Foreign relations of Australia

Foreign relations of Australia

The foreign relations of Australia have spanned from the country's time as Dominion and later Realm of the British Empire to become steadfastly allied with New Zealand through long-standing ANZAC ties dating back to the early 1900s and the United States throughout the Cold War to its engagement with Asia as a power in its own right. Its relations with the international community are influenced by its position as a leading trading nation and as a significant donor of humanitarian aid.

Australia's foreign policy is guided by a commitment to multilateralism and regionalism, as well as to strong bilateral relations with its allies. Key concerns include free trade, terrorism, economic cooperation with Asia and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Australia is active in the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations.


Its first major independent foreign policy action was to conclude an agreement in 1944 with New Zealand dealing with the security, welfare, and advancement of the people of the independent territories of the Pacific (the ANZAC pact). After the war, Australia played a role in the Far Eastern Commission in Japan and supported Indonesian independence during that country's revolt against the Dutch (1945-49). Australia was one of the founders of both the United Nations and the South Pacific Commission (1947), and in 1950, it proposed the Colombo Plan to assist developing countries in Asia. In addition to contributing to UN forces in the Korean War - it was the first country to announce it would do so after the United States - Australia sent troops to assist in putting down the communist revolt in Malaya in 1948-60 and later to combat the Indonesian-supported invasion of Sarawak in 1963-65. Australia also sent troops to assist South Vietnamese and U.S. forces in Vietnam and joined coalition forces in the Persian Gulf conflict in 1991. Australia has been active in the Australia-New Zealand-United Kingdom agreement and the Five-Power Defence Arrangement--successive arrangements with Britain and New Zealand to ensure the security of Singapore and Malaysia. In 1999, Australian peace keeping forces intervened in East Timor following its referendum to secede from Indonesia. In 2006 Australia sent a contingent of Australian troops to the state in order to assist in the 2006 East Timor crisis.

International agencies, treaties, and agreements

One of the drafters of the UN Charter, Australia has given firm support to the United Nations and its specialised agencies. It was a member of the Security Council in 1986-87, a member of the Economic and Social Council in 1986-89, and a member of the UN Human Rights Commission in 1994-96. Australia takes a prominent part in many other UN activities, including peacekeeping, disarmament negotiations, and narcotics control. Australia also is active in meetings of the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the South Pacific Forum, and has been a leader in the Cairns Group — countries pressing for agricultural trade reform in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations — and in the APEC forum. In September 1999, acting under a UN Security Council mandate, Australia led an international coalition to restore order in East Timor upon Indonesia's withdrawal from that territory.

Australia has devoted particular attention to relations between developed and developing nations, with emphasis on the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) — Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei — and the island states of the South Pacific. Australia is an active participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which promotes regional cooperation on security issues. Australia was a participant at the inaugural ASEAN sponsored East Asia Summit in 2005. Australia's place at the summit was only secured after it agreed to reverse its policy and sign ASEAN's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Australia had been reluctant to sign the treaty out of concerns regarding how it would effect Australia's obligation under other treat arrangements including ANZUS.

Australia has a large bilateral aid programme (about $1.3 billion for 1997-98, mostly in the form of grants) under which some 60 countries receive assistance. Papua New Guinea (PNG), a former Australian trust territory, is the largest recipient of Australian assistance. Starting in 1997-99 Australia contributed to the IMF program for Thailand and assisted Indonesia and PNG with regional environmental crisis and drought relief efforts.

Australia is party to the Australia, New Zealand, United States security treaty (ANZUS).

It has also been a party of the Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom force (ANZUK).


Overall Australia's largest trading partners are the United States, Japan, China, and the United Kingdom. Australia currently has bilateral Free Trade Agreements with New Zealand, the United States, Thailand and Singapore as of 2007. As well as this, Australia is in the process undertaking studies on Free Trade Agreements with ASEAN, China, Chile, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.


Sanctions are a source of conflict and tension around the world. Australia has played an active role in implementing trade and migration sanctions against governments whose activities have endangered their global or domestic communities, such as in North Korea and Zimbabwe. However, recently Australia’s effectiveness in the implementation and commitment to sanctions has being questioned, with the AWB’s breach of US sanctions on Iran; though, despite the United States' lift on uranium trade sanctions with India, Australia continues to refuse to supply Uranium to India.

