AustraliaChina relationship gets top vote from Alexander Downer India not so hot
Australia has the best relationship with China of any country in the Western world, according to former Federal Government Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Alexander Downer, the country’s longest-serving Foreign Minister. Delivering the 36th annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture – one of the most prestigious lectures on the South Australian resources industry calendar – Downer said Australia’s abundant supply of raw materials was the centre piece of its close ties with China.However, the same could not be said for this country’s relationship with the “other emerging behemoth”, India.“There is no so called ‘Western country’ which has a better relationship with China, than Australia,” Downer said. “That may be partly because we have usually played our cards well, but there is no doubting the cards we have are very good ones,” he said.“Watching the new British Prime Minister’s (David Cameron) visit to China this week unfold on television, I couldn’t help but think Britain is 20 years behind Australia in its relationship with China. There are many reasons for that, some historical, but raw material is at the forefront of Australia’s more sophisticated China relationship. But where we have succeeded with China, we have so far failed with India.“It hasn’t worked for one very good reason – as the smaller country, we haven’t had enough to offer India to escape its indifference towards us.”In a wide ranging lecture, titled The Impact of Resources on Global Diplomacy, Downer also spoke about:Australia’s resources sector makes it powerful on the world stage as it is the source of many of the resources that drive the global economyChina needs Australia as much as it needs ChinaAustralia could have played a key role in the global climate change debate – and exerted a lot of influence – but had failed to do soAustralia’s lack of enthusiasm to export uranium has created opportunities for other countries to do so, including CanadaThe nation faces enormous risks by being so dependent on natural resources for its prosperityAustralia is making an enormous strategic and economic mistake assuming that China’s future is a “straight line trajectory” from where it has been over the past 20 years.“Today, Australia is front and centre of resources diplomacy because of its immense mineral wealth,” Downer said. “To understand Australia’s broader political and economic roles as a global source of raw materials, we need to grasp two central points. First, Australia should think very carefully about how it can use its resource diplomacy to good effect. Secondly, we need to reflect on whether our pivotal role as a resource exporter is sustainable.“Sadly though, the country has slumped into a lazy policy complacency with a Parliament controlled by a handful of populist independents who have never demonstrated any proclivity for clever and brave policy initiatives. If we do not husband and value our resources sector, we will lose the great national asset of resources diplomacy.”The Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture is named in honour of the one of the founding fathers of the Australian resources sector, and former Chief Executive and Chairman of BHP.