Stop depending on US, says Malcolm Fraser

Australia must tell the United States it won’t be part of any policy of containment when it comes to China, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser says.

Instead, he says, our leaders need to have greater confidence and strength of mind in asserting Australia’s independence.

“If we have confidence in ourselves, as indeed we should as an independent nation, we cannot just keep doing as we have in recent times, just doing what America wants,” Mr Fraser told an audience at the Whitlam Institute in Sydney.

“If we continue on this path we will very soon find that we have made ourselves irrelevant to East and South-East Asia.”

Delivering the annual Whitlam Oration, the prime minister who ousted Gough Whitlam in 1975 said Australia should be mature enough to grow out of its dependence on America’s power.

He cautioned this was not intended as an anti-American sentiment but rather a statement that it was our own strength and diplomacy that would secure Australia’s future.

“We need leadership that will tell Australians in plain terms that our security ultimately depends upon ourselves and the relationships that we can build with the countries of the Western Pacific and of East Asia,” he said on Wednesday.

“It is our relationship with these countries that will determine our security.”

Mr Fraser said the apparent belief of the US that the best way to handle China was to build military alliances that limited its influence was the wrong way to preserve peace and security in the region.

Australia should have no part of any such policy.

“We should tell the United States that we will not be part of it and not allow joint facilities on Australian soil to be used to support policies of containment,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans delivered a similar message in an address to the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

“It is crucial that we work hard at every possible level to build an effective working relationship with China … to counter any perception that we are edging back into the containment business,” he said.

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