Former prime minister Paul Keating says Australia should “cut the tag” with America’s foreign policies now Donald Trump has been elected president, focusing less on the alliance between the two countries and concentrating more on relationships within Asia.
But fellow former prime minister John Howard said the current alliance with the United States did not need any “radical recasting”.
Mr Keating told the ABC’s 7.30 program the alliance with the United States had taken on a “sacramental quality” to some within the Government.
“We’ve got to this almost sort of crazy position now where the American alliance, instead of simply being a treaty where the United States is obliged to consult with us in the event of adverse strategic circumstances, it has now taken on a reverential, sacramental quality,” he said.
“I’m not talking about simply the Government, I’m talking about some people on the Labor side as well.
“We had the Prime Minister almost saying prayers to the alliance yesterday, and the Foreign Minister.”
Mr Keating said while he wanted to see the alliance continue, “what we have to do is make our way in Asia ourselves with an independent foreign policy”.
“Our future is basically in the region around us in South East Asia,” he said.
“What we should be thinking about is an independent policy which does worry about Indonesia, that does worry about South East Asia.
“We’d actually be more useful to the United States, by the way, if we were doing these things.
‘It’s time to get out’: Keating
“Isn’t an independent balanced foreign policy the answer? Or do we stay in a crouch saying hail Marys to the alliance?
“The foreign policy of Australia is basically we have tag-along rights to the US, and … certainly since I left public office … in years since, we’ve had more or less a tag-along foreign policy.
“It’s time to cut the tag. It’s time to get out of it.”
Mr Keating said while he would not have voted for Mr Trump, “he said some interesting things”.
“Trump says, ‘Can’t we have a better relationship with Russia?’ Not a bad idea.
“He says, ‘Can’t we get along better with China?’ Not a bad idea. There’s two reasonable ideas there.”
‘Warm relationship will continue’: Howard
Mr Howard told 7.30 the alliance with the United States would remain strong under a Trump presidency.
“I, in the long run, am pretty confident that the historical warmth of the relationship will continue. I don’t believe the new administration is going to walk away from old allies,” Mr Howard said.
“The most important element of our relationship is of course ANZUS, and underpinning that the Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangement.
“I don’t see those things being disturbed.”
He said Mr Trump’s focus on defence could be good for Australia.
“I think one of the things we can look forward to is more money being spent by America on defence, and that is likely to end up strengthening the involvement of the United States in the Asia Pacific region.
“So those people who are talking about the need for some kind of radical recasting of our attitude towards the United States forget the reality that this is a relationship so deeply embedded in history and sentiment that it survives changes of personnel both in Canberra and Washington.”
– with Myles Wearring, ABC