Australia’s International Relations Policies


International relations policies play a key role as being catalyst, in enabling the global community to link in a cohesive manner, fostering economic development and growth for the various countries involved. These policies enhance the lives of the global community, with global needs being focused in a real way on interactions, which yield performance or measurable results on a country’s social, technological, economic and scientific development. The priorities on international foreign policies for any nation are central to, the national interest especially regarding the values, which are fundamental and important like democracy, freedom of choice, sovereignty, property rights and rule of law.

Consequently, security issues compounds many a country’s international foreign policies as they promote, their values overseas. Australia is one such country which has intimately linked its international relations policies to its national security. Australia’s national interests however, are not oblivious from the bigger issues affecting the global community such as global climate change. The Rudd Government is also concerned with interests of advancing decency and freedom, humanitarian aid and eradicating poverty. In addition, the country’s international relations policies approach is particularly obligated towards, national security policies that exemplify Australian’s values.

The aim of this study is to evaluate Australia’s international relation policies in regard to interactions with the United States and Britain, with the underlying factor of the country’s security needs.

Background of Australia’s Foreign Relations

The basis for Australia’s international relations policies have been on the unflinching Australian values, upheld by the government. Moreover, these external policies have been based on a rigorous analysis appertaining to its national interests, inclusive of the challenges that face the nation in implementing some of the policies. Foreign relations in Australia have spanned the country from the time of dominion, followed by realism later on with steadfast allies such as New Zealand, dating back to the 1900s (Crawford, 2000 p.66). Australia entered World War one in supporting the British Empire which reflected the ties, between Britain and Australia.

Even as the country fought enthusiastically in British battles, it also had a hard headed calculation towards its own security issues. Australia aligned itself with Britain for the kinship ties, and the balance of power that was in Europe (Freudenberg, 2009 p.5). Consequently, the balance of power shifted to South Pacific, leading to the collapse of British power that saw into the Second World War. At this juncture, Australia’s defence was founded on American power where bilateral relations shifted from Britain to America (Beeson, 2003 p. 392). After World War two, the imperative strategy for Australia was securing its alliance with America, and the nation’s democracy accomplished its greatest feat through the ANZUS treaty of 1951, giving Australia an immense strategic benefit while further strengthening its relations with the United States.

Australia’s Relations and Concerns of Security

From the given background, Australia’s foreign policies in the international scene are committed and guided, towards multilateralism while consequently forming strong bilateral relations through alliances (Brown, 2009 p.25). The countries key allies have always included the United States and Britain, with concerns ranging from economic cooperation, free trade, stability in Asia-Pacific and terrorism topping the issues in the global community. For many years, Australia depended first on the British and then switched to the United States umbrellas, in strategic military protection. Throughout this time the country welcomed foreign investment from Britain and consequently from the US, coupled with nations in the Western Alliance. Both Britain’s and United States investment were crucial to the growth and development of Australia’s industries, infrastructure and resources.

In the modern world, strategic and economic climates are changing rapidly with a gradual shift of global power. This shift is the predominant factor towards Australia’s defence of its independence (Weiss, 1999 p.75). Factors such as continued dependence on foreign borrowing and investment, may risk placing the nation at risk of compromised sovereignty, not really by military takeover but rather through economic colonization, by powerful economies such as China. These emerging threats are attributed to the geo-political power shift from Europe and the US to India and China. China is a dramatically expanding with a huge government in a resource-hungry economy, coupled with massive domestic savings and sovereign wealth funds, giving it more leverage of even buying out the biggest strategic industries in Australia.

China being a major player in today’s power shift, its economic power has rapidly grown at the expense of the United Kingdom and the US, who have been Australia’s traditional allies. With this shift tags along military and political power that these new, world powers can use to influence and seek world resources, to feed their hungry economies. Inevitably, these powers will look after their own national interests (Gyngell, 2007 p.57). In addition, the events at the end of 2001 concerning the terrorist attack in the US and the aspect of immigration policy have been significant in Australia’s foreign policies. This was attributed to the incident of ‘September the eleventh’ that influenced Australia’s international relations policies, giving security and foreign policy a great prominence in highlighting issues that are crucial to the country’s agendas, in international relations. Security issues have been dominant in Australia encompassing economic and political concerns, in the modern era with the obvious indication that these concerns cannot be categorized as internal and external.

