Foreign policy and defense
Australia is a nation in Australasia. Its capital city is Canberra. Up to the Second World War, Australia’s foreign policy was strongly linked to Britain’s. It was not until 1935 that Australia opened its own Foreign Ministry and in 1940 the first own embassies. Nowadays, the country has an independent foreign policy in close harmony with the United States. In recent years, relations with China have become increasingly important to Australia.
When Japan attacked Australia during World War II, the Australians realized that Britain could not give them any protection. Instead, the United States came to Australia’s rescue. It became the beginning of close foreign and security policy cooperation, although Australia is still active within the Commonwealth (Britain and the former British colonies). In 1951, Australia, New Zealand and the United States formed the defense pact Anzus. Australian forces participated on the American side in the Vietnam War (see Modern History).
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Australia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, Australia wholeheartedly joined President George W Bush’s global fight against terrorism and Australia was one of the United States’ foremost allies in the 2003 war against Iraq.
Australia has also participated with troops on the side of the US and the military alliance NATO in the long war in Afghanistan since 2001.
America’s new focus on Asia in foreign policy (Pivot to Asia) from the mid-2010s also affected Australia. As part of this, the United States was allowed to station up to 2,500 Marines at a base in Darwin, Northern Australia, over the next few years. A joint satellite tapping facility in Western Australia would also be established.
Relations with China are increasingly important
While the United States has long been seen as an important guarantor of Australia’s security and stability in the region, Canberra’s relationship with Beijing has gradually become increasingly important. Australia, in particular, has a strong economic interest in cultivating good relations with China. A free trade agreement was signed in 2015 and Australia joined the Kinaled Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) the same year.
However, Australia’s quest to stay on top of the two major powers in the region has been subject to pressure recently. Canberra is critical of China’s authoritarian policies and human rights violations in the country, and has called on Beijing to respect the 2016 UN Permanent Arbitration ruling that there is no basis for the Chinese claims on islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea. In 2017, relations between the countries were also strained by reports that Beijing had sought to influence Australian politicians and institutions through large donations from Chinese businessmen.
Relations with the United States under the new US President Donald Trump got off to a cold start. In a heated phone conversation between then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trump in early 2017, Trump criticized the agreement signed with President Obama that the United States should receive 1,200 asylum seekers from refugee camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. However, Trump ultimately promised that the United States would follow it. However, the US decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement was met with dismay in Australia, as well as among the other ten countries that signed the agreement in early 2016.
Uncertainty about US policy under Trump in combination with China’s increasing dominance in the region led the government in 2017 to draw up a new white paper for foreign policy. Not least, it was considered important to be able to handle a situation where the tension between the US and China is increasing.
Cooperation with Asean is increasing
Australia has established closer ties with India. In 2014, the countries signed a framework for cooperation in the security field and when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbull met in 2016, they expressed a desire to cooperate more on security and defense.
Contacts with Japan are also important. Canberra and Tokyo are united by a common interest in maintaining free shipping in the South and East China Seas without negative impact from the territorial conflicts there. Almost all Australian merchandise trade with the outside world is by ship. A free trade agreement between the countries was signed in 2015.
In the early 2010s, Australia intensified its efforts to improve and expand its contacts with Asian neighbors. Australia has also since 2009 signed a free trade agreement with the countries of the Southeast Asian cooperation organization Asean.
During the first year of the 2000s, Australia has also doubled its development assistance to the local area. Both military and financial resources are used to influence developments in the Pacific region. As a way to try to meet China’s increasing influence in the region, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised in the fall of 2018 increased support in the form of loans and grants to countries in the region. A multi-billion dollar fund would be formed to fund infrastructure projects. At the same time, various forms of security economic and diplomatic initiatives were planned in the countries, including Papua New Guinea receiving a number of patrol boats while a joint military base would be formed in the country.
Disputes with East Timor and Indonesia
Australia’s relationship with Indonesia has long been chilly, especially since the country occupied East Timor in 1975. However, relations thawed during the first half of the 1990s with increased economic cooperation and joint oil extraction in the Timor Sea as a result.
However, the prize for the neighboring country was that Australia was forced to recognize Indonesia’s supremacy over East Timor, where the regime was behind extensive human rights violations. But when East Timor in a referendum in 1999 said yes to independence, Australia partyed for East Timorans. Australia was at the forefront of a multinational intervention force under the UN mandate, which restored the order and caused the Indonesian forces to leave the country. Relations with Indonesia improved again, especially since Australia had offered Indonesia comprehensive assistance for reconstruction following the tsunami disaster of Christmas 2004. Negotiations on an economic cooperation agreement between Australia and Indonesia began in 2012 and five years later appeared to be ready in the near future. periodically strained.
With New Zealand, Australia has traditionally close relationships, including through Anzus and through the Free Trade Cooperation Closer Economic Relationship (CER), which began in the 1980s.
Australia has been East Timor’s largest aid donor since the country’s independence in 2002. The relationship is largely good between the countries, but has been strained by a long conflict over a controversial 2006 agreement on joint extraction and income distribution of oil and gas reserves in the Timor Sea. East Timor has long demanded that the agreement be revoked as it was considered to benefit Australia – benefits that Canberra, according to the Dili government, managed to negotiate after spying on East Timor. In early 2017, the countries decided to scrap the agreement and instead negotiate a new common sea border. A few months later, the countries had broadly agreed on how the border should be drawn and how the oil and gas resources would be divided between them. An official agreement was signed in early 2018.
Australia is the largest donor to the former Australian colony of Papua New Guinea. In 2004, the countries agreed that Australian police officers and officials would help build the country’s justice system and in the 2010s, Papua New Guinea camped and prepared asylum applications for refugees who tried to make their way to Australia at sea (see Population and Languages). In 2016, it was decided that the camp on the island of Manus would be closed after Papua New Guinea’s highest court ruled that it was against the constitution to block refugees there.
Australia has also tried to deal with conflicts in the Solomon Islands. In 2003, and again in 2006, Australian police led a multinational peacekeeping force with both military and civilian components. After the military operation ended in 2013, a police force that remained in the country was also expected to return home.
Australia has a well-trained and well-equipped military and is one of the “regional police” in the Pacific.
The latest White Paper of 2016 addresses China’s growing regional role, cyber threat and terrorism as important areas of defense as well as the need to modernize military resources. Over the next ten years, defense spending is set to increase by nearly $ 30 billion to reach around 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2021-2020. The defense force will be expanded by an additional 4,000 soldiers, the largest in 25 years. An investment in new equipment and weapons is also included with the purchase of twelve submarines from France, nine frigates, twelve patrol boats, new fighters, drones and tanks.
The country has a professional army and no military service.
Australia has significant military cooperation with the United States, with joint exercises, the naval base in Darwin, command and signaling facilities and more.
Australia has participated in troops in Iraq in connection with the US-led invasion in 2003 and the next few years and has also sent troops to Afghanistan to support peacekeeping operations. In the fall of 2014, Australia joined the group of countries that launched bombings against the Islamic State (IS) extremist Islamist movement (IS) in Iraq. A year later, the government also chose to participate in the air raids against IS targets in Syria. After Iraq declared victory over IS in late 2017, Australia withdrew its fighter jet and stopped the bombing. Australia contributed 780 men to the US-led coalition against IS.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 29,000 men (2017)
The air Force: 14 400 men (2017)
The fleet: 14 400 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 2.0 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 5.4 percent (2017)