Map of Australia.........................................22
Australia: Background and U.S. Relations
The Rudd Government
In November 2007, Kevin Rudd was elected prime minister, ending former
Prime Minister John Howard’s term in office that began in March 1996. Prime
Minister Rudd has reaffirmed Australia’s and the Labor Party’s commitment to its
alliance relationship with the United States even as he has differed with the United
States on Iraq and climate change. Rudd has moved to draw down Australian military
forces in Iraq while Australian troops remain in Afghanistan. The Australian left has
grown increasingly disillusioned with the war in Iraq and views U.S. foreign policy
as increasingly unilateralist. U.S. policies on Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib
appear to have negatively affected the Australian public’s perceptions of American
power. Despite this, support for the ANZUS alliance with the United States remains
strong among most Australians.
Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon announced the commissioning of a new
Defence White Paper for Australia on February 22, 2008. The white paper process
will include a set of accompanying reviews and a community consultative process to
underpin the white paper. The white paper is not expected until some time in the first
half of 2009. Such a review could have significant implications for Australia’s
defense policy and procurement in the future.1
The fact that Rudd chose to visit the U.S. on his first visit abroad as the
opposition leader, prior to becoming prime minister, signaled that, despite potential
differences on Iraq and climate change, he views the U.S. strategic alliance to be of
central importance to Australia. Rudd is generally viewed as part of the moderate
element within the Labor party.2 Rudd may take a very active role in foreign policy
given his former career in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Rudd may
also place relatively more emphasis on the United Nations than Howard did.
Australia’s External Posture
During the 2007 election campaign, Rudd identified maintaining a strong
alliance with the United States, engaging more fully with Asia, and seeking to play
a more active role in the United Nations as the three pillars of Australian foreign
1 Cynthis Banham, “Rudd to Shake Up National Security,” The Sydney Morning Herald,
January 19, 2008.
2 Greg Sheridan, “Alliance Safe with Labor,” The Australian, April 21, 2007.
policy.3 Australia’s Defence Update 2007, prepared under the previous government,
appears to have changed Australia’s policy emphasis on China’s military buildup by
identifying it as potentially leading to “misunderstanding and instability” in the
region.4 Some observers of Australian foreign policy have speculated that Australia
increasingly will have a difficult time developing a robust trade relationship with
China while at the same time continuing its close strategic and defense relationship
with the United States. Former Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson traveled
to Beijing in July 2007 to explain to the Chinese that the Defence Update, as well as
growing trilateral ties between Australia, Japan, and the United States, did not mean
that Australia in any way supports a policy of containment of China. Australia and
Japan signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in March 2007.5
Subtle shifts in Australia’s position relative to China may emerge under Rudd.
He is expected to take a direct interest in Australia’s foreign policy toward China. As
a Mandarin speaker Rudd is well informed on China policy but will be conscious of
not wishing to be perceived as too close to the Chinese by Australian voters or the
United States. Rudd was posted to Beijing as a diplomat and worked as a consultant
on China in the private sector. According to some observers, Rudd is seeking a
balance through strong ties with both the United States and China.6
Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon announced in February 2008 that the Rudd
government would fulfill an election promise and initiate a new Defence White
Paper. Initiating such a review is not surprising given the turnover of government
from the Liberal Party to the Labor Party. A Ministerial Advisory Panel has been
formed to provide external advice consisting of Professor Ross Babbage, Major
General Peter Abigail (ret.), and Dr. Mark Thompson.7
There has been a long standing debate in Australian defense planning circles
over the relative emphasis on continental defense of Australia and the need to
configure Australian forces to integrate with key allies in expeditionary operations
— traditionally with Great Britain and, since the end of World War Two, the United
States. Despite this debate, there has been much continuity in practice, especially
with regard to support for Australia’s commitments to the Australia-New Zealand-
United States (ANZUS) alliance.
3 Russell Trood, “Rudd Needs a Clearer Idea to Stem Growing Disarray,” The Australian,
July 4, 2008.
4 W. Chong, “Aussie Warning on China’s Military Growth,” Straits Times, July 6, 2007.
5 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia-Japan Joint Declaration on Security
Cooperation, March 13, 2007.
6 Dennis Shanahan, “One Man Band Rudd Risky as China’s Mate,”
[ h t t p : / / www.t h eaust r a l i a n.news.com.au] .
7 The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon, MP and Minister for Defence, “New Defence White Paper,”
February 22, 2008.
Key analysts have speculated that the new Defense White Paper will emphasize
the defense of Australia and the ability to lead regional operations. Other issues to be
addressed may include contributions to coalition operations with the United States,
particularly in the Asia-Pacific, and related interoperability issues. Efforts to curb
terrorism and the evolving geopolitics of Northeast Asia will also likely receive
emphasis in the document.8
Fitzgibbon has committed the government to maintain an annual real three
percent increase in defense funding through 2018.9 It is estimated that this increase
will bring Australian defense expenditure up from 2% of GDP to 2.6%.10 Fitzgibbon
has reportedly stated that he believes Australia will go ahead with the $16 billion
purchase of the Joint Strike Fighter built by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas.11
Bilateral Developments with the United States
Secretary of State Rice reaffirmed the close relationship between the United
States and Australia during her July 2008 visit to Perth, Australia, where she noted
that Australian military contributions in Afghanistan are “tremendously appreciated”
and stated “there is no better friend for the United States than Australia.”12 The close
relationship with the Rudd government was similarly reaffirmed by Defense
Secretary Gates during his February 2008 visit to Australia when he stated, “The
bonds of unity that grew from our common heritage and have been strengthened on
battlefields around the world are every bit as strong as they have ever been.”13
The United States and Australia signed a Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation
in September 2007. This treaty is proposed at a time when the United States has
found few friends willing to work as closely with it in its efforts to contain militant
anti-Western Islamists as Australia has proven to be. The treaty with Australia would
need to be ratified by the U. S. Senate to come into force.14
8 Richard Brabin Smith and Paul Dibb, “Now is the Time for Strategic Priorities,” The
Australian, June 7, 2008. For more detailed discussion of the White Paper see Hugh White,
“The New Defence White Paper: Why We Need It and What It Needs to Do,” Lowy
Institute, Sydney, April 2008.
