Can Kevin Rudd be Trusted?
In August 2007, the then Prime Minister John Howard decided to allow exports of Australian uranium to India. This policy was subsequently unilaterally reversed by Kevin Rudd when he was elected Prime Minister. He also unilaterally cancelled the 4 Nation War games which involved Australia, India, US and Japan.
While this was dubbed and paraded inside the Australian Indian community as the best thing ever happened to India Australia relations, the fact is that this came too late and Australia had already missed the bus in selling Uranium to India and also lost significant export dollars. This vote catching and headline grabbing gimmick was never translated into action. The fact is that for the Uranium Sale to be ratified there has to be a series of nerve racking bilateral meetings interluded with tough negotiations which will thereafter culminate in Bilateral civil nuclear agreement between India and Australia. This process in itself can span across a period of 2 years. Till date these meetings have not even commenced.
Lets discuss what happened in the Labor Party meeting in Sydney when this proposal was tabled for discussion. Here are the facts.
There was stiff opposition in the Labor party to this proposal and it was passed on the conference floor by a slim majority, 208 in favour with 185 against the sale. This means the proposal is still unpopular inside Labor rank and file and this fation may again pressurise Kevin Rudd to overturn the policy.
Three Senior Ministers Anthony Albanese, Stephen Conroy, Peter Garrett opposed Gillard on this move.
Then Communications minister Stephen Conroy shed buckets of crocodile tears in full public view as he argued against Julia Gillardís plan to sell uranium to India. Stephen Conroy received a standing ovation in the conference.
Senator Doug Cameron shook his hands and very effusively offered him support. “I don’t want Labor’s light on the hill to be a green pulsating nuclear light. Prime Minister, you are wrong.” he said.
The then Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, did not speak at all in the hour-long debate.
Current Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese went over the rooftops voicing his opposition to the Uranium sale.
Should Rudd become Prime Minister, the possibility that he may alter the Uranium Sale decision to India can’t be ruled out categorically. Uranium sale continues to be the fulcrum of Australia India relations and can open endless possibilities of cooperation. With both Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister having already established their strongest opposition to the sale of Uranium to India, you would not need a Phd to understand which direction India Australia relations will head if Labor comes to power.
Now lets focus to the other propoganda item proposed during Julia Gillard’s term which is “Australia in the Asian century white paper”. (You really scratched your head trying to remember this line again, isn’t it.) Again this was launched with much fanfare and every Minister talked about this at least three times during any conversation. It is all policy and no action. Gillard trashed Kevin Rudd’s 2009 White Paper on Defence to the dustbin and rejected his premise that China was a threat to Australian security and while adopting a regional states security approach in her 2013 White Paper on Defence she also opened up to the US Australian Alliance by allowing US troops to station inside Darwin. Kevin Rudd is most likely to return the favour to Gillard by ditching the White paper. You don’t hear much about the Australia in the Asian century white paper and this is most likely to be shunted out to public libraries in the years to come.
The third factor which goes against Kevin Rudd is his inept handling of the issue of violence against Indian students which peaked during his first term in office.
If Tony Abbott becomes the Prime Minister, one thing is certain. There will be less drama regarding sale of Uranium to India. Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop have consistenly spoken about their unequivocal support for resumption of Uranium sale to India and there will no theatrics inside party rooms to decide whether the sale should be done or not. Liberal party has already made that choice in 2007.
I was not present in the Labor party meeting when the proposal for Uranium sale was tabled. The information however is widely avaiable in the media and I have built my case on these reports. There reports can be accessed athttp://www.smh.com.au/national/labor-votes-in-favour-of-selling-uranium-to-india-20111204-1od53.html