Australia’s Place in the World

Australia’s Place in the World

Michael Wesley, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, in Melbourne on Sept. 14, 2010. (Asia Society AustralAsia Centre)

MELBOURNE, Sept. 14, 2010 – Michael Wesley, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy, has suggested that the world is now entering the "Indo-Pacific era,” in a speech for Asialink-Asia Society AustralAsia Centre on the topic of "Australia’s Place in the World."

He said that new alliances were assuming strategic significance on par with the San Francisco system of Asia-Pacific alliances.

“Asia-Pacific institutions such as APEC and the ASEAN regional forums are relied on for less and less, while Indo-Pacific institutions such as the East Asian Summit and the Asian caucus of the G20 are invested with high expectations," he said.

Wesley also emphasized "sustained" trade engagement with West Asia, an area he claims is otherwise periodically discovered and forgotten again.

"Asia in Australia has always meant East Asia, but that Asia is vanishing."

Coupled with his focus on West Asia, Wesley highlighted the need for a balance between Australia’s East and West Coast foreign policy.

“Here in Australia, where over 90 percent of our population has always lived on our eastern coastline, our view of the world has always been a lospsidedly Pacific perspective.”

Wesley charted the history of Australian identity and reflected on data from recent polling into Australian’s views on the world. He suggested that the Australia of the 21st century could be viewed as a Western country, but on its own terms.

“We could also say, perhaps, that the Australia of the 21st century is also an Asian country, but on its own terms,” he said. "Rather than being about identity, I think our new phase of self-questioning will be about civic values—about what we stand for and what we won’t stand for at home and overseas.” 

Reported by Will McCallum and Matthew Peters

September 17, 2010
by Meredith Hinze