9 “Fitzgibbon Says Hes Committed to Defence Funding,” Australian Associated Press, July
10 J. Irvine, “Treasury Warns on Military Spending,” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 7,
11 “Fitzgibbon Says JSF Most Likely the Fighter for Australia,” Australian Associated Press,
July 11, 2008.
12 U.S. State Department, “Rice with Aust. Foreign Minister Smith,” July 25, 2008
13 States News Service, “Joint Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates,
Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, and Australian Defense Minister Joel
Fitzgibbon, States News Service, February 23, 2008.
14 For more information see CRS Report RS22772, The U.S.-Australia Treaty on Defense
Trade Cooperation, by Bruce Vaughn.
Australia and the Environment
Drought in some areas and flooding in other parts of Australia have brought
increased focus on the environment by the Australian electorate. The Australian
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) has
predicted that new weather patterns will mean that parts of eastern Australia, where
most Australians live, will receive only 40% of their past average annual rainfall by
2070.15 Labor’s more proactive stance on environmental issues may have helped
Rudd win the last election. One of Rudd’s first actions as Prime Minister was to sign
the Kyoto Protocol.
Australian Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong,
released the Australian Government’s Green Paper on a Carbon Pollution Reduction
Scheme on July 16, 2008. In releasing the paper, Minister Wong pointed out that
Australia is one of the world’s hottest and driest places and that Australian
agriculture and water supplies are threatened by climate change. The scheme involves
emissions trading with government-set limits on how much carbon pollution industry
can produce. The government intends on implementing the scheme in 2010.16
A key challenge for Australia in implementing the scheme will be addressing
Australia’s use of coal. Australia has extensive reserves of coal and is thought to
have a 200-year supply. Approximately 83% of Australian power comes from coal.
This dependence has made Australians some of the highest emitters of carbon on a
per capita basis. Australian coal exports are expected to increase by a third over the
next five years. This has led some to view Australia as exporting its problem even if
it achieves its goal of reducing its own emissions by 60% from 2000 levels.17
Soon after taking office the Rudd government indicated that it was considering
using naval vessels to track Japanese whaling vessels near Australian waters in order
to collect evidence possibly to make a case against Japan’s whaling in the
International Court of Justice. The Japanese whaling fleet reportedly intended on
killing some 1,000 whales, including 50 humpback whales.18 This pressure on
whaling issues with Japan was a departure from the policy orientation of the previous
Howard Government that signed a security agreement with Japan in 2007.
Developing positive relations with Japan is a priority of the Rudd government despite
differences over whaling.
15 John Vidal, “Australia Suffers Worst Drought in 1,000 Years,” The Guardian, November
16 Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Climate Change and Water, Green Paper on Cardon
Pollution Reduction Scheme Released, July 16, 2008.
17 “Greens and the Black Stuff,” The Economist, July 26, 2008.
18 Ross Peake, “Cabinet to Focus on Military, Whaling,” The Canberra Times, December
Background on Australia
Australia was first inhabited from
Australia at a Glance40,000 to 60,000 years ago. The
Aboriginal people of Australia are the
Government: Parliamentary democracy andworld’s oldest continuous culture.
federal state systemToday, they account for only about 1%
Leadership: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, whoof Australia’s total population. While
appoints a Governor-General.the Aboriginal population were hunter-
Political Parties: Labor, Liberal, National,gatherers, they developed a complex
Greens, Democrats.“dream time” culture, a spiritual
Area: About the size of the lower 48 U.S. statesculture focusing on connections to
Capital: Canberra, population 323,000
Population: 21 million ancestors and the Australian landscape.
Population growth rate: 0.824%Captain James Cook claimed Australia
Ethnic groups: Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%,for Britain in 1770, and in 1788 the
aboriginal and other 1%first European settlement, largely made
Foreign-born population: 23.6%up of convicts, was established at
GDP growth: 4.1% (2007 est.)
GDP per capita ppp: $33,300Sydney, New South Wales. Australia
Inflation: 2.4%evolved into a pastoral settler society
Unemployment: 4.9%based on sheep and wool with the
Sources: CIA World Factbook, State Departmentincreasing importance of minerals
Background Notes, Economist Intelligence Unitfollowing the gold rush beginning in
While the majority of Australians have British or Irish ancestry, Australia’s19
immigrants also came from elsewhere in Europe particularly after World War II.
Today, Australian immigration is increasingly from Asia, with Asians accounting for
approximately 7% of the population. Despite the centrality of the “bush” or the
“outback” to the national myth, Australia has evolved into a very urbanized society
with only 15% living in rural areas. Australia made major contributions to the allied
cause in both the first and second World Wars and has been a staunch ally of Britain
and the United States in their conflicts abroad.
Australia is slightly smaller than the contiguous lower 48 United States and has
a population of some 21 million. Australia’s main export partners are China, Japan,
South Korea, the United States, and New Zealand. Australia’s main exports are coal,
iron ore, gold, crude petroleum, and bovine meat. While some 72% of GDP is
derived from the services sector, 52% of exports come from mining and agriculture,
which together account for 8% of GDP.20
Australia is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth. The Head
of State is Queen Elizabeth, who is represented by the Governor General, Major
General (ret.) Michael Jeffery. In practice, power is held by the Prime Minister and
19 In 1947, 89.7% of Australia’s population was Anglo-Celtic. By 1988 this had dropped to
74.6%. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, “National Agenda for a Multi-cultural
20 “Background Note: Australia,” Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of
State, July 2007.
Cabinet, who are elected members of Parliament. Australia has a bicameral
parliament composed of a House of Representatives, with 150 members elected by
popular preferential ballot, and a Senate, with 76 members. Twelve Senators from
each of the six states are elected for six year terms of office. The two territories have
two senators each who are elected for three year terms. Parliamentary elections are
called by the government but must be held at least once every three years. Voting is
mandatory in Australia.21 The Liberal-National Party coalition and the Labor Party
are the two main political forces in Australia.22 There is a growing Republican
movement in Australia that supports breaking with the crown.
Australia has for some time been undergoing a national identity debate related
to its relationships with Asia, in which it is geographically situated, and with Britain,
the United States, and Europe, with which it has deep cultural and historical linkages.
