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Political Information Last Updated: Jan 14, 2020 - 12:07:47 PM

Scott Morrison uses Lowy Lecture to take veiled swipe at UN while urging against 'negative globalism'
By Eliza Laschon
Oct 4, 2019 - 3:05:24 AM

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Video: Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks out against what he calls "negative globalism" at UN (ABC News)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has used an important foreign policy lecture to urge against a "new variant" of what he called "negative globalism".

Key points:

  • Scott Morrison said "the world works best … when the character and distinctiveness of independent nations is preserved"
  • The PM criticised "an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy", but did not mention any by name
  • He reiterated his belief that China should bear greater global trade responsibility in line with the size of its economy


Mr Morrison gave the Lowy Lecture at Sydney's town hall on Thursday — he is the third prime minister to give the speech — and he largely centred his speech around Australia's approach to global challenges.

A week after using an address to the United Nations (UN) to criticise "internal and global" critics of Australia's climate change policy, Mr Morrison appeared to take a veiled jab at the UN on Thursday evening.

The Prime Minister said he did not want to see global organisations like the UN getting overly involved in the governance of independent nations.

"The world works best, we believe, I believe, when the character and distinctiveness of independent nations is preserved within a framework of mutual respect," Mr Morrison said.

"This includes respecting the electoral mandates of their constituencies.

"We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often-ill-defined borderless global community and worse still, an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy.

"Globalism in a positive light facilitates, it aligns, it engages, rather than directs and forces."

The Prime Minister warned more broadly that freedom of "exchange", "open markets", "capital" and "ideas" had never been more important, but were under threat.

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Video: Scott Morrison defended Australia's action on climate change while speaking to the UN last week. (ABC News)


He reiterated Australia's commitment to preserving "this legacy in the face of uncertainties of our modern world".

"The approach my Government is taking is based on this," Mr Morrison said.

"Firstly, know who we are and know what we stand for and allow this to drive and guide our constructive engagement in and the expectations of our international cooperation, including those global institutions, and ensure that our national interests remain always paramount.

"Secondly, to build a strong and open economy here at home, connected to global prosperity, enabling our capacity to protect and pursue our national interests."

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Mr Morrison also pledged to get Australia more involved in international rule-setting, ordering an audit of Australia's membership of global trade and commercial organisations.

"It does not serve our national interests when international institutions demand conformity rather than independent cooperation on global issues," he said.

Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles on Friday said he was concerned about the Prime Minister's message.

"The sort of almost nationalistic talk that we hear at the moment in the speech last night, but also that we heard from the US President a few weeks ago. I actually think is not the right tone in this moment in time."

[Ron: WHY?].

Morrison 'compliments' China on its 'developing' economy

During his address to the Lowy Institute, Mr Morrison also doubled down on comments he made last week in the United States that China should bear more responsibility under World Trade Organisation rules.

"China is a global power making significant investments in military capability as a result of its extraordinary economic success," Mr Morrison said.

"It is the major buyer of our resources globally. It has a profound effect on the regional balance of power.


"It's now the world's second-largest economy, accounting for 16 per cent of world GDP in 2018, the world's largest goods exporter since 2009 and the world's largest trading nation since 2013.

"It's the world's largest manufacturer, it's the world's largest banking sector.

"It's the world's second-largest stock market and the world's third-largest bond market — not bad for a developing country."

Mr Morrison's controversial suggestion was labelled "megaphone diplomacy" by the Labor Party, arguing he was not helping with the "terrible" relationship that exists between Australia and China, but Mr Morrison doubled down.

"China has in many ways changed the world, in my lifetime, so we would expect the terms of its engagement with the world to change also; it's a natural consequence, " Mr Morrison continued in his lecture.


"That's why when we look at negotiating rules of the future of the global economy, for example, we would expect China's obligations simply to reflect its greater power status.

"It's a compliment, it's not a criticism."

Mr Morrison again acknowledged the important relationship Australia had with both China and the United States and how it planned to balance the two.

"[Australia will] maintain our unique relationships with both the United States — our most important ally — and China — our comprehensive strategic partner — and keep them in good order," he said.

"By rejecting the binary narrative of their strategic competition and instead valuing and nurturing the unconflicted benefit that can arise from our close association with both, we don't have to choose."

Former prime minister John Howard was among the guests in attendance for Mr Morrison's address.

[Colour fonts, bolding and comment in square brackets added.].

Topics: world-politics, government-and-politics, scott-morrison, australia

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