On 9 October 2006 North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test. This act caused much global tension, and prompted the United Nation’s Security Council to dispense trade sanctions, migration sanctions and financial sanctions against the country. The sanctions were specifically aimed towards the restriction of trading goods and money that may aid North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s program. Australia was quick to adopt these sanctions as law, illustrating its commitment to them. This commitment was further displayed by the former Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer’s strong stance towards sanctions and their role in ensuring a safer global community, “We will strictly implement the measures mandated by the Security Council”. Clearly, Australia’s role in this conflict was strong and tenacious, as it diligently attempted to pressurize the North Korean government to terminate its nuclear weapons program.

Another example of Australia’s commitment to sanctions, as a means of coercing humane and responsible governing, is their recent migratory sanctions on Zimbabwe. Under the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, and his regime’s undemocratic, inhuman and economically unstable policies, the country is deteriorating. As a result Australia has implemented migration sanctions which prohibit the children of the regime members to hold a student visa. According to Mr Downer, “These new measures will now also prevent these individuals from giving their families the kind of education their policies have denied the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.” Again, this displays Australia’s committed and industrious role in using sanctions to pressurize governments into governing in a trustworthy and humane manner. This claim, however, may be rebutted by the Australian Government's apparent unwillingness to intervene more effectively in East Timor and Indonesia during the 1999 crisis. Many high ranking military officials felt "constrained" by the policies they were forced to adhere to during the ADF's mission there.

Despite these positive sanction efforts; Australia’s role regarding sanctions has being flawed. For example, in 2006 AWB’s (Australian Wheat Board) US subsidiary (which trades using American currency) attempted to pay an Iranian transport company approximately $1 million dollars, in clear breach of the US sanctions. These sanctions prohibit American citizens and companies using American currency from trading with Iran. The AWB breached these sanctions, exhibiting Australia’s poor role in upholding sanctions made by other concerned members of the global community.

Foreign missions

Australia has diplomatic representatives in most countries. Australia has official relations with a number of countries. In these countries, Australia maintains an embassy, or in the case of Commonwealth countries, a high commission. Australia has consulates in many countries where there are no official government ties in existence, and these serve primarily to assist Australian travellers and business people visiting those countries. A number of Canadian missions provide consular assistance to Australians in countries in Africa where Australia does not maintain an office (and Australia reciprocates this arrangement for Canada in some other countries).

Due to the One China Policy of the People's Republic of China, in Taiwan the Australian Commerce and Industry Office unofficially represents Australia's interest. It serves the functions similar to other Australian Consulates.

Australia also maintains a Representative Office in the Palestinian Authority.

Bilateral relationships

Australia maintains significant bilateral relations with several countries.
*New Zealand
*United Kingdom
*United States

Relations with the Pacific

Australia is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional organisations. It has High Commissions in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. It has an embassy in the Federated States of Micronesia. Australia also currently leads the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, at the request of the Governor-General of the Solomon Islands.

Australia provides aid to many of its developing Pacific Islands neighbours, and to Papua New Guinea. Following the 2006 riots in Tonga, Australia sent police officers, at Tonga's request, to help stabilise the situation in the kingdom.

Australia's approach to the Pacific has included frequent references to what it has perceived as an "Arc of Instability" among its island neighbours. In August 2006, Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson stated to the Australian Parliament::"We cannot afford to have failing states in our region. The so-called 'arc of instability', which basically goes from East Timor through to the south-west Pacific states, means that not only does Australia have a responsibility in preventing and indeed assisting with humanitarian and disaster relief, but also that we cannot allow any of these countries to become havens for transnational crime, nor indeed havens for terrorism." [cite news
last = Dobell
first = Graeme
title = The Pacific 'arc of instability'
publisher = Correspondent's Report
date = 2006-08-20
url =

