AUSTRALIA’S RUDD LOOKS TO SET NEW FOREIGN POLICY

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AUSTRALIA’S RUDD LOOKS TO SET NEW FOREIGN POLICY

SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Jan. 2) – A leading foreign policy expert at the Lowy Institute think tank says he believes Australia will pursue a new, more daring foreign policy under the Rudd Government.

Michael Fullilove is the director of the Insitute's Global Issues Program.

He says there have already been some changes in a very short period of time, and a new style of foreign policy is emerging.

"The commitment to withdraw combat troops from Iraq is a clear break from an established Australian Government position over many years," he said.

"The ratification of Kyoto is again a break from the Howard Government, and something that I think energised the Bali conference on climate change.

"The whaling decision is not a first-order issue, but is a values issue, and is indicative of some of the new things.

"That's what we've seen already. But I think in the coming year, and in the years following that, I think you'll see even more substantial changes."

Dr Fullilove says new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will want to make his mark as a foreign-policy maker.

"He has the caution of a former official, but he also has the daring of somebody who was Prime Minister less than a decade after he entered Parliament," he said.

"The Government he leads is very different from the Howard Government. The media, over time, will accommodate itself to the new order."

Dr Fullilove says there has been a shift in public opinion and Australians are looking for new responses to issues like climate change.

"The international system is changing, and President Bush will be leaving the White House in a year," he said.

"You'll have a new president who's interested in the kind of fresh thinking that Labor promised.

"For those reasons, I think there'll be change on the US alliance, on the United Nations, on Asia, on lots of different issues."

Dr Fullilove says comments made by Mr Rudd in the Uruzgan provInce of Afghanistan that the troops would stay for "the long haul" indicated that Australia will remain a close ally of the US.

"But I think the automaticity of support for Washington and for Bush administration positions has already vanished, and I think it will be now more a textured approach to the US," he said.

"On the United Nations, I think we will have less of a jaundiced approach than Mr Howard and Mr Downer had."

He thinks Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will be a less ideological policy maker than former foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

"I think that sometimes, for example in relation to the United Nations, Mr Downer was guilty of fetishising the problems with the UN," Dr Fullilove said.

"I think Mr Smith is likely to be more pragmatic about the UN, to say, look, it has problems to do with its design and its operation, but it remains vital to Australian foreign policy, so let's get on and make the best of it we can, let's not fuss too much about the ideology of international institutions."

Meanwhile, Dr Fullilove says the Australian contingent in Afghanistan is very important because the war there is US-sanctioned.

"Most of the world agrees the fight is very important, but very few capitals are prepared to put their people in harm's way," he said.

"I think we should be there for the long haul, even if that takes up to a decade, because it's the right thing to do in terms of global security, it's the right thing in the context of our alliance responsibilities with the United States.

"If we want the US to regard its alliances as valuable, we have to be valuable allies, and Afghanistan is the place to make that point and to fight the good fight."

Solomons' changes significant'

Dr Fullilove also says that he expects further changes in the relationship between Australia and Solomon Islands.

Recently, the new Solomon Islands Government extradited Julian Moti to Australia to face child sex charges.

Moti was deported from Honiara after being sacked as Solomons' attorney-general by new Prime Minister Derek Sikua.

Dr Fullilove says the Rudd Government is benefiting a little from the change of leadership in the Solomons.

"I think that new governments in Canberra and Honiara could act as circuit-breakers for the relationship with the Solomon Islands," he said.

"Over time, I actually think that there will be significant change in our approach to something like Solomons, and it may not be predictable.

"When I look at RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands), I think it's a well-designed mission, but it's now a mission that's in its fourth year of operation and is yet to produce the kind of sustainable change that Mr Howard and Mr Downer indicated it would.

"Although I think, in some ways, Canberra is going to move closer to some of those Pacific states, I think it's probably also going to take the opportunity of being a new government to do an audit and to look at missions like RAMSI, which is highly expensive in terms of people and money, and really say what are we doing there, what's the end game, and how can we make this better, so that we can really improve things in a sustainable way in the Solomons."

But Mr Fullilove says that there will likely be more continuities in Australian foreign policy in Pakistan.

"Although I think there are going to be important changes under Rudd's leadership, there'll also be continuities because of our size, our geography and our international position, and Pakistan is one of them," he said.

"I think what's happening in Pakistan is very dangerous, but there are limits to our influence.

"I think the best thing we can do is to support efforts by our allies, and by the international community, to establish the kind of process to restore democracy and the rule of law, to restore institutions like the Supreme Court, and to gradually back the Pakistani military out of Pakistani politics."

"But as for playing a really independent role in Pakistan, I think that's difficult for us."

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