Domestic politics and diplomacy in an election year

By Andrew Hunter

May 17, 2021

Scott Morrisson
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a Federal Budget Lunch at the Hyatt Regency in Sydney, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

The incursion of domestic politics on Australia’s international relations is more evident now than at any point since the White Australia policy. With a federal election to take place next year, this tendency will become stronger, further straining important relationships in the region.

The overlap of domestic and foreign policy is hardly new. Robert Putnam theorised about the entanglement of diplomacy and domestic politics as early has the 1980s. To some extent, it has been forever thus. In Australia, this entanglement has been evident for over a century.

Bipartisan adherence to the White Australia policy informed several foreign policy positions. Japanese efforts to include a racial equality as a covenant of the League of Nations was vigorously opposed by Billy Hughes at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919. Australia’s relations in Asia continued to be affected by bipartisan support for the White Australia policy well into the second half of the 20th century.

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