21 October 2003
The federal opposition has condemned remarks by Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong that Australia needed to have a majority Asian population before it could properly engage with the region.
Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said any notion that race and not policy should determine international relations was “just plain wrong”.
Mr Goh this week told the APEC summit that an Asian free-trade zone by 2010 plan should not include Australia and New Zealand because they were not fully accepted in the region.
But Mr Rudd said this appeared an inconsistent position, as Asia itself was made up of a diverse range of races.
“I respectfully disagree with the Singaporean Prime Minister,” he said.
“The bottom line is this: Australia’s place in this region is determined not on the basis of the colour of our skin but on the content of our policy…
“To somehow say that ethnicity or race should be a benchmark for considering whether or not you’re part of the region is just plain wrong.”
Mr Rudd said it was possible Mr Goh was trying to be humorous or “loose” but if so it was a careless remark.
He also called for careful and considered statesmanship on the part of the Australian government when dealing with the region.