Australian trade interests are increasingly focused on Asia, and in particular China,
while its key strategic relationship is with the United States.23
Domestic Political Context
Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd’s November 24, 2007 electoral victory over
former Prime Minister John Howard, who lost his own parliamentary seat
representing Bennelong, marks a significant shift away from the Liberal Party-
dominated government that has ruled Australia since 1996. Former Defence Minister
Brendan Nelson replaced Howard as leader of the Liberal-National Party Coalition.
As Opposition Leader, Nelson has not presented a strong challenge to Rudd.
According to a recent poll, only 13% of Australians favor Nelson, as opposed to 68%
who favor Rudd. The next federal elections do not have to be held until 2010.24 The
most dramatic political decision brought about by the election thus far is Australia’s
policy reversal on climate change. Rudd has signed the Kyoto Protocol on Climate
Change and stated that he wants Australia to be a leader on climate change policy.25
Rudd is also expected to change labor policies brought into force by the previous
21 “Background Note: Australia,” Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of
State, July 2007.
22 U.S. Department of State, “Background Note: Australia,” December, 2004, and Central
Intelligence Agency, “World Factbook, Australia,” June, 2005.
23 For a history of the evolution of Australia’s external relations see David Lee, Australia
and the World in the Twentieth Century (Melbourne: Circa Publishers, 2006).
24 “Country Report Australia,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, July 2008.
25 “Australia to be ‘Climate Bridge’,” BBC News, December 6, 2007.
Relations with the United States
The Commonwealth of Australia and the United States are very close allies.
Australia shares similar cultural traditions and values with the United States and has
been a treaty ally of the United States since the signing of the Australia-New
Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Treaty in 1951. Australia has been a strong partner
in the global war against terror and its citizens have been the victims of several
terrorist attacks. Australia invoked the ANZUS treaty to offer assistance to the United
States after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in which 22 Australians were among
the dead. Australia was one of the first countries to commit troops to U.S. military
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under former Prime Minister John Howard, the Australian government
demonstrated a strong commitment to its alliance with the United States through its
contribution of combat troops, including special forces, to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under the leadership of Howard and President Bush, the United States and Australia
strengthened at the government-to-government level an already very close
relationship between two long-term allies. Shared perspectives on the war against
militant Islamists also enhanced this close relationship.
Public attitudes in Australia diverged from the close government-to-government
relations under the former Prime Minister. Australians’ negative perceptions of
President Bush and his policies have adversely affected Australia’s perception of the
United States. That said, these negative impressions have yet to harm Australians’
positive perceptions of their bilateral alliance with the United States.26 Prime
Minister Rudd’s government has clearly articulated that it wishes to maintain strong
ties with the United States and that it views American engagement in the Asia-Pacific
as key to maintaining regional security.27
The United States continues to view the bilateral relationship with Australia as
one of its closest relationships. Vice President Cheney stated during his February
2007 visit to Australia that “Australians and Americans ... respect and like each other
... never before has our alliance been stronger.”28 Rudd has declared his “passionate”
and “rock solid” support of the alliance.29 President Bush also reaffirmed the strength
of the alliance when in Sydney in September 2007.30
26 Tim Johnson, “Australians are Split Over the U.S. Poll Finds Many Worried by America’s
Political Direction,” The New York Times, December 10, 2007.
27 “Redrawing the US Alliance, The Rudd Government will Maintain Strong Ties,”
Canberra Times, December 8, 2007.
28 “Vice President’s Remarks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard,” Sydney, U.S.
Department of State, February 24, 2007.
29 Ralph Cossa, “U.S. - Australia Still Mates,” PacNet, December 17, 2008.
30 President Bush and Australian Prime Minister Howard Discuss U.S.-Australia Defense
Bilateral relations across the political spectrum have not always been close. The
former leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mark Latham, was criticized by the
former Howard Government in the lead-up to the 2004 election for describing
President Bush in unfavorable terms and for his intent to withdraw Australian troops
from Iraq if elected. In response to Latham’s proposed policy, President Bush stated
that it would be a “disastrous decision” that would “dispirit those who love freedom
in Iraq and embolden the enemies who believe they can shake our will.”31 Many on
the left of the Labor party also opposed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United
States.32 The exchange between Latham and Bush made the ANZUS alliance an
election issue in Australia in 2004. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard
Armitage’s criticism of Labor’s earlier policy on Iraq led former Labor Prime
Minister Paul Keating to urge the United States to stay out of Australian elections.
The United States, Japan, and Australia initiated a trilateral security dialogue in
2002. China, the Korean Peninsula, and the war against terror all provide an impetus
for security collaboration between these three partners.33 In May 2005, Secretary of
State Rice stated that the dialogue would “intensify” and be elevated to the
Ministerial level and would discuss a broad range of regional and global security
issues.34 The announcement came a short time after a series of anti-Japanese
demonstrations in China marked a deterioration in the bilateral relationship between
Japan and China. The announcement also came soon after Australia had sent a
contingent of 450 soldiers to Iraq to protect a group of Japanese engineers based in
southern Iraq. Then-Prime Minister Howard stated that “working alongside and in
partnership with a close regional ally and partner such as Japan is very important
from Australia’s point of view.”35 Commentary speculated that the deployment had
as much to do with bolstering ties with Japan as it did with Iraq.36 Australia’s 2007
Defence Update described Japan as Australia’s closest ally in the region.37
At the time of the announcement of the elevated trilateral security dialogue there
was much speculation that China was to be the central focus of the dialogue. It was
reported that “a resurgent China and recalcitrant North Korea” were key issues to be
Trade Cooperation Treaty in Joint Press Availability, Office of the Press Secretary, The
White House, September 4, 2007.
31 “Australia: Friendly Fire,” Far Eastern Economic Review, July 15, 2004.
32 Mark Davis, “Latham Faces Party Showdown on FTA,” Financial Review, July 21, 2005.
33 A. Searle and I. Kamae, “Anchoring Trilateralism: Can Australia-Japan-US Security
Relations Work,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, December, 2004.
34 “US Security Talks with Australia, Japan to Intensify,” US Fed News, May 4, 2005.
35 Prime Minister Howard as quoted in “Australia Commits More Troops in Iraq to
Safeguard Japanese Forces,” Radio Australia transcript, February 22, 2005.
