Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageAAP/Tracey Nearmy

Foreign policy occupied a surprisingly prominent and controversial place at the ALP national conference. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the most contentious topic was asylum seeker policy – an issue that invariably serves to remind us that domestic and foreign policy cannot either be neatly compartmentalised, nor insulated, from deeply felt moral concerns within the Labor caucus.

As Alex Reilly points out, the conventional wisdom among the Labor hard-heads and the commentariat more generally has rapidly become that this is a potentially toxic political issue and one in which the ALP’s head must rule its heart. It is a message that Bill Shorten has clearly taken on board, as it were, as it supposedly gives him a chance to both enhance his languishing poll numbers and shore up his authority within the party.

While asylum seekers may have grabbed the headlines, other issues were noteworthy for being canvassed at least, even if they have not led to dramatic changes in policy. The ALP is flirting with the possibility of putting some policy space between it and the Coalition on both the status of the US alliance and relations with Palestine – and, by implication, Israel.

Given that all these issues have been virtual no-go, no-differentiation areas of foreign policy for both the major parties for as long as most people can remember, this is not insignificant.

However, it is striking that once in power it is actually less likely that there will be significant change. It is only in opposition or after having hung up one’s political boots that deviations from policy orthodoxy seem to be even thinkable, never mind actionable.

Another case in point may prove to be China. In the hurly-burly of a union-dominated conference, drawing attention to the possible shortcomings of trade deals with China or the pernicious impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will go down well with the rank and file, no doubt.

Once in office, however, the prospect of trying to unpick an operational trade agreement with our principal economic partner that was years in the making looks rather implausible. This is especially likely to be the case in the all-too-likely event that the tentative mutterings about redefining the strategic relationship with the US turns out to be something of a conference-inspired thought-bubble, rather than a carefully calibrated attempt to critically reassess the nature of “Australia’s national interest”.

If the ALP conference has done nothing else, though, it has provided a rather compelling illustration of why what may seem to some a rather precious academic affectation is actually merited. The sometimes heated, unresolved and contested debate about what policy should actually be reminds us why the employment of inverted commas is sometimes necessary.

The “national interest” is frequently just what the most powerful political party of the moment says it is. A mature recognition of, and debate about, that underlying political reality really would set the ALP apart. Whether the Labor Party is ready for that is another question.

To pretend that there is seamless and unproblematic coherence about foreign or any other policy is hardly credible, though, in an era of closely monitored and reported national conferences. The public increasingly recognises the gap between rhetoric and reality, even if the major parties still like to pretend otherwise.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/foreign-policy-and-the-alp-national-conference-45242

Writers Wanted

Abused, neglected, abandoned — did Roald Dahl hate children as much as the witches did?

arrow_forward

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

arrow_forward

To publish or not to publish? The media's free-speech dilemmas in a world of division, violence and extremism

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.   HADLEY: I was just referring to this story from the Courier Mail, which you’ve probably caught up with today about t...

Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison - avatar Ray Hadley & Scott Morrison

Prime Minister's Remarks to Joint Party Room

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is great to be back in the party room, the joint party room. It’s great to have everybody back here. It’s great to officially welcome Garth who joins us. Welcome, Garth...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

BEN FORDHAM: Scott Morrison, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ben. How are you?    FORDHAM: Good. How many days have you got to go?   PRIME MINISTER: I've got another we...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Tips to find the best plastic manufacturing supplier for your needs

Plastics are very much an important part of all of our lives, but they’re particularly valuable to a wide variety of industries that rely on their production for their operations. The industries, ...

News Co - avatar News Co

7 foolproof tips for bidding successfully at a property auction

Auctions can be beneficial for prospective buyers, as they are transparent and fair. If you reach the limit you are willing to pay, you can simply walk away. Another benefit of an auction is tha...

Dominique Grubisa - avatar Dominique Grubisa

Getting Ready to Code? These Popular and Easy Programming Languages Can Get You Started

According to HOLP (History Encyclopedia of Programing Languages), there are more than 8,000 programming languages, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Although there might be as many pr...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion