Alp Foreign Policy: International Engagement Necessary In A Globalised World

October 26, 2001

National environment group, Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) welcomed the launch of the ALP's foreign policy in Sydney yesterday.

It is essential that Australia take a proactive role in international negotiations. Under the current federal government, Australia¹s international reputation has sunk to an all time low. Australia¹s self interested approach to global issues has been consistently highlighted in climate change negotiations. The ALP has made a number of significant commitments in its foreign policy which would greatly improve Australia¹s international standing.

FoEA commends the following elements of the policy:

  • Labor's stated intention to restore international respect for Australia as "a tolerant and outward looking society, wholeheartedly committed to international engagement";
  • Commitments to East Timor, the Bougainville peace process, and the Pacific region. (The ALPs commitment to "strengthen co-operation ?. including natural disaster planning" should include explicit consideration of, and resourcing for, the impacts of climate change. FoEA notes the recent announcement by the New Zealand government that it would accept an annual quota of residents as refugees from the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, already impacted by rising sea levels);
  • The promise of a more active role in the multilateral institutions, including the UN;
  • Making the advancement of human rights a core foreign policy objective;
  • Counter-proliferation strategies (nuclear, chemical and biological weapons) and regional nuclear weapon free zones;
  • In building improved links with Indonesia, our foreign aid needs to be targeted at building the capacity of Indonesian civil society. The ALPs commitment to providing "more substantial assistance to Indonesia¹s human rights organisations" is to be commended;
  • Commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and encourage greater action on climate change;
  • support for further debt relief and the reform of multilateral banks;
  • commitment to take a leading role at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio + 10);
  • commitment to increase the aid target to 0.7 per cent of GNP (currently at a historic low under the Coalition);
  • commitment to a Regional Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution.

Areas of concern:

Labor's plan to "give high priority to ?... combat people smuggling" must be explicitly linked to addressing the root causes of why people flee their countries. In addressing issues of refugees and asylum seekers, Australia should: continue to fund refugee camps and programs, build a foreign aid program which acts to enhance civil society in recipient countries, increase resettlement places in Australia, actively work to undermine misconceptions about asylum seekers, and end mandatory sentencing of asylum seekers. As an interim measure, the ALP should improve conditions in detention centres to be consistent with international standards.

FoEA does not accept that current military action under the control of the USA will meet the stated aims of ?fighting terrorism.

Current negotiations over trade liberalisation have occurred at the expense of social development, environmental protection and human rights (including working conditions). There should be no further free trade agreements until there has been a thorough audit of the social and environmental impacts of existing agreements.

Any engagement with China must be based on ensuring increased human rights within the country; this needs to be a stated cornerstone of ALP policy.

For further information contact:

Cam Walker
National Liaison Officer
FoE Australia
Mob: 0419 338 047