36 Dan Blumenthal, “Strengthening the U.S.-Australian Alliance: Progress and Pitfalls,”
American Enterprise Institute, April/May, 2005.
37 W. Chong, “Aussie Warning on China’s Military Growth,” Straits Times, July 6, 2007.
discussed.38 Nuclear weapons proliferation is also thought to be part of the group’s
agenda.39 It was also reported that the move could “revive Chinese concerns about
containment by potential strategic competitors.” Australia, the United States, Japan,
and India formed a core group during the relief effort in the wake of the December
2004 tsunami. One interpretation of the reason Australia and Japan would wish to
upgrade the trilateral security dialogue is that there is uncertainty over whether
China’s rise will generate a more prosperous and stable East Asia or whether China
will seek to use East Asian regionalism to exclude the United States, which neither
Australia nor Japan would wish to see.40
Dr. Rice stated in the lead-up to a 2006 meeting with Australian counterparts
that, “I think all of us in the region, particularly those who are longstanding allies,
have a joint responsibility and obligation to try and produce conditions in which the
rise of China will be a positive force in international politics, not a negative force.”
Some Australian strategic commentators were concerned that statements by the
Secretary of State that portrayed the Trilateral Security Dialogue as directed at
containing China may provoke China into a more aggressive posture.41 Many in
Australia value Australia’s lucrative trade relationship with China even as they look
to the United States as Australia’s overwhelmingly most important strategic ally.
Australia did much to augment its defense capabilities under Howard’s
leadership, including a 47% real increase in defense spending under his watch.42 The
2007 defense budget represents a 10.6% increase over 2006. Howard committed his
government to a 3% annual real increase in defense spending out to the year 2016.
Prime Minister Rudd has similarly pledged support for robust defense expenditures.
Keeping the United States engaged in Asia has been a key foreign policy objective
of Australia and one that continues to enjoy broad political support.
The annual trilateral ANZUS meeting has been replaced by the Australian-U.S.
Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN). The AUSMIN consultations are a key aspect
of the now defacto bilateral alliance relationship under what was a trilateral
Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) alliance. Differences over New
Zealand’s nuclear policies in the mid 1980s led New Zealand to be de facto excluded
from the alliance. The 2008 AUSMIN meeting focused on issues such as the need to
work together to promote regional prosperity and security, to increase broad-based
engagement with Indonesia, and to encourage China to adopt a transparent approach
38 Geoff Elliott, “China and North Korea Focus of New US Security Talks,” The Australian,
May 6, 2005.
39 “Rice Downer Agree on trilateral Strategic Talks with Japan,” Asian Political News, May
40 “Three Against One,” South China Morning Post, May 11, 2005.
41 “Rice to Make First Visit as Secretary of State,” Australian Associated Press, March 14,
42 The Honorable Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defense, “Defence Update 2007 -
Protecting Our People, Interests, and Values,” July 5, 2007.
to its military modernization. The meeting also noted the further deepening of
bilateral defense cooperation through the earlier signing of the U.S.-Australia Treaty
on Defense Trade Cooperation.43 The two countries cooperate extensively in the area
of intelligence and operate early warning and intelligence joint facilities at Pine Gap
and Nurrungar.44 The decision to work with the U.S. on missile defense is part of a
larger decision by Australia to continue a close connection with U.S. military strategy
In recent years, defense policy makers in Australia have asked if the traditional
underpinnings of Australian defense planning and capability development — defense
of Australia, operations in the region and coalition warfare — “still provide a
sufficiently firm but flexible foundation for planning and capability development,
particularly when addressing today’s threats.”45 Australia has sought to configure its
defense force for both continental defense and manoeuver warfare.46 Australia’s
evolving strategy increasingly takes a global as well as regional view of threats to
Australia. As a result, Australia is placing increasing importance on forces that are
suitable for joint operations and expeditionary warfare at locations distant from
Australia, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as regional deployments in East
Timor and the Solomon Islands. Australia has a close arms procurement relationship
with the United States.47
Counterterror Cooperation. Australia was the first country to offer its
armed services to the International Coalition Against Terrorism (ICAT) and has sent
rotations of special forces troops plus regular troops to Afghanistan. The former
Howard government supported the United States in Iraq by sending about 2,000
defense personnel, F/A-18, P-3 and C-130 aircraft, two ANZAC Frigates, and a48
special forces task group. Australia has also joined the U.S.-sponsored Proliferation
Security Initiative (PSI). The PSI’s aim is to interdict aircraft and ships that could
be carrying weapons of mass destruction, missiles, or drugs. This staunch support
stems from Australia’s desire to support its treaty ally and from a shared perspective
on Islamist extremist violence.
On October 12, 2002, two bombs decimated two crowded nightclubs full of
foreign tourists in Bali, Indonesia, killing more than 200 foreigners and Indonesians
and injuring over 300. There were 88 Australians among the dead and seven
Americans. Indonesian officials attributed the bombing to the militant Islamic
43 “Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, 2008 Joint Communique,”
44 For a more detailed discussion of the Australia-U.S. defense relationship see Thomas
Durrell-Young, “The Nuanced Australia-U.S. Defense Relationship,” Woodrow Wilson
International Center for Scholars, Asia Program, June 1, 2005.
45 Ministry of Defense, Australia’s National Security: A Defense Update (Canberra:
Commonwealth of Australia, 2003).
46 Paul Monk, “Revolution in Defence,” The Financial Review, July 8, 2005.
47 “US Calls on Canberra to Play Role Outside Asia-Pacific,” Australia Radio, Australian
Broadcasting Corporation, February 7, 2006.
48 “Operation Falconer,”Australian Department of Defense, [http://www.defence.gov.au].
network Jemaah Islamiya (JI), which has links to Al Qaeda. JI also carried out an
attack against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in September 2004 and a second
attack in Bali in October 2005. Some within JI have reportedly set as their goal the
establishment of an Islamic state that encompasses Indonesia, Malaysia, the Southern
Philippines, and Northern Australia. Australian and Indonesian counterterror
cooperation has improved as a result of cooperation on the investigation into the Bali
blasts. Australia has signed anti-terrorism pacts with a number of its Southeast Asian
neighbors. It also provides counterterror support to the Pacific Island Forum
Secretariat.49 (For further discussion of Australia’s role in the war against terror, see
CRS Report RL31672, Terrorism in Southeast Asia, coordinated by Bruce Vaughn.)
Afghanistan. The new Labor government’s Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon
has stated that “we are winning the battles and not the war” in Afghanistan. Australia
has indicated that new tactics are needed to bring stability and has called on NATO
countries to increase their commitment to Afghanistan. Australia has approximately
Iraq. Prime Minister Rudd has long stated that he intends to draw down
Australian combat troops in Iraq.51 Although Australia has provided combat support
to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning of U.S. involvement
in these conflicts, it is now shifting emphasis away from Iraq. Australian Defence
Minister Fitzgibbon recently explained Australia’s decision to reduce its military
commitment to Iraq by stating that its obligations had
... left us with insufficient ability to deal with contingencies in our own
immediate region, where we need to be constantly in readiness to deal with
issues which may arise among the fragile states of the South Pacific — the so52
called arc of instability.
Although Australia will leave P-3 Orion aircraft and an Australian frigate in the
Persian Gulf, the drawdown of its military commitment marks a shift in policy
emphasis away from Iraq.
Economic and Trade Issues
According to some observers, Australia’s economic strategy can be described
as a mix of both Asian regionalism, in which China is increasingly assuming a
prominent role, and globalism.53 Australia has prospered in recent years due to a
49 Minister for Foreign Affairs Downer, “Counter-Terrorism Package,” March 7, 2003.
50 Patrick Walters, “We’re Losing the War in Afghanistan,” The Australian, December 17,
51 “Australia Warns of NATO Failure in Afghanistan,” Voice of America, December 17,
52 “Troops Needed in Our Region,” Sydney Morning Herald, July 16, 2008.
53 Michael Evans, “US-Australia Relations in Asia,” Woodrow Wilson Center Asia Seminar,
significant extent on exports of commodities to Asia. An estimated 52% of
Australian exports are derived from agriculture and mining.54 This is particularly so
in the state of Western Australia because of the mining industry. The national
economy is now slowing from an estimated GDP growth rate of 4.3% in 2007 to a
projected 2.7% in 2008. The Australian dollar — which was close to a 24-year high
in June 2008 — is expected to decrease in value as higher interest rates and
increasing fuel costs are undermining consumer confidence.55 As of 2006, Australia’s
key export partners were Japan (19.6%), China (12.3%), South Korea (7.5%), the
United States (6.2%), New Zealand (5.5%), and the United Kingdom (5%).56 The
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) came into force on
January 1, 2005. The United States is Australia’s major economic partner with
overall trade in goods and services reaching approximately $47 billion in 2007.57
While Australia’s economy is dominated by its services sector, the agricultural,
mining, and energy sectors account for the bulk of its exports. Among its largest
export items are coal, gold, iron ore, aluminum, mineral fuels, meat, and wheat. The
Australian economy and balance of trade are strongly influenced by world prices for
primary products. In recent decades Australia has been progressively opening up its
economy. Infrastructure development and climate change are viewed as two key
issues of importance to continued economic growth. Australian droughts have
worsened in recent years and are predicted to continue to get worse in years ahead.
The Australian economy experienced real growth of 2.6% in 2006 and an estimated
4.1% in 2007. The newly elected Rudd government has pledged to restore some labor
union rights to collective bargaining for workers. China’s rapid growth and steady
demand in Japan are expected to provide a favorable external trade environment for
Australia is also seeking an FTA with China. It is estimated that an FTA with
China would significantly increase Australia’s GDP. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao
stated that an FTA was expected in two years during his April 2006 visit to
Australia.59 Australia and China signed an agreement on the export of uranium from
June 1, 2005.
54 Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of State, “Background Note:
Australia,” February 2008.
55 “Country Report Australia,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, July 2008.
56 “Australia,” CIA World Factbook, July 15, 2008.
57 Australian Minister for Trade, The Hon. Simon Crean MP, “Australia-U.S. Ministerial
Trade Talks,” June 3, 2008.
58 “Australia: Country Report,” The Economist Intelligence Unit, December 2007.
59 “China, Australia Make Significant Free Trade Progress,” Mineweb, April 7, 2006.
Australia to China in April 2006.60 The pace of negotiations reportedly has been
slow. China and Australia held their 11th round of negotiations in June 2008.61
Australia’s Identity and Asia
Australia’s identity as a nation is intertwined with its ongoing debate over how
it should engage Asia. Former Prime Minister Howard approached the debate by
making the point that Australia need not choose between its history, which is
grounded in the West, and its geography, which locates Australia on the periphery of
the Asia-Pacific region. Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating (1991-1996)
moved enthusiastically to engage Asia, building on his predecessor Bob Hawke’s
(1983-1991) efforts that included the formation of the Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1989. Many in Australia viewed Keating’s initiatives
as going too far, reflecting the fact that many Australians’ sense of identity was not
grounded in an “Asian” identity.
These debates over identity are real to Australians. Although Australia is a large
continent, its population of only 21 million people is located relatively close to key
population centers of Asia, including Indonesia, China, and India. Australia’s
isolation from its key cultural partners and strategic allies in the West has led
traditionally to an existential fear of being overwhelmed by Asia. This has given way
in recent years to increasing interest in Asia as it is viewed as a source of prosperity
and no longer only as a potential threat. The Rudd government’s decision to extend
an apology to the Aboriginal population of Australia demonstrates that the dominant
Anglo-Celtic identity is increasingly prepared to accommodate non-white Australian
identities. Increasing Asian immigration is also changing the face of Australia.
Australia’s shifting trade patterns have drawn it to Asia even as it has not reconciled
itself with what this means for its identity.
The evolving regional and global strategic landscape has led many in Australia
to begin to reconceptualize the role of geography in Australian external and security
relations. While it remains to be seen how Kevin Rudd’s leadership will shape
Australia’s engagement with Asia, the Howard Administration consistently took the
position that Australia does not have to choose between its history and its geography,
meaning that it can engage Asia while maintaining close ties to Western liberal
democracies with similar values.62 Australia has in the past relied on concepts such
as the defense of Australia, self-reliance within an alliance framework, forward
60 Geoff Hiscock, “Australia, China Sign Uranium Deal,” CNN, April 3, 2006.
61 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia, “Australia-China
FTA Negotiations,” June, 2008.