Under the government of John Howard, Australia's relations with Michael Somare's Papua New Guinea and Manasseh Sogavare's Solomon Islands were strained, primarily because of the "Julian Moti affair", but also because of the "shoes episode" in Somare's case. Sogavare notably accused Australia of conducting neo-colonialism in the Solomons via RAMSI. On 1 October 2007, the Solomon Islands' Foreign Affairs Minister Patteson Oti addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations, and accused Australia of undermining his country's sovereignty::"Mine is too nationalistic a government to become captive to the fortunes which justify our perpetual retention under siege. My [country's government] remain [s] unmoved by Australian resistance to our attempts to reclaim our sovereignty and independence." [Patteson Oti, [ statement at the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly] , 1 October 2007] This led Australia to exercise its right of reply, denying the accusation. [ [ Australia exercises its right of reply to Patteson Oti's statement] , United Nations General Assembly, 2 October 2007] Relations subsequently improved when both Howard and Sogavare lost office in December 2007, and their successors -Kevin Rudd and Derek Sikua- immediately set out to improve relations between Canberra and Honiara. Rudd and Somare have also met to mend relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Relations between Australia and Nauru were essentially framed by the Pacific Solution, whereby Nauru housed a detention centre for unauthorised refugee applicants who had attempted to enter Australia, and Australia provided financial aid in return. The detention centre was closed by Australia in February 2008, causing Nauru to express concern regarding the future of its economy.

Relations with Fiji are strained due to Australia's condemnation of the military coup which overthrew the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006. Military leader and "interim Prime Minister" Voreqe Bainimarama has accused Australia of "bullying" Fiji by applying sanctions and insisting on a swift return to a democratic government. In March 2008, the Fiji Human Rights Commission published a report which alleged that Australia might have been planning an armed intervention in Fiji in late 2006. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith dismissed the allegations, and stated: "The best thing that can happen in Fiji is not spurious suggestions about Australian activity but having an election, returning Fiji to democracy, respecting human rights". [ [,25197,23471897-16953,00.html "Smith rejects Fiji accusations"] , "The Australian", 2 April 2008]

Pacific Island countries are currently requesting that Australia allow seasonal migrants from the islands to enter the country on temporary work visas. Tuvalu is also requesting that Australia welcome part of its population on a permanent basis if and when they become climate refugees due to rising sea levels.

As from early 2008, the Australian government led by Kevin Rudd began what it called a "new approach" to relations between Australia and the Pacific, appointing a Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr. In February, Kerr and fellow Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bob McMullan visited Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati in February, and stated::"Broadly, the approach is one of much more partnership and engagement on the basis of mutual respect. We're not going to be lecturing or hectoring, we're going to try and work together with them and I think we set a pretty good standard with the way we started. The relationships we've established with ministers and leaders in those countries [Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa] is very positive." [ [ "Aust, Pacific working on damaged relationship"] , Edmond Roy, ABC News, 10 February 2008]

ee also

*Arc of Instability
*Australia-New Zealand relations
*Australia-Papua New Guinea relations
*Australia-Nauru relations
*Australia-Solomon Islands relations
*Australia-Fiji relations
*Pacific Solution

International disputes

Australia has a number of ongoing international disputes. Australia's role in the 2003 Invasion of Iraq without UN sanction has been a cause of protest. Presently, there is tension in Australia's relations with Indonesia over the release of Abu Bakar Bashir as well as Australia's recent decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 West Papuans, after which Indonesia's ambassador was recalled. There was also strained relations between the two countries in 2004-05 when Schapelle Corby was imprisoned for 20 years for possessing 4.2kg of marijuana, which she claims was not hers.

A recent foreign relations dispute came to light when, on the 12 September 2006, the Australian High Commissioner in Honiara, Solomon Islands — Patrick Cole — was labelled "persona non grata" by the Solomon Islands government. The incident marked the beginning of a diplomatic dispute between the two nations, with the Australian federal government and in particular the Prime Minister implementing diplomatic changes including new visa requirements on Solomon Islands diplomats.Fact|date=February 2007


* "2003 U.S. Department of State website."

ee also

* Anti-Australian sentiment
* Australia and the United Nations
* Australia House (Ottawa)
* Australian contribution to the 2003 Gulf War
* Defence of Australia Policy
* Diplomatic missions of Australia
* List of Australians imprisoned or executed abroad
* List of diplomatic missions in Australia

External links

* [ Australian Department of Foreign Affairs]
* [ Australian Customs Service]

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