…organisation with standards..
The Australian Prime Minister will represent our country overseas for the better part of the next three weeks. We wish him well. We are delighted that a highlight of his vist to London will be an audience with The Queen, as Queen of Australia. Few in the world are as experienced and as knowledgable about world affairs as Her Majesty, so we can be sure this will not just be a courtesy call.
The Queen is also Head of the Commonwealth, an organization which is the successor to the British Empire under which Australia was settled and federated. It is in many ways our oldest international association. It is worth comparing the Commonwealth with some other organisations to which we belong.
As part of such an exercise, few of us probably noticed that not only has Libya been elected to membership of the UN Security Council, but was elected president for the first month of 2008. The enormity of that may take a few moments to sink in. Libya was presiding over the United Nations Security Council. Admittedly this election is normally done by rotation, but as one person asked us, "Is that like having Ivor Milat preside over the High Court?"
This recalls a decision of a Victorian Attorney General to advertise for a new chief justice. It is said a large number of applications came from HM Prison Pentridge, or whatever institution has now replaced “The Bluestone College,” as it was affectionately known.
There is one international organisation with standards – the Commonwealth. If you don’t observe them you are suspended, or even forced out. There is a queue to join it. There is talk from time to time that Ireland and even the United states of America would be interested.
But the Commonwealth is strangely not one of the pillars of Australia's current foreign policy. They are the US alliance, Asia, and the UN. The UN, which does good things, is weakened by not impartially and consistently enforcing the clear conditions of membership.
This recalls perhaps too readily the Marxist adage (Groucho not Karl): “I would not want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”
As its Head, The Queen is of course at the very centre of the Commonwealth. In the accompanying photograph we see The Queen, who is of course The Queen of Australia with the President of the United States, Mr George Bush during one of the highlights of his presidency, the State Visit by The Queen in 2007. It was the only occasion when a dinner was considered so important that he wore evening dress.
This visit was as Queen of the United Kingdom, but The Queen, and members of the Royal Family, perform other functions as advised. Her Majesty’s Canadian ministers have, on occasions advised and requested Her Majesty as Queen of Canada to undertake important functions in the United States and France. Why doesn’t the Australian government do this on appropriate occasions?
…from AUKMIN to the Angloshere…
We have only recently learned that filling the obvious gap in our foreign and defence policy “architecture,” AUKMIN, was Greg Sheridan’s brainchild[i], endorsed enthusiastically by Tony Blair, Alexander Downer and John Howard. Mr. Sheridan, The Australian's Foreign Editor, says this only came to him when he was researching his recent book, The Partnership, on the US-Australian military and intelligence relationship.
The more he examined this relationship, the more he was struck by something else: namely, 'the astonishing, continuing, political, military, and intelligence closeness between Australia and Britain'.
Sheridan’s piece has now encouraged John Sullivan in the Daily Telegraph ( London) and also in the US National Review, to argue for an increasing role in world affairs for the English speaking countries.
These countries share the same cultural traits – individualism, rule of law, honouring contracts, and the elevation of freedom. This commonality brought Roosevelt and Churchill together on HMS The Prince of Wales in 1941 to sign The Atlantic Charter.
This commonality is neither genetic nor racial; the Anglosphere extends beyond the 'old Commonwealth' to the West Indies and India. He says the idea of its having an increased role is now “seeping into politics.” He refers to the “eloquent” speech last year by the Canadian prime minister to the Australian parliament. In it, Stephen Harper praised the common British heritage linking both nations.
Sullivan also cites a speech by the Indian Prime Minister at Oxford in 2005. In it, Manmohan Singh seemed almost to want to assume the leadership of the Anglosphere for his country.
Mr. Manmohan Singh said: 'If there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set, it is the world of the English-speaking peoples, in which the people of Indian origin are the largest single component.'
…Australia and UK, the “top tier of US allies"…
Australia has now joined Britain in the very top tier of important US allies, yet Australians have failed to comprehend their country's special place, according to an adviser to the Democrats' leading candidate, Hillary Clinton.
These comments were reported by Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald on 7 February 2008. He says this mean all three front-running presidential campaigns – by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain – have said this week their candidate holds the Australian alliance in the highest possible regard.
Kurt Campbell, defence policy adviser to Senator Clinton, told the Herald: "Australia has now, in reality, ascended to the top tier of allies, and there are only two countries in that rarefied air – Australia and Britain.
He says that “psychologically,” Australia has not made that adjustment. Great Britain will manage the relationship with an incoming Democrat or Republican administration very effectively.
"The fact that Australia still worries about this at times, even though there's the broadest possible bipartisan support for Australia, suggests that Australians have not fully absorbed their new situation."
…a fourth pillar?…
The Anglosphere depends on all sorts of formal and informal networks, and is nothing like the supranational European Union. It is unfortunate that the latest EU treaty, which is effectively a constitution, has been signed and will be ratified by the UK without the promised referendum.
It may be that a future British government will do the right thing and not only refer the question to the people but also act on their decision.
In the meantime, now that the new Australian Prime Minister has spent some summer days properly ensconced in The Lodge and at Kirribilli House, and has watched the cricket test with India, we suggest he consider elevating the Anglosphere, including the Commonwealth, as another pillar of Australian foreign and defence policy.
We should,after all, maintain and enhance all of our international links, and the links with Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the rest of the Angosphere are already strong.
We can safely say one thing.
That is that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a leader with gravitas and trained as a diplomat, would never do what Paul Keating once did[iii], seriously, gratuitously and publicly insult our close friends, the British, in the national parliament.