Carr rejects Keating's Indonesia criticism
(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)
Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has rejected criticism from former prime minister Paul Keating that Australia has surrendered its foreign policy objectives to the United States.
The former Labor PM says Australia's sense of independence had "flagged", instead preferring to defer to an "easy accommodation" of US policies at the expense of fostering stronger ties with Indonesia.
But when asked on ABC radio this morning about whether Australia's interests have been surrendered to the US, Senator Carr replied: "No, they haven't".
"We are in a treaty relationship with the United States because we've got a major task and that is the security of this continent, a small population, a large continent, an uncertain region, an uncertain world," he said.
"And since the early 20th century, the response of Australia has been to seek a relationship with the United States."
Mr Keating levelled his criticism at both the Rudd and Gillard governments, as well as the previous Howard government, saying all three had made the same mistake of weakening Australia's relationships with key South-East Asian nations.
He said the region was Australia's "natural stamping ground", and urged the Government to invest more effort into strengthening links with Indonesia.
Senator Carr responded to the criticism by pointing to Australia's significant diplomatic presence in Jakarta - the largest Australian embassy - and to the regular meetings between government ministers.
"We've got a process of consultation with Indonesia that means I exchange text messages with my Indonesian counterpart," he said.
"We have a ministerial exchange with Indonesia, an Indonesian minister coming here or an Australian minister going to Indonesia, on average every three weeks since 2007."
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop says Mr Keating's views are based on an outdated view that Australia has to choose between the US and Asia - particularly China.
She says while the US-Australia relationship is particularly important, it does not prevent Australia from pursuing other international links.
"I believe that with careful diplomacy and extensive consultation, we can have the United States as our military ally and closest friend, but that doesn't preclude from having strong relationships in the region," she told ABC NewsRadio.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard released an Asian Century white paper last month, focusing on ways in which Australia can develop closer links with the region and take advantage of future economic growth.
Part of the strategy involved requiring all schools to provide access to four key Asian languages - Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.