Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Rudd to deliver blistering critique of ‘foolhardy’ Morrison embassy move

The comments are contained in a major speech Mr Rudd will deliver in Jakarta on Thursday titled “The US, China, & ASEAN : Can The Right Equilibrium be Found?” and come after another former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull recently warned of a “very negative reaction” from Indonesia if the proposal to move the embassy and to diplomatically recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is implemented.


The Morrison government’s proposal, announced during the Wentworth by-election which the government ultimately lost, “shocked” the most recent former Indonesian ambassador to Canberra and stoked fears the signing of a free trade agreement between the two nations could be delayed.

Fairfax Media revealed on Wednesday the free trade deal was due to be signed next week in Singapore, but if the embassy proposal is implemented, the Indonesian parliament might still delay ratification.

Mr Rudd will say in his speech, according to exclusive extracts obtained by Fairfax Media, that Australia’s views on issues such as the Middle East peace process are “taken seriously in the wider world” because Australia is a respected middle power.

Moving the embassy was “not the responsible course of action”, he will say.

“There is a grave danger that the further alienation of the Palestinian people from a long-term homeland of their own in a permanent Palestinian state will result in further radicalisation, and over time the launching of a third intifada,” he will say, referring to an uprising against Israel.

Palestinian protesters on the border between Gaza and Israel calling for the right to return to their former homes in Israel.Credit:EPA

“That is why successive Australian governments have long supported the two-state solution. And why we have supported the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv and refused to embrace pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu to move our embassy to Jerusalem,” he will say.

“It is regrettable that Prime Minister Morrison has chosen to depart from the long-standing Australian bipartisan consensus. It appears that he has done so to appease the interests of elements of the far-right Israeli lobby in Australia for domestic political purposes.”

He will also suggest US President Donald Trump’s decision to move America’s embassy to Jerusalem did “fundamental violence to the Middle East peace process”.

“This may be the preferred position of Netanyahu’s far right-wing government in Israel. But it does not necessarily represent the broader position of the Israeli parliament and people,” he will say.

Mr Morrison has promised a review of the Australian embassy’s location, though details of the review, and when it will conclude, are not clear.

The former prime minister’s speech will also explore some of the tensions between the US, China and ASEAN nations.

Relations between China and Australia have grown frosty because of growing tensions over Chinese influence in Australian politics, and because of Beijing’s growing military footprint in the Pacific and the South China Sea.

But a thaw between Canberra and Beijing is underway, with Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne to travel to Beijing on Thursday for the first high-level meeting with her counterpart on Chinese soil in more than two years.

Since losing the prime ministership in 2013, Mr Rudd has relocated to New York to serve as the President of the influential Asia Society Policy Institute.

He is is also a senior fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, a fellow of Chatham House in London, a distinguished statesman at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies and he holds another of other positions.

James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions.