Former Prime Ministers John Howard and Paul Keating have revealed their thoughts on Australia's alliance with the United States in light of Donald Trump becoming leader of the free world.
Speaking to Leigh Sales on The 7:30 Report on Thursday night, former Labor PM Keating said Australia should "cut the tag" with the United States and distinguish an independent foreign policy within Asia.
"We've had more or less a tag-along foreign policy, tagging along to the United States. It's time to cut the tag. Time to get out of it," Keating said.
"Our future is basically in the region around us, it's in South East Asia. What we should be thinking about is an independent policy that does worry about Indonesia, that does worry about South East Asia. I've suggested for instance, we should join ASEAN, the Association of South East Asian Nations."
The former Labor PM said Australia's alliance with the U.S. has developed from a simple treaty to a being treated like "sacrament".
"This society of ours is a better society than the United States. We've had a 50 percent increase in real incomes in the last 20 years, median America has had zero. We have universal health protection, from the cradle to the grave. We have a retirement income system, with superannuation. We have high participation rates in schools.
"We don't shoot our children in schools and if they were to be shot, we'd take the guns off the people who shot them. The Americans do not do this. This is a better society than the United States."
Former Liberal prime minister John Howard disagreed, arguing Australia's alliance with the U.S. was stronger than any leader.
"I, in the long run, am pretty confident that the historical warmth of the relationship will continue. I don't believe the administration, the new administration is going to walk away from old allies," Howard told the program.
"Those people who are talking about the need for some kind of radical recasting of our attitude towards the United States, forget the reality that this is a relationship so deeply embedded in history and sentiment, that it survives changes of personnel both in Canberra and Washington." John Howard
"Those people who are talking about the need for some kind of radical recasting of our attitude towards the United States, forget the reality that this is a relationship so deeply embedded in history and sentiment, that it survives changes of personnel both in Canberra and Washington."
Howard said the most important element of the alliance is the ANZUS treaty and the shared intelligence arrangement that comes hand in hand with it.
"I don't see those things being disturbed. I think one of the things we can look forward to is more money being spent by America on defence, and that is likely to end up strengthening the involvement of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region," Howard said.
The former Liberal PM highlighted the importance of free trade and globalisation but argued leaders in both Australia and America need to better communicate the benefits, as well as listening to the people it impacts on home soil.
"Everybody has got to do a better job of explaining the benefits of globalisation. I think everybody has got to understand that it does carry a pain and penalty for some people, and whilst you should keep going forward with globalisation and free trade, you've got to try to help the people who are disconnected," Howard said.
"I think that was one of the strengths that Trump had, that Hillary Clinton didn't have. He didn't insult those unemployed white male workers in the Mid-West, he embraced them. Whereas Hillary Clinton called them deplorables.
"It was a failure of a most fundamental and elemental political lesson."