The events in the US were dramatic in the Australian society, with policymakers having a challenging task of ensuring means that would not jeopardize Australia’s International relations. Observers have suggested the Australia’s immigration policy is restrictive, but the nation has the right to be selective compounded by the fact that many Australians, were born outside the country and with the increase of Asian immigrants in the recent past. The country is based on a multi-cultural policy, but where the political systems, institutions, values and laws are primarily Western.

Australia is considered to be an active middle power, where it has to be creative and smart towards international influences on its independence of foreign policies, coupled with of a great responsibility of working through regional and global institutions, in ensuring that the emerging shift of global power distribution occurs peacefully, while simultaneously looking after its national security interests amid it’s alliances with the United States and Britain (Dalrymple, 2002).

Challenges are constantly emerging through the phenomenon of globalization, and Australia has to deal strategically in addressing security interests and development challenges, with the Asia-Pacific neighbours to ensure there is continued prosperity. Asia is experiencing increased profile across the international scene therefore; Australia has to understand the role particularly in China and India, in moulding the global outcomes and forces. China growing influence in the international arena is undeniable, and Australia can benefit from improved international relations ties in the Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, through effective international relation policies, Australia has the advantage of influencing global facilitation and collaboration based on synergies and policy analysis, which would help solve and identify problems simultaneously with foreign policies that are integrated with social and domestic policies.

However, Australia’s international relations policies will never be completely absolute, given the interdependent and complex nature of interactions in the modern society, where the state can control some ‘relative independence’ through collective actions of its foreign policies. The role of Australia as an active middle power will enable it, to play an independent and creative role in multilateral relations with the South Pacific region, despite the close ties with the US (Galligan, 2001 p.95). Coupled with being a participant in the globalisation process, Australia is still responsible for insulating and shaping the state with concern of its national security interests, amid forces of globalisation and the gradual shift of power. In this respect, the country has to take an independent and flexible line with its bilateral relations with Britain and the United States (Broomhill, 2008 p.16).

Concepts of autonomy, integration and sovereignty in Australia’s foreign policies have achieved some independence, but elites in foreign policies have consequently been challenged by the ‘Australian dilemma’, which cuts across Australia’s geography and history. Contradictions arising from this dilemma, has contributed to the crisis of Australian identity to be a stumbling block, in regard to its international relation policies impeding regional engagement in the Asia-Pacific section. Over the last few years, Australia involvement in the international community has put in place great importance, towards security alliances and trade deals arrangements, which have been easier to sustain based on the common understanding it has with both the US and Britain(Garnaut, 2002 p.130).  External policies in the country are integrated with the rigorous analysis of Australia’s national interests, coupled with the challenges it faces in within the international community.

More customary security and economic considerations have been analyzed from a values dimension, taking into fact the perceptions and interests in the wider world and how Australia fits into the picture. Global challenges and trends such as increased and unregulated voluminous movements of people, place immigration policies and border security as a major test for many countries across the globe. In these issues, Australia’s interests still lie in environments’ where there are economic opportunities with protected values and safety of its citizens. The Australian government still remains with the task of promoting its peoples’ way of life, enhancing national security, expanding the country’s prosperity, and managing the tensions that might be present between these objectives.


International relations policies are significant to any country across the globe, with relationships that foster growth and development in aspects of economy, political and social outcomes. Australia’s foreign relations and international policies, have a great influences form Britain and the United States, dating back from the World Wars. The US influence has been significant in Australia’s both strategic and economic influences in foreign policies, being a pillar to its security and international policies in the alliance.

However, Australia still has its clear security interests amid these alliances, even with question of judgements and tactics that the US sometimes undertakes in the global environment, Australia cannot be unquestioningly allied to the US and Britain superseding its own national interests. In addition, the country cannot take for granted US role and help in its overall interests. Moreover, with globalisation, a shift in global power is shifting from the traditional Europe and the US. This gradual change will call for the Australian government and policymakers to work effectively towards challenges, in foreign policies that will foster development and security concerns, across emerging economies.


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