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Island off the Coast of Asia

Instruments of Statecraft in Australian Foreign Policy



Clinton Fernandes

Clayton, Vic: Monash University Publishing, 2018

Paperback.  236pp  RRP $29.95


Reviewer: Bruce Brown, November 2021                      


On 1 September 2021 Prime Minister Scott Morrison moved a motion in the House of Representatives to acknowledge the 70th Anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty arguing that Our relationship now spans security and defence, diplomacy, trade, intelligence, shared facilities space and cyber, future defence capability, and the shared and deep ties of people, culture and outlook.

Australian foreign policy, in other words, now incorporated dimensions other than security and defence which had justified earlier military engagements in Malaya, Korea and Vietnam. In this context, Clinton Fernandes has provided an outstanding insight into the way Australia has pursued its national interest through various instruments of statecraft such as legal processes, investment, research, negotiations and espionage.

Fernandes is also a realist about Australia’s place in the world. Written during the first half of the Trump administration he observes that ‘From March 2009 to March 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted 37,100 times but mentioned Australia only thirty times and only nine times after winning the presidential election’.

Formerly an Australian Army officer, Fernandes has subsequently pursued an academic career at the University of New South Wales in Canberra. An appealing feature of his work is his ability to combine forensic research and analysis with a very readable writing style. In the 11-chapter volume readers will no doubt find some chapters of particular interest such as how Australia responded to Indonesia during the Sukarno and Suharto regimes and the way the Hawke and later Keating governments transformed Australia’s foreign relations with a reorientation of trade, investment and migration toward Asia.

An enthralling chapter focuses on the way the Australian government engaged with Timor-Leste over maritime entitlements in the Timor Sea. Responding to concerns that the Australian government had too close a connection with major Australian corporations on this issue, then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was frank: ’The Australian government supports Australian business and Australian industry. The Australian government unashamedly should be trying to advance the interests of Australian companies.’

The book concludes with a chapter discussing ‘Current Policy Priorities’. Overall, Fernandes has provided both the scholar and Informed general reader with an excellent means through which to understand the evolution of Australia’s foreign policy.




The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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