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Below is my letter published in today’s Australian (plus a square bracketed section omitted by the Ed), together with other supportive letters also published and an editorial, on the decision by Immigration Minister Bowen to grant a visa to Geert Wilders, whose intended visit has now been postponed for unexplained reasons.

I am aiming to write further about this decision and related matters. Suffice to note, for the present, that the labelling of Wilders as being from the “far-right” is wrong: he is not a fascist. Further, while he is outspoken about Islamic beliefs, there is a very considerable difference between his statements and those of many Islamic leaders.

Des Moore

Alliance with US is not anti-China
(Letter published in AFR, 8 Nov 2012)

Richard Woolcott asserts, inter alia, that ANZUS is out of date because 60 years old
(“Asian Century: for the US, but not against China”, AFR November 5)

But age does not wither treaties, only inapppropriateness does; and our security alliance with the United States, which covers political as well as security circumstances, is certainly not inappropriate in today's changing circumstances - including the rise of China.

Woolcott says we should oppose the "containment" of China.

But China is not the USSR, and is not being contained by the USA because there is no need for that so long as a balance of power continues and China does not develop expansionist ambitions.

Neither Australia nor the USA has an "adversarial attitude" to China, and neither regards China as "a natural enemy" of the USA, which continues to have and to want "a constructive involvement in Asia".

In short, Woolcott is not useful or relevant in either his analysis or pessimism .

Des Moore
Institute for Private Enterprise.

Asian Century: for the US, but not against China
(AFR 5 November, Richard Woolcott )

The steadily increasing importance of Asia and the need for Australia to adjust to its geographical environment is, of course, not new. Successive governments have advocated this but their responses are yet to match stated outcomes or rhetoric and have been far from adequate.

So what should we do to strengthen our place in the world, especially in Asia?

Australia needs a fundamental change to our national psyche, which will be focused more on Asia than on our well established links with the United States, the UK and Europe.

We also need a sustained rather than spasmodic approach to the countries of Asia. Both the Asian Century white paper and Australia’s membership of the United Nations Security Council are relevant to defining more clearly our national identity and place in the world.

The most important foreign and strategic policy issue Australia faces today is the urgent need to determine a more appropriate and updated balance in relations with the US and China, the emerging superpower. The white paper did not address this issue in depth. On this fundamental question the government will need to assess frankly how the US and China evolve over the next decade.

We should not be afraid of forward looking change. For example, the ANZUS treaty, now 60 years on, is somewhat out of date and should not be regarded as an absolute guarantee of US military support, which it is not, or as a political sacred cow. The only occasion on which Australia sought US support under ANZUS, during Indonesia’s confrontation on Malaysia in 1964, the US declined.

An increasing number of Australians consider that ANZUS, or our broader military alliance with the US, has now involved us in three unsuccessful wars – Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – in support of policy decisions taken essentially in Washington.

I have included Afghanistan because, although there was a justification for the invasion after the terrorist attacks on New York of September 11, 2001,11 years on with more than 2000 Americans and 39 Australians killed, more than $400 billion spent and more than 12,500 Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war has reached a stage at which the US itself is withdrawing combat forces with its mission unaccomplished.

Objectives, once deemed to be indispensable, such as nation building and counter-insurgency, have been downgraded or abandoned either because they have not worked or there is no longer adequate time or resources to achieve them.

Australia should have withdrawn in 2010 when new Prime Minister Julia Gillard could have reviewed our policy. By the end of 2014, when the last Americans are due to cease fighting, the Taliban will not have been defeated and a truly democratic government will not be in place.

Because Australia’s support for the war is bipartisan (despite polls revealing majority popular opposition) does not mean it is either right or in our national interest.

The government and the opposition are submerging the real situation in “spin” to justify their original support. Sadly we are now in fact involved in civil war in support of a corrupt and unstable government.

Too many Australian lives have already been lost and there is no justification for any further Australian losses. Afghanistan, like the second invasion of Iraq, has become a detour from Australia’s area of primary interest.

I had hoped that with the white paper, the government would have taken the opportunity to send an unambiguous signal to the public, to China and the US, as well as other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that, while we have some different attitudes from China and are in an alliance with the US, we welcome the rise of China and oppose policies directed at the “containment” of China.

We also see no intrinsic reason why China, under its system of authoritarian capitalism, cannot continue to rise peacefully although it faces major social and economic problems that it will need to address.

The rise of China, if mismanaged, could lead to instability and frustrate progress towards the shared and necessary goal of Asia-Pacific regional co-operation which will be the cornerstone for future peace, stability and continuing development.

We do not consult and talk with the Chinese at the head of government and ministerial levels in the regular manner we should in the Asian Century.

Although it will be more difficult because of cultural and political differences, political and business leaders should communicate regularly with their counterparts. This will not be easy but it is important.

There is a danger that adversarial attitudes towards China could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. While China can be expected to resist US “hegemony” over the Asian region, it welcomes a continuing constructive US involvement in Asia. China is not a natural enemy of the US.

It is essential that both countries and the other major countries in the region develop a habit of discussing frankly difficulties as they arise within a co-operative framework such as the East-Asian summit.

Richard Woolcott is a former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is an edited text of The Hawke Lecture to be delivered at Adelaide University tonight.

The Australian Financial Review

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