62 For a recent discussion of Australian foreign policy see Alexander Downer, “Securing
Australia’s Interests Australian Foreign Policy Priorities,” Australian Journal of
International Affairs, March, 2005.
defense, and forward engagement, all of which relied to a large extent on Australia’s
geography and/or its historical ties to great and powerful friends and allies.
Australia is now adapting these concepts to integrate a regional Asia-Pacific
outlook and a global perspective in an effort to maximize its national interests. This
evolving posture is largely the outcome of a number of key recent events that have
shaped how Australia perceives the external environment, the most significant of
which are: the rise of China; the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and its political impact
on the region; Australia’s East Timor intervention of 1999 and increasing instability
in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific; the war against terror and deployments
to Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 and the bombing
of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004. Many of these events had significant
global as well as regional dimensions.63
The former Howard government’s central foreign policy tenet, that Australia
does not have to choose between its history and geography, is now viewed by many
as undergoing a significant test as Australia’s strategic relations may increasingly be
at odds with Australia’s trade interests. Southeast Asian terrorism, with its linkages
to global terrorism, and the potential disintegration of unstable states to the north of
Australia, such as the Solomon Islands, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea, are key
security interests for Australia that compel Australia to play an active role in
promoting regional security in tandem with American regional interests. Although
Australia does not see conflict between the United States and China as inevitable,
such a conflict would make Australia’s position with China more difficult.
Australia’s Asian Engagement
Although Australia has increasingly recognized the need for close relations with
Asia, it has tried not to emphasize these ties at the expense of its Western roots and
democratic values. Australian governments have traditionally sought to keep the
United States closely involved in East Asia and the Pacific. Some Asian countries
have welcomed the strengthened U.S.-Australian defense relationship, but others,
notably China, have been less supportive. Beijing strategists are thought by some to
be concerned that strengthening of the U.S. alliances with Australia and Japan may
be aimed at “containing” China. Some have argued that greater Australian support
of the United States may undermine Australia’s efforts to engage Asia at a deeper
Rudd’s Asia-Pacific Community Concept. In June 2008, Prime Minister
Rudd put forward an inclusive vision for an Asia-Pacific Community that would
include the United States, China, Japan, India, and Indonesia as well as other regional
states as a way of shaping the evolving regional architecture of Asia. The group
63 See Michael Evans, “US-Australia Relations in Asia,” Woodrow Wilson Center Asia
Seminar, June 1, 2005, and Allan Gyngell, “Australia’s Emerging Global Role,” Current
History, March, 2005, for excellent discussions of these events and their impact on
Australian strategic thought.
64 Derek McDougall, “Australia and Asia-Pacific Security Regionalism: From Hawke and
Keating to Howard,” Contemporary Southeast Asia (Singapore), April, 2001.
would discuss political and security issues as well as economic issues.65 Rudd’s
initiative has been criticized by some for not consulting with regional leaders before
it was announced.66 The proposal was not overly well received in Southeast Asia and
Malaysia came out against the concept.67 It appeared that India gave Rudd cautious
support for the concept.68 Rudd’s proposal now joins other proposed Asian
architectures including the East Asia Summit, APEC, Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) plus three, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Rudd’s concept
differs from these most significantly in that it includes the United States and India
and would address political and security issues as well as economic issues.69
Indonesia. Indonesia’s geographic proximity and size make good relations
with Jakarta a key foreign policy priority for Australia. While Australia’s relationship
with Indonesia has at times been troubled, as was the case as a result of Indonesians’
displeasure over Australia’s role in East Timor’s independence, relations are at
present positive. The strategic aspect of the relationship is defined by the 2006
Lombok Treaty as well as a recently renewed Memorandum of Understanding on70
Combating International Terrorism. Many Australians were killed in the 2002 Bali
bombing carried out by the Jemaah Islamiya terrorist group. The Australian Embassy
in Jakarta was also bombed in 2004 and a second terrorist attack struck Bali in 2005.
Australia will provide Indonesia with an estimated AD $462 million in official71
development assistance in 2008-2009.
Australia and Indonesia have experienced difficulties, as well as successes, in
their bilateral relationship in recent years. Tensions over temporary asylum granted
by Australia to a number of West Papuans have been of particular concern to
Indonesia. An April 2006 poll in Australia found 75% of Australians favoring self-72
determination for West Papua. Such tensions have occurred even as bilateral
cooperation on counterterrorism and security has improved.73 Indonesian fears over
Australia’s role in the Indonesian provinces on the western half of the island of Papua
New Guinea can be better understood in context of the recent independence of East
65 Stephen Loosely, “Pacific Allies Must Foster an Asian Regional Dialogue,” The
Australian, June 20, 2008.
66 David McLennan, “Rudd Plan for Asian Community Written Off,” Canberra Times, July
67 “History Repeats as Malaysia Cool to Aust Asia-Pacific Idea,” Australian Associated
Press, July 11, 2008.
68 “FM Mukherjee Supports Australian Proposal to Form Asia-Pacific Community,” The
Times of India, June 8, 2008.
69 Rory Medcalf, “Rudd’s Asian Aria Sounds Familiar,” Australian Financial Review, June
70 Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, “Launch of Australian Strategic
Policy Institute Strategy Report on Indonesia,” May 27, 2008 Parliament House, Canberra.
71 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Indonesia Country Brief,” June 2008. In
August 2008, the Australian dollar was worth approximately 87 U.S. cents.
72 “Howard Rejects Papua Poll,” Canberra Times, April 20, 2006.
73 “Indonesia’s Rift with Australia,” Sydney Morning Herald, April 21, 2006.
Timor, which was formerly an Indonesian province. Australia, under the United
Nations, played a key role in assisting East Timor to become an independent nation.
The East Timor intervention was viewed negatively in Indonesia and led to the end
of the previous Agreement on Mutual Security between Canberra and Jakarta.74
Australia and Indonesia resumed joint military exercises with an air force exercise
held in April 2005.75
In November 2007, the Indonesian Peoples Representatives Council ratified a
security treaty, previously ratified by the Australian parliament, which was signed
in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, by former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. The treaty recognizes Indonesian sovereignty
over West Papua.76 In December 2004, Australia announced a decision to provide
AD$20 million to Indonesia for counterterror assistance over the next five years.77
Australia’s generous post-2004 tsunami assistance also improved relations between
Australia and Indonesia.
