News / Asia

Foreign Policy Challenges Await Australia's New PM

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (C) greets members of the Opposition including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (L) and Deputy Leader Julie Bishop before Parliament starts at the Parliament House in Canberra, June 27, 2013.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (C) greets members of the Opposition including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott (L) and Deputy Leader Julie Bishop before Parliament starts at the Parliament House in Canberra, June 27, 2013.
Phil Mercer
Australia's former leader, Kevin Rudd, was sworn in Thursday as prime minister, three years after being ousted from the post by Julia Gillard.  Among the challenges awaiting the Mandarin-speaking former diplomat are a range of foreign policy issues, including relations with China, and a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat. 

In his first term as Australia’s Prime Minister in 2007, Kevin Rudd pursued what many considered a humane and moral approach to refugees.  He closed down offshore processing camps in the South Pacific set up by his conservative predecessor.  Rights groups criticized conditions inside the facilities, but following Rudd’s removal as leader by Julia Gillard in 2010, the centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru were reopened to accommodate a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters by sea.

The new prime minister is now being urged to again bring in more compassionate refugee policies.

Labor party lawmaker Doug Cameron says that families with children should not be held under Australia’s mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers.

“I would like to see kids out of camps. I think that is important," he said. "I think we need to get some situation where we can get refugees and asylum seekers actually if they're put into the community, actually having a living, a capacity to make a living. I don't want an underclass created and these are big questions.”

Rudd is a former Australia foreign minister with a particular interest in global affairs.  He is a fluent Mandarin speaker, whose daughter is married to a Hong Kong-born banker. 

Among the international challenges facing the new Rudd government are relations with Indonesia, a key partner in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, and commercial ties with China, Australia’s biggest trading partner.

Chinese demand for natural resources, most notably iron ore, has insulated the Australian economy from the ravages of the global recession. But Rudd concedes that the minerals bonanza is coming to an end.

“I believe that what the nation needs now is strong, proven, national economic leadership to deal with the formidable new challenge Australia now faces with the end of the decade-long China resources boom," he said.

Despite his fascination with international affairs, Rudd’s biggest challenges lies at home.

The call for spot elections followed a series of opinion polls that indicated wide public dissatisfaction with the government.  Most Labor MPs believe only Rudd can save them from electoral defeat. Thus, one of the new leader’s top priorities is to unite the party and convince voters that a divided government deserves another chance at the next election.

Voting takes place in September, but the campaign promises to be bruising.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs