The Australian Foreign Policy White paper was touted as a main course for consumers of policy, a document that revealed the inner workings of those creatures working for the Department of Trade and Foreign Affairs. Its temper is predictable, its prose wooden, the voice of a satrap trapped in the body of a sovereign.
There were the traditional nods, the appreciating, ingratiating glance towards US power. There was the tiptoeing commentary about international hostilities and disagreements. “No surprises,” claimed Remy Davison of Monash University: “the Foreign Policy White Paper from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is about trade, not guns.”
The emphasis, for all the clichéd control in language, was troubled. Looming over the text was a certain President Donald Trump, who has given Australian policy wonks much in the way of perplexing trouble. “The politics in many countries,” observe the authors, “has also become fragmented and volatile. Nationalism has become a stronger political force and protectionist sentiment has increased.”
So much in the nature of Australian foreign policy has given way to the fears of abandonment, and the search for a powerful friend. It is a tendency that creeps up again, as much as Canberra wishes to be seen as maturely independent.
Much of it is also grand crystal-ball gazing, something policy analysts should never dabble in. Not, however, those at DFAT, where astrology, social science, and…