Scholar: Australia Uses Foreign Policy to Distract People From Domes

Scholar: Australia Uses Foreign Policy to Distract People From Domestic Problems

Australia’s neo-conservative government of Tony Abbott is unpopular at
home, the expert says.

(c) REUTERS/ Lisa Maree Williams/Pool
14:03 04/09/2014

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MOSCOW, September 4 (RIA Novosti), Daria Chernyshova – Australia’s
neo-conservative government of Tony Abbott is unpopular at home and is
using foreign policy to divert attention from domestic issues, Raoul
Heinrichs, a Sir Arthur Tange doctoral scholar at the Australian
National University’s Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, told RIA
Novosti, commenting on Canberra’s decision this week to increase
sanctions on Moscow to EU levels.

“There are really three dimensions that underpin Australian foreign
policy on these issues,” Heinrichs said, when asked about Abbott’s
foreign policy toward Russia.

“First, the Abbott government has adopted a hyperactive
neo-conservative foreign policy. It does not believe in geopolitical
limits on Australian interests, so feels free to tackle global issues
well beyond Australia’s traditional areas of concern. It is highly
ideological and moralistic, so tends to view geopolitical issues in
terms of ‘good vs. evil’. And it emphasizes the deployment of
Australian military power, whenever possible and in different
capacities, often as a first rather than a last resort,” Heinrichs

The second dimension, according to Heinrichs, is that the Abbott
government is wedded to a very traditional version of Australian
foreign policy, “which emphasizes supporting the United States on any
issue and in whichever way possible.”

“Third, the government is quite unpopular at home, so is seeking to
use foreign policy to distract from its domestic problems,” Heinrichs

“It has passed a very unpopular budget, which has cut spending on
education and health. An activist foreign policy is designed to make
Abbott look statesmanlike, like a world leader, in an attempt to
improve the government’s popularity in the election polls back home.”

On Monday, Canberra announced an expansion of sanctions against
Russia, including restrictions on arms exports and goods and services
used in oil exploration or production, restrictions on the access of
Russian state-owned banks to Australian capital markets and on
Australian investment in Crimea. New sanctions also target the
financial sector and include travel bans on an additional 63 Russian
and Ukrainian individuals and 21 entities.

“So yes, actually Australia has gone beyond just lifting sanctions. It
has also sought to upgrade its status within NATO. It has committed to
opening an interim embassy in Kiev, and it is now offering Ukraine
military assistance, at first in the form of nonlethal training and
supplies, and later perhaps in other forms of military cooperation,”
Heinrichs told RIA Novosti.

The expansion of restrictions against Russia, however, was delayed and
Canberra embarked on new sanctions later than the European Union or
the United States.

“The delay in lifting sanctions had to do with [Malaysia Airlines
flight] MH17. The Australian government needed Russian cooperation to
pass its UN Security Council resolution, to repatriate bodies and
begin an investigation. With these objectives in mind, it didn’t want
to jeopardize Russian goodwill,” Heinrichs said, adding that now that
the conflict has escalated, Australia “has no need for Russian
cooperation and so feels free to adopt a more confrontational policy.”