Australia and the USA: our political relationship


As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a certified political junkie.  I love discussing politics with anyone who’ll listen.

So when I got invited to attend a discussion between former Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Editor-at-Large of The Australian, Paul Kelly, put on by the United States Studies Centre, I was naturally pretty excited.

What followed was a fascinating conversation between the two political heavyweights covering Mr Hawke’s relationship with Presidents Reagan and Bush; the Cold War; the Gulf War; New Zealand’s fractured relationship with the USA; Israel and Palestine; the Iraq War; the rise of China and its thriving economy; and his thoughts on the future of the ANZUS alliance.  Not bad for a 40 minute chat.

While Mr Hawke showed his significant grasp of world issues, and provided analysis that was both refreshing and insightful, it was his anecdotes that provided the most entertainment.

His re-telling of his first meeting with President Reagan was particularly amusing; he recalls being taken aback when, each time he asked President Reagan a question, the President would pull out a number of ‘cue cards’ and sift through them.

The President would then read one or two sentences on the topic before asking his expert in that field, such as the Secretary to the Treasury, to take it from there.  Mr Hawke said, “Would I have rather someone rabbiting on about something they don’t understand or would I prefer they hand the details to someone who does?”

That said, Mr Hawke was full of praise for Mr Reagan describing him as ‘the right man at the right time who could stand up to the Soviet Union”.  In the same way, he held President George H.W. Bush, with whom he later dealt with, also in high regard.  “The character of President Bush was first class,” he said.

As a former Australian Prime Minister, Mr Hawke is well respected as having a strong record of economic reform, most notably floating the Australian dollar.  As such, he views world politics through a prism of economics.  He believes approaching many of the world’s problems, even the Israel/Palestinian conflict, should be addressed economically, rather than politically or militarily. In his opinion, “economics determines policy.”

From this flowed his thoughts on the future of the ANZUS alliance.  He believes that while Australia’s most important military partner will continue to be the USA, the most important ‘relationship’ for Australia is its relationship with China, due to its enormous economy and thriving trade with Australia.

All in all it was an informative and often amusing evening which continues the fine tradition of Australian Prime Ministers continuing to engage with the Australian public even after they leave office.

Rather than criticise or commentate on contemporary political matters, Mr Hawke was generous in his praise for both his political allies and rivals, and proved that he is a former Prime Minister of which our country can be proud.

This article first appeared on the Sefiani website.

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Bob Hawke and Ronald Reagan were
a force to be reckoned with