The Federation Press

Australia as a Good International Citizen


From time to time, politicians describe Australia as a “good international citizen”. But what does this mean, exactly? What constitutes good international citizenship? And does Australia really qualify as a good international citizen? This book attempts to answer these questions.

Very little has been written about good international citizenship. Most of the limited literature is by international relations scholars and practitioners and therefore naturally tends to focus on Australian foreign policy. Nobody has ventured a definition of the term, or even a list of qualities that a good international citizen should possess. This book therefore begins by proposing such a list, and identifies two particularly important elements: compliance with international law, and support for multilateralism.

Using these elements as a yardstick, Dr Pert then seeks to measure Australia’s good international citizenship throughout its post-Federation history. Account is given of the shenanigans of Billy Hughes at the 1919 peace conference in Versailles (not a great example of good international citizenship); the forgotten contribution to international economic and social cooperation of Stanley Bruce in the late 1930s; “Doc” Evatt’s astonishing performance at San Francisco in 1945, where the United Nations Charter was negotiated, and his personal influence on the form the new world organisation was to take; the almost dormant Menzies years; the Whitlam revolution and re-engagement with the world; and the Fraser reaction. The analysis continues with the Hawke/Keating, Howard, and Rudd/Gillard governments.

One of the main conclusions the book draws from this analysis is that states – whether Australia or others such as the archetypically “good” Scandinavian states – can be paragons of good international citizenship in one area (say, overseas aid) but the opposite in another (such as repulsion of asylum-seekers, or arms exports). Thus, it argues, “good international citizenship” is not a blanket term that can be applied to a state. Instead, a state can be a good international citizen in some areas, and quite the opposite in others. A full account of how Australia rates from this perspective is given from Federation to the demise of the second Rudd government in 2013.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gareth Evans AC QC
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes
List of Treaties


Chapter 1: What Is A “Good International Citizen”?

Chapter 2: From Federation To Versailles 1901-1919

Chapter 3: 1919-1941

Chapter 4: 1941-1972

Chapter 5: Whitlam And Fraser 1972-1983

Chapter 6: The Hawke And Keating Governments 1983-1996

Chapter 7: The Howard Years 1996-2007

Chapter 8: The Rudd And Gillard Governments 2007-2013

Chapter 9: Summary And Conclusions


Of interest...