China. Prime Minister Rudd will likely continue to develop Australia’s trade
and political relations with China. Australia and China commenced a bilateral
Strategic Dialogue in February 2008. Rudd, a former diplomat who speaks Mandarin,
is likely to carefully balance his approach to China with Australian values. Rudd78
reportedly took up the issue of Tibet during his April 2008 visit to China. Rudd
prefers a “practical” approach to China that will not alarm Beijing as was reportedly
the case with an earlier proposal to develop a quadrilateral security architecture
consisting of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India in 2007. In this way, some
in Asia view Australia under Rudd as more independent of the United States than it
was under Howard.79
One of the most significant changes in Australia’s external relations, and one
with potential implications for the bilateral relationship with the United States, is
Australia’s growing relationship with China. Australia’s trade with China has more80
than tripled over the past decade. There is a debate in Australia on whether
Australia’s growing trade ties with China will lead Australia to have to choose
74 Richard Woolcott, “Foreign policy priorities for the Howard Government’s Fourth Term,”
Australian Journal of International Affairs, June, 2005.
75 “Australia and Indonesia Hold First Military Exercise for Six Years,” Oster Dow Jones,
April 12, 2005.
76 “Indonesian Parliament Approves Papua Sovereignty Treaty with Australia,” BBC News,
November 29, 2007.
77 Adianto Simamora, “Terrorism Bolsters Australia’s Ties with Indonesia,” The Jakarta
Post, December 28, 2005.
78 Michael Fullilove, “Rudd Steps Out Into the World with Elan,” Sydney Morning Herald,
July 14, 2008.
79 P.S. Suryanarayana, “Australia: A Free Thinking Ally of the U.S.,” The Hindu, June 16,
80 Janaki Kremmer, “How Trade May Corral Australia’s Sheriff,” Christian Science
Monitor, June 8, 2005.
between economic engagement with China and its close strategic relationship with
the United States. Australia has taken the position that China’s rise has come with “a
growing understanding that its continued development and future prosperity depends
on maintaining a stable regional and international environment.”81 In 2006,
Australia-China merchandise trade was $34.6 billion while Australia-U.S. trade was
$26.1 billion.82 There is little enthusiasm in Australia for what is perceived as an
increasingly tough policy stance on China by some in Washington.83
While it remains to be seen where Rudd will take Australia’s China policy, it
may have much continuity with the previous government’s approach. The
government of former Prime Minister Howard favored a policy of engagement with
China. His Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that “a policy of containment
of China would be a very big mistake.” This view reflects concern in Australia that
more hawkish elements of the U.S. security community may seek a shift of U.S.
policy away from “pragmatic constructive engagement to a more confrontational
position” toward China.84 Other areas of policy departure with the United States
include Australia’s April 2006 agreement to sell uranium to China and Canberra’s
reluctance to condemn the European Union’s move to lift its arms embargo of China
in 2005.85 Australia has 40% of the world’s known uranium reserves.86
In August of 2004, Foreign Minister Downer, in response to a question on
whether the ANZUS alliance applied to a potential conflict with China over Taiwan,
stated that the treaty would not automatically be invoked.87 Some have described the
Downer statement on Taiwan as a “radical restatement of Australian policy while
others have passed it off as gaffe.”88 Former Prime Minster Howard warned against
taking the pessimistic view that conflict between America and China is inevitable and
has stated that “we see ourselves as having a role in continually identifying, and
advocating to each, the shared strategic interests these great powers (the United
States and China) have in regional peace and prosperity.”89
81 Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, “Australia and China’s Shared Interests -
Security and Strategic Dimensions,” August 13, 2004.
82 “Australia Trade Data,” World Trade Atlas, 2006.
83 Tony Pratt, “Caught in the Middle,” Financial Review, May 6, 2005.
84 Patrick Walters, “Containing China a Big Mistake,” The Australian, March 16, 2006.
85 Brendan Nicholson and Orietta Guerrera, “Embrace China, Downer Tells U.S.” The Age,
March 16, 2006.
86 Barry Hing, “China’s Pacific Power Play,” The Straits Times, April 6, 2006.
87 Peter Jennings, “Australia’s Regional Diplomacy Challenge,” Financial Review, April 30,
88 Greg Sheridan, “Chinese Human Rights Abuse a No-go Zone,” The Australian, June 25,
89 Hugh White, “US May Play Hardball with Australia Over China Ties,” The Straits Times,
April 16, 2005 and Hugh White, “Howard’s Asian Balancing Act,” The Age, April 13, 2005.
Japan. Under Howard, the Canberra-Tokyo relationship was taken to a new
degree of closeness through the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security
Cooperation. This reinforced security ties already established through the Trilateral
Security Dialogue among the United States, Japan, and Australia. Australian Minister
of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith claimed recently that Japan has been Australia’s
“closest and most consistent friend in our region for many years.”90 Some in Japan
are reportedly concerned that Rudd’s government will place Australia’s relationship
with China ahead of its relationship with Japan.91 Australian exports to Japan fell
2.5% from 2006 to 2007. Despite this, Japan remained Australia’s largest export
Relations initially were not as close as they were under Howard as the Rudd
government pressed Japan to curb its whaling in the Southern Ocean. Despite a rough
start, relations have improved in recent months. Rudd has sought to portray tensions
over Japan’s whaling as “disagreement between friends” that was not likely to
“undermine in any way the strong and positive nature of our bilateral relationship.”93
During Prime Minister Rudd’s June 2008 visit to Japan, he and Prime Minister
Yasuo Fukuda issued a Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic, Security, and
Economic Partnership which signaled the intention of the two governments to
continue cooperation in a broad range of policy areas.94
India. Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith has stated that “While many
commentators have been focusing on the rise of China, not enough attention has been
paid to the rise of India.... As the world sees the potential of an Asian/Pacific century
unfold, Australia sees India at the heart of this historic shift in political and economic
influence.” At the core of Australia’s relationship with India is expanding trade.
