Labor & the world

On guiding principles

Mark Latham

Australians are entitled to know how a party seeking to govern this country will protect Australia's security and advance the country's interests. This is the central responsibility of any Australian government. It is the foundation of our capacity to create the sort of society we want. Today, I want to describe to you the way in which the Labor Party looks at the world, at the fundamentals of our approach. In some areas of international policy we agree with the government. In others we strongly disagree. These differences revolve less around any dispute about what is happening in the world than about what Australia can, and should, do about it.

The world which the next Labor government will confront is very different from the world the last Labor government faced. The Cold War which shaped so much of the history of the second half of the 20th Century - and of the Labor Party itself - is over. The West won the conflict, something for which we should always be grateful. In the end, effective statecraft and a large element of luck freed us from the awful pressure of a world dependent on a balance of terror, in which a slight miscalculation could have destroyed human life itself.

We have entered this new century with a single strategic and political superpower, the United States. Now, alone among the nation states, it has the capacity to project and deploy military power anywhere in the world. It has assumed the ultimate responsibility: global leadership for the purpose of global co-operation and security. We all have a huge interest in this responsibility being met. Meanwhile, another equally important force is transforming the world. Economic globalisation - open trade and financial flows made possible by the great technological revolution in communications. Globalisation is making the world more interdependent. It is blurring the traditional distinctions between domestic and foreign policy. By bringing into the world economy vast new areas of humanity, globalisation is generating new and important opportunities for Australia and many parts of the developing world.

So now, with the Cold War over and globalisation advancing, we have a global strategic environment dominated by one powerful country while, on the economic front, we have a quite different sort of world - an increasingly interdependent and multipolar one. This has created two power gaps globally. The first: the gap between the world's sole superpower and the group of prosperous economic states that rely heavily on the effective stewardship of American economic and foreign policy. The second gap is a prosperity gap: the growing inequality between developed and developing nations. This is where we need to see globalisation as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Opening up the world's trading and investment channels so that all continents and all citizens may benefit from the power o