Last July I expressed scepticism about the idea that Tony Abbott's fondness for the 'anglosphere' implied that he was too focused on Australia's traditional partners and didn't fully appreciate the opportunities and challenges of a rising Asia. The release of the Liberal Party's new policy booklet last weekend reinforces my view. An Abbott Government won't be the Menzian throwback that some breathless left-wing critics fear.
To see why, don't look in the foreign policy section of the booklet; as far as I could see, there's nothing new in there. But the introduction to the booklet is revealing, in that it couches the Liberal Party's entire agenda for the nation in an international context (my emphasis):
To safeguard Australia’s economic future the key challenge facing Australia is to compete successfully in a more fiercely competitive world.
If anything, this is a bit hyperbolic. As Paul Krugman argued back in 1994, countries don't compete with each other the way companies do (then again...). Still, the emphasis on Australia's place in the world is welcome.
The focus on Asia in this section is particularly striking. In fact, so thoroughly is the document soaked in the Asianist mindset that the only (implied) criticism offered of the Government's Asian Century White Paper is that it stated the bleeding obvious: 'Many businesses don’t need to be told by government that Asia offers opportunities because of a rapidly rising middle class.' In the booklet as a whole, Asia gets 43 mentions; the US gets 2.
Unfortunately, the booklet also shares a glaring weakness of the Asian Century White Paper, in that it talks solely about the opportunities created by the rise of Asia, not its risks.