Australian trade with India has been expanding by 30% per year over the past five
years. India and Australia have initiated a Free Trade Agreement feasability study.
The Rudd government believes India should have a permanent seat on the United
Nations Security Council.95 Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has stated
that maritime security and counterterror cooperation are potential areas for
cooperation between India and Australia.96 Foreign Minister Smith has reiterated the
90 Stephen Smith, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, “A Modern Australia for a New Era,”
Sydney April 9, 2008.
91 Daniel Flitton and K. Murphy, “Rudd’s Arrival at G8 to renew Japanese Ties,” The Age,
July 8, 2008.
92 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia, “Japan Country
Brief,” July 2008.
93 “Australia’s PM Visit to Japan and Indonesia Reaffirms Bilateral Relationships,” Global
Insight, June 13, 2008.
94 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia, “Japan Country
Brief,” July 2008.
95 The Hon. Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, “India: A New Relationship
for a New Century,” Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,
[ h t t p : / / www.f o r e i gnmi n i s t e r . go v. a u ]
96 P.S. Suryanarana, “Australia for Practical Military Cooperation with India,” The Hindu,
Rudd government’s position that it will not lift a ban on uranium sales to India.97 The
Rudd government reversed the former Howard government’s decision to sell uranium
to India because India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.98
Regional Dynamics in the Southwest Pacific
Kevin Rudd has made it clear that he wishes to place relatively more emphasis
on Australia’s relationship with the Southwest Pacific, a region in Australia’s
immediate neighborhood. Australia has led peace-keeping efforts in the region,
including East Timor and the Solomon Islands. These actions demonstrate
Australia’s resolve to promote stability in the South Pacific. Rudd has already sought
to improve relations with Papua New Guinea and has traveled to East Timor, where
he promised that Australian troops will remain through 2008 to help maintain
securi t y. 99
East Timor. Australia’s commitment to regional security and humanitarian
concerns in the Asia-Pacific region was demonstrated by its involvement in East
Timor. The former Portuguese colony was occupied by Indonesia from 1975 to 1999.
In 1998, diplomatic intervention by Prime Minister Howard prompted the dialogue
between Indonesian officials and East Timorese nationalists that resulted in an
agreement to hold U.N.-supervised elections in 1999. On August 30, 1999, nearly
80% of East Timor’s electorate voted to separate from Indonesia. Following the
announcement of the result, anti-independence militias launched a campaign of
violence. On September 15, 1999, the U.N. Security Council authorized the
International Force East Timor (INTERFET) to restore peace and security and protect
and support the U.N. mission personnel in East Timor. INTERFET operated under
a unified command structure headed initially by Australia. East Timor became100
independent in 2002.
Australia and East Timor have reached an agreement for the exploitation of
energy resources beneath the Timor Sea. It has been estimated that East Timor will101
receive up to $15 billion in revenue over the next 40 years in oil and gas royalties.
In 2004 and 2005 some Members of the U.S. Congress expressed concern over
Australia’s position on negotiating its maritime boundary with East Timor and
arrangements for joint exploitation of energy resources in the Timor Sea. Australia
had previously negotiated a delineation of the border with Indonesia that was more
June 3, 2008.
97 “No Uranium But Australia Wants Strong Ties with India,” Indo-Asian News Service,
June 20, 2008.
98 “Rann Refuses to Back Sale of Uranium to India,” ABC News, June 11, 2008.
99 Michelle Grattan, “Troops Will Stay, PM Promises,” The Age, December 15, 2007.
100 “Australian PM Hints at Long-term Military Presence in East Timor,” BBC Monitoring
Service, June 19, 2003.
101 “Turning Timor Oil Into Prosperity,” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 11, 2005 and
“East Timor PM Says Gas Deal with Australia is Fair,” BBC News, July 8, 2005.
favorable to Australia. Australia and East Timor have agreed to postpone final
demarcation of their maritime boundary.
The Solomon Islands. Australia’s Regional Assistance Mission to the
Solomon Islands demonstrates Australia’s resolve to reassert its influence and
promote stability in the South Pacific. Australia headed a multinational force to
restore order in the Solomons in 2003. In April 2006 it once again sent a quick
reaction force to the Solomons to quell rioting and violence following the election102
of Prime Minister Snyder Rini. These interventions, when taken in the context of
Australia’s involvement in East Timor and ongoing efforts to promote peace and
good governance in Papua New Guinea, demonstrate Australia’s commitment to
promote stability in the region in order to prevent countries from slipping into
anarchy. Australia has also proposed that the smaller of the South Pacific micro-
states pool their resources for their common good.
Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and East Asian Summit
Australia, which has in the past been viewed by some as America’s “Deputy
Sheriff” in the region, signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, which enabled
it to participate in the East Asian Summit (EAS) in Malaysia in December 2005. The
EAS is a grouping that includes the 10 ASEAN states plus China, Japan, and South
Korea (known as the “plus three” states) and Australia, New Zealand, and India.
When a similar grouping, without Australia or New Zealand, was previously
proposed as the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) by former Malaysian Prime
Minister Mahathir, the United States was reportedly able to thwart the concept and
instead champion the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping with
Previously, the Howard Government had opposed signing the Treaty of Amity
and Cooperation but reportedly signed the treaty to be included in the regional
grouping. Australia had not wanted to sign the treaty, which binds members to a
policy of non-interference and non-aggression, because of concerns that it might
interfere with Australia’s ANZUS commitments or Australia’s policy of preemption103
against terrorist attack. The Howard Government supported the U.S. policy of
preemption and since the Bali bombing has reserved the right to act preemptively to104
neutralize terrorist threats to Australia. The inclusion of Australia, New Zealand,
and India appears to have been the result of some ASEAN states’ preference for more
expansive membership to balance the influence of China.
102 John Kerin, “Flying Squad to Quell Solomons Riots,” Financial Review, April 20, 2006.
103 Tim Johnson, “Ultimatum to Australia Over Summit,” Financial Times, April 13, 2005
and Marian Wilkinson, “Invitation off Limits Until Howard Comes to the Party on Treaty,”
Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2005.
104 Anthony Smith, “Still Great Mates: Australia and the United States,” Asian Affairs,
Figure 1. Map of Australia
Source: Map Resources. Adapted by CRS.