Turnbull foreign policy: in with Asia, out with the Anglosphere?

Malcolm Turnbull’s past utterings suggest he will align Australia’s foreign policy further towards Asia. While the United States will no doubt remain important, the lure of Chinese opportunity may see Australia playing the field more.

It is likely new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will bring a stronger Asia-Pacific focus to Australia’s foreign policy and has already begun to establish a narrative based around economic liberalism, but his government will still struggle to execute one of its signature foreign policy initiatives: the China free trade agreement.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has indicated she will continue in that role under the new leader. But prime ministers inevitably play a significant role in setting the nation’s foreign policy direction, so what should we expect from Malcolm Turnbull?

It remains to be seen whether a new frontbench will continue to focus on national security, though the former communications minister’s well-publicised criticism of the citizenship-stripping proposal suggests he may not be as keen as his predecessor.

One of Turnbull’s most immediate challenges will be to help the China free trade agreement through the parliament. Labor is either creating or reflecting concerns in the community about labour market restrictions for incoming Chinese workers — depending on who you ask — which will make life difficult for a government determined to display its economic credentials leading into an election. There is also doubt whether the FTA will be the jobs boon the government are claiming.

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