Back to the future in 1948?
It was back in 1948 Menzies (the founder of the Liberal Party of Australia) said, the boundaries of Britain, the UK, are not on the Kentish coast but at Invercargill and Cape York. This is Invercargill, New Zealand he was talking about. Alex Downer, the outgoing Australian High Commissioner to the UK, remembers Bob Menzies very well.
It was a different world. But Australians saw themselves as being British in another geography and that of course, all of those political realities, changed. The High Court quite a few years ago, decided that people who were citizens of the United Kingdom were foreigners for the purpose of the Constitution. However, the Australian flag still reflects the UK as does the Queen we share as head of state despite a different crown.
The determination of UK citizens being foreigners lay sleeping for many decades under the pavement of Australian politics and then for some reason known to others sprang out last year, 2017, and now got to the point where about 15 percent of the Senate have found their way onto new careers and a number of members of the House Representatives as well. So, these are all things that would have amazed the founders of Australia’s Constitution.
But the reality is that you could not find two countries closer in every respect. Family, culture, history and values. Australia was the sole country, outside of NATO and the EU, that expelled Russian diplomats in response to the shocking nerve agent attack in Salisbury, on British soil.
The Australian PM recognises as UK Prime Minister May does, that all must show absolute solidarity in the face of lawlessness. The only thing that enables the prosperity, the extraordinary growth around the world has been the maintenance of the rule of law. With fluctuations and imperfections of course.
Rule of Law!
Respect for the rule of law, respect for the rights of small countries, as Lee Kuan Yew, from Singapore, would have described them, as the shrimps and the little fish not being able to be gobbled up by the big fish at their whim. That is what has enabled so much progress and they’re the values of the law and the rule of law both domestically and internationally.
Now what of the future? In a post Brexit environment, even greater opportunities for trade and investment between the United Kingdom and Australia beckon.
The United Kingdom will perforce have to reach out ever more widely to the rest of the world. Liam Fox talked about the very keen interest the UK Government has in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 11 to maybe take it to 12. The TPP 11 was a singular diplomatic success on Australia’s part and partner Japan, with whom Australia worked very closely.
The TPP, of course, looked like it was an absolute dead duck after the USA pulled out. Many newspaper columnists and political opponents called it dead, but as sovereign nations with national interests Australia and Japan stuck with it and so we now have a TPP and we have one country after another interested in re-joining it.
The Australian PM Turnbull said at the moment Australia is enjoying very strong jobs growth, very strong investment growth; not accepting the lure of protectionism. Protectionism is not a ladder to get out of the low growth trap but in fact a great big shovel to dig it a lot deeper. Knowing the strong jobs growth enjoyed in Australia is in large measure because of trade.
Theresa May and her government share that vision. She, in the wake of Brexit, wants Britain to be even more global, even more open to trade. To once again become a nation that looks to the whole world and not just to Europe. Now that’s a bold vision and a courageous decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union.
The Australian PM will visit continental Europe next, it will be interesting to see if he changes his mind on some of the issues canvased in the UK.
How do you see the future of the UK Australia relationship?
A. Getting Stronger?
B. Getting Weaker?
C. Staying the same?
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