Keating warns Rudd over defensive outlook


Senior Member
May 6, 2009
Country flag
THE former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has criticised the Rudd Government for being too defensive towards China and risking a return to the "posture of fear or reaction" that typified the Menzies era.

Delivering the annual John Curtin lecture in Perth last night, Mr Keating said that in time China would rival and possibly eclipse the US as an economic and strategic power. Along with the rise of India, this presented Australia with "a huge opportunity".

"We must be alert, dextrous and positive - never defensive," Mr Keating said.

The Rudd Government's Defence white paper, released in May, set out a strategy until 2030. It implied China would become a threat as US regional influence waned.

Mr Keating said there was nothing wrong with recognising that China would become the strongest Asian power but the paper had "struck an ambivalent tone about our likely new strategic circumstances and what we should do about them".

"Including, for instance, failing to give us an indication as to whether it foresaw the growth of China's military capabilities as a natural and legitimate thing for a rising economic power or whether … it was something we should regard as a threat and for which we should plan."

China's rise in the company of other regional powers might create a peaceful and prosperous region or the region might "become more problematic".

In a swipe at Australia's tendency to side with the US, Mr Keating said that too often Australia had "created problems for itself when its defence policy has gotten ahead of its foreign policy". "Vietnam and Iraq are prime examples," he said.

Australian foreign policy needed to be positive, outgoing and alert to opportunity, "carrying with it a message of participation with invitations to inclusiveness". He said: "We should never return to a posture of fear or reaction of the kind that prevailed during the Menzies years. Nor should we look to position ourselves as a comfortable accessory tucked under someone else's armpit."

Citing his role in establishing the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders meeting, Mr Keating said the region's prosperity, peace and security required that China be included in any new post-Cold war strategy and that it be encouraged to play an active role in world affairs.

He made no acknowledgement of Kevin Rudd's proposal for an Asia-Pacific community, which would include China but, unlike APEC, would also include India and have a security component. APEC is largely confined to trade and economic matters.

Keating warns Rudd over defensive outlook

Global Defence

New threads