Courtesy Reuters

From Whitlam to Fraser

After more than a year and a half in office, the Australian conservative coalition government led by Malcolm Fraser has established foreign policy in a pattern different from that of his Labor Party predecessor, Gough Whitlam, but different also from that of the Liberal and Country Parties governments of which Mr. Fraser was himself for some years a member and which were in power for a record 23 years from 1949 to 1972. He has inherited from both, and has adapted both to his own changing philosophy as well as to Australia's changing circumstances.

When the Liberal Party was voted out of office in December 1972, Australia was an established and close partner in the American alliance system. The security treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States - ANZUS - was the main pillar of Australian defense and foreign policy, and around it a network of relationships had been built up which comforted all Australians (when they thought about it) except those of the extreme Left, for obvious reasons, and some on the extreme Right who believed you could not trust the Americans and that Australia should build its own nuclear weapons and space them around the coastline. There was also a strand of thought among academics which advocated dispensing with the American alliance on the grounds that it made Australia a hostage to American foreign policy, tarring it with the same brush - unnecessarily so, because in a crisis the United States would help or not help Australia on the basis of assessed national interest to which a formal treaty was irrelevant. These were minority views.

Since 1950, Liberal and Country Parties governments had had armed forces in the Malaysian area, in conjunction with much larger British formations and smaller New Zealand ones, first to combat communist terrorists, then to help defend Malaysia and Singapore from Indonesia during "confrontation," and finally as part of the Five-Power defense arrangement for the joint defense of the two Asian Commonwealth states. John Gorton (Prime Minister, 1968-71)

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