The revolving door to the prime minister’s suite over recent years hasn’t just annoyed Australians, it’s also hindered the government’s ability to pursue the country’s interests overseas.
A new ranking of Asian countries’ influence finds Australia’s power in the region is unchanged, with an outsized level of influence for its size and resources.
The Lowy Institute’s latest Asia Power Index puts Australia at seventh overall among the 25 nations ranked.
However, Australia’s ranking for diplomatic influence dropped over the past year, behind Indonesia, after political infighting and the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in August 2018.
“That’s not a personal statement against Scott Morrison, it’s just any new prime minister that has to start from scratch building relationships with his counterparts in the region will be in some sense handicapped,” project director Herve Lemahieu told AAP.
He says Australia spent too much time last year looking inwards, consumed by the intrigue in Canberra.
“(Mr Morrison) was an unknown commodity in the region, he’s not someone who’s had a lot of foreign policy experience prior to becoming prime minister … I don’t know to what extent leaders judged him to be a sort of durable prime minister.
“I think a lot of people thought he was going to be an interim prime minister until the election and a Labor victory.
“Now Scott Morrison has a new lease on life with a fresh mandate at home and, provided that he has the backing of his party and political stability on their side, he should be able to build those relationships again.”
The Asia Power Index examines countries from Pakistan in the west, north to Russia, and across the Pacific to the US, Australia and New Zealand. It then ranks them on eight measures of their resources and influences.
Australia ranked second for its defence networks and fifth for its resilience, defined as the capacity to deter real or potential threats.
Australia ranks in the top 10 countries on all measures, leading the authors to suggest the country will remain largely competitive in a rapidly changing region.
The US and China were ranked first and second respectively on the overall power index, far outstripping other countries.
However, America’s lead over China narrowed in the past year and it appears to be less effective at converting its hefty resources into broader influence, according to the index, in a trend that seems to be accelerating under the Trump administration’s foreign policy.
Japan and India are classed as major powers, while Australia is among 13 middle powers.
Australian Associated Press