SYDNEY: Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Thursday played down scathing comments by former leader Paul Keating that Australia has become too compliant to the United States while neglecting relations with Asia.
Australia hosted annual security and strategy talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in Perth on Wednesday, with both sides talking up their close ties.
At the meeting, the two governments launched discussions on granting the Americans future access to air bases in northern Australia as well as naval ports, including one in the Indian Ocean south of Perth.
Keating, who as Labour prime minister between 1991-1996 championed closer ties with Asia, particularly Indonesia, said the region saw Australia as a client of the United States which tended to fall in with its foreign policy.
“Our sense of independence has flagged, and as it flagged we have rolled back into an easy accommodation with the foreign policy objectives of the United States,” he said in a speech on Wednesday evening.
He added that the current Labour government must show that it could set its own path without kowtowing to the US.
“Policy towards our nearest, largest neighbour, Indonesia, has languished, lacking framework, judgements of magnitude and coherence,” he said.
But Carr rejected the critique, insisting Australia’s foreign policy objectives had not been surrendered to the United States.
“We are in a treaty relationship with the United States because we’ve got a major task, and that is the security of this continent, a small population, a large continent, an uncertain region, an uncertain world.”