The Australian government has released a white paper that states shifts in global policies on immigration and climate change due to changing political ideology could have serious adverse repercussions on the nation’s economic growth agenda.
The contents of the white paper, the first report released by the Australian government in five years, were disclosed on Thursday, November 23.
The Australian government notes that the constant deterioration in climate conditions will have disruptive effects on several small island states over the next decade. Intense pressure on natural resources from heightened demand would encourage more migrant activity which would consequently impact Australia’s national interests.
The white paper also points out the Australian government’s concerns on working with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump who opposed the Climate Change Act in Paris earlier this year. However a greater concern is the growing influence of China in the Pacific region.
Australia has become critical of China’s increased presence in the South China Sea specifically on its insistence to build artificial military structures on disputed islands in the Western Philippine Sea:
“Australia is particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s activities. Australia opposes the use of disputed features and artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes.”
Based on the tone of the white paper, the government appears to be advocating a more visible, activist role for Australia in the Indo-Pacific which covers Japan, India, Indonesia and Korea. The government also plans to provide greater support to member nations of the Association of South East Asian Countries (ASEAN) where China is trying to assert its dominance.
Other potential threats to Australia’s economic interests identified in the white paper include the North Korea’s on-going nuclear development program and the influx of terrorist groups composed of ISIS-linked militants from the Southern Philippines.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated that Trump’s position on climate change does not mean a degradation of Australia’s alliance with the United States. Also, despite the government’s reservations on China’s activities, it will work to maintain friendly relations with Beijing.
However the country will continue to pursue other means to preserve its national interests:
“Our alliance with the United States reflects a deep alignment of interests and values while never being a straitjacket for Australian policymaking. Our friendship and partnership with China enriches our economy and society while not preventing us from vigorously advancing our own interests.”