While Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, had the luxury of
airing his views on global events on national TV yesterday with Laurie
Oakes (here ), he doesn’t face the dilemmas that come with actually holding the foreign policy levers.

As Rudd was laying down Labor’s credentials, Alexander Downer was
drawing a line in the sand on a potentially tetchy issue with Indonesia
– judicial sovereignty. Taking a stand on the Schapelle Corby case, the
foreign minister told Ten: “We’ve said this to the Indonesians all
along, we don’t want any Australians to face the death penalty in
Indonesia, no matter what their crime.”

Which
raises a number of questions, not least of which is does this strong
stand mean if any Australian is convicted of terrorist activities
punishable by death in Indonesia, our government will go into bat on
their behalf? And while Downer wants Indonesia to spare Schapelle Corby
the death sentence, he took a very different approach to Bali bombing
mastermind Abu Bakir Bashir. There was no objection then to the
possibility of the death sentence, and both sides of politics
ultimately criticised Bashir’s sentence on grounds of leniency.

As academic Steven Freeland has pointed out, there is little Australia
can do to interfere in the domestic legal processes of Indonesia or
other nations – even though these cases can obviously affect Australian
interests. Would Australia be prepared to head off to the International
Court of Justice to dispute a decision involving an Australian national
in a foreign jurisdiction? Unlikely. As unlikely as Kevin Rudd and
Alexander Downer agreeing on the direction of Australia’s relations
with our regional neighbours.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW