Two of Mr Abbott’s recent predecessors, Paul Keating and John Howard, thickened the relationship with Jakarta by adroitly building personal relationships with Indonesian presidents. Who knows what opportunities this year’s election will create? As Bismarck observed, leaders must listen for the rustle of God’s mantle through history, and try to catch his hem for a few steps. The PM should listen for the rustle.
Australia has a choice. Do we want to be a little nation, with a small population, a restricted diplomatic network, a modest defense force, and a cramped vision of our future? Or do we want to be larger—a big, confident country with an ability to influence the balance of power in Asia, a constructive public debate, and a foreign policy that is both ambitious and coherent? Are we content to languish in the lower divisions or do we want to move up in weight?
We need a national conversation about this choice. I hope we decide to think big.
Michael Fullilove is the Executive Director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia and the author of Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World (Penguin Press, 2013).