What I wanted to ask the Australian PM

I took an afternoon off from work to attend the 29th Singapore Lecture at the Ritz-Carlton, during which Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister delivered a keynote address.

I had a few questions to ask him, but unfortunately despite being one of the first to stand up in front of the mike, DPM Jayakumar, the lecture’s chairman, overlooked me.

Anyway some friends whom I bumped into there wanted to know what I was going to ask. So here goes…

My question relates to your proposed Asia Pacific Community, which would include ASEAN, East Asia, India, Australia and the US. I think this is an important idea for people in our region to discuss. But as you know, good ideas don’t always get off the ground.

Your idea has received a rather frosty reaction from ASEAN. How do you plan to push through your idea while allaying the fears that this is an Australian-led initiative that might end up sidelining ASEAN?

If the APC were to be centered around ASEAN, just like the East Asia Summit is now, would you support it as strongly as you do now?

What has the reaction to your idea been like in Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi and Washington?

If anyone has an insider’s answer to my questions, do let me know!

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

4 thoughts on “What I wanted to ask the Australian PM”

  1. “My question relates to your proposed Asia Pacific Community, which would include ASEAN, East Asia, India, Australia and the US”.

    A very broadbrush group of disparate nations. ‘Asia Pacific Community’ sounds more like ‘motherhood and apple pie’ goodness abound no doubt, but what is the purpose of this Community? ASEAN nations may think that such a Community would dilute ASEAN importance. If it is styled after European Union (Which was first European Economic Community (EEC)then EU) then a tighter link weaving social, political, economic and judicial strands are essential. Would the nations concerned agree so that this Community would not become a ‘talking shop’.

    Rudd is a political novice in international arena and Australia is not a big international player like USA, Russia, China,France, Germany and UK, and the extent to which he can influence thinking in countries to join and create this Pacific Community is limited.

    If I were him, I would first ensure that the economic legacy inherited from his predecessor Howard is carried forward. Because, for example, his proposed Labour Laws
    would take his country back to
    the bad old Socialist times of Gough Whitlam who was disgraced as PM some 40+ years ago. Given the hit taken by Australia by credit crunch and acute draught recently,Rudd would do well to drop this grandoise idea and concentrate on problems at the home front.

  2. Actually I think it’s not a bad idea to have an Asia Pacific Community that includes India and the US. It will prevent China from holding undue influence over our region.

    But I think if ASEAN were to lead it (refer to my second question), it will definitely become just a NATO (no action, talk only) talk shop.

    Rudd probably knows that and so that’s why HE is trying to push it through himself.

    But I think he will not succeed. His lack of consultation with ASEAN leaders before making his big announcement already reflects his lack of understanding of the dynamics and culture of our region.

    Unless the US weighs in, ASEAN is just going to ignore Australia. But if the US weighs in, China will start putting up a resistance.

    So at the end of the day (or decade), an APC will probably never gett off the ground.

  3. My main point is that this Pacific Community concept will flounder unless each membership country has stake-holding interest similar to the membership countries in the European Union. I do not see that happening as US will not agree to it as it is likely that the next President of US will also be busy in Iraq and Afghanistan during his first term, even if it is Obama. I am guessing that the US will not like to have any new overseas links for a period except with its traditional links with European allies. India which refused to join ASEAN when it was conceived will like to have at best loose link with Pacific Community. Indian political psyche abhors any alliance of any nature, hence it did not join ASEAN when it was mooted.

    As I have said, Australia is not a major international player. That is the problem with Rudd. I also believe the Australian economy will need attention within the next 12 months. All this taken together, the Pacific Community is a non-starter.

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