Opposition Foreign Minister Accuses Government of ‘Amping up War’

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
November 23, 2021 Updated: November 23, 2021

Australia’s Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong has accused the government of “amping up” the prospect of war with Beijing over Taiwan and politicising the country’s foreign policy.

In remarks to the Australian National University on Nov. 23, Wong outlined the Australian Labor Party’s foreign policy initiatives and pointed out failings in the current government’s approach.

On the Taiwan issue, the shadow foreign minister said the position of “strategic ambiguity” around the island’s sovereignty had helped the United States and its allies avert conflict and enable the region to live in “peace and prosperity.”

“When (Defence Minister) Peter Dutton talks about it being ‘inconceivable’ that Australians would not ‘join’ a war over Taiwan, he is wildly out of step with the strategy long adopted by Australia and our principal ally,” Wong said.

“Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history. A tactic employed by irresponsible politicians who are desperate to hang on to power at any cost,” she added.

Wong said that the move illustrated that the government was desperate to hang onto power at any cost.

The senator also played up Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s foreign policy focus.

“We would ensure a more central role for foreign policy in the content and implementation of the strategy. And we would be focused on the key task of maximising our influence in the reshaping of the region,” she added.

“But these three elements of Australian foreign policy—projecting the reality of modern Australia, partnerships, and capability—are also how we can shape the world for the better.”

Wong also called for more action on climate change in the region and pledged to appoint a special envoy to ASEAN.

Defence Minister Dutton has previously asserted that Australia would back the United States if conflict erupted over the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing has taken increasingly aggressive actions in the region, including sending military planes into Taiwanese airspace and building up its forces.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Dutton warned of the increasingly precarious nature of the region.

“We are worried about the build-up of military power, the build-up of military might by others in the region,” he told sitting members.

“We do know there has been a very significant change in the stance of China … towards partners and the East China Sea and the South China Sea.”