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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - Towards a ‘new world order’



On 21 August 1990 the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, rose to address Parliament. Less than three weeks earlier Iraq had invaded its small neighbour, Kuwait; on 6 August the United Nations had voted to apply sanctions against Iraq, and four days later Hawke had gravely announced the deployment of three Australian warships. Now, belatedly, and conscious of the responsibility of sending forces overseas to potential conflict, he was justifying his decision in Parliament, and he made the case firmly in the context of the dramatic changes in the international system taking place at that time. He explained that ‘over the past few years the frightening rigidities of the Cold War have dissolved and the threat of global war between the superpowers has receded’. The task therefore was ‘to construct a new world order which will guarantee that the end of the Cold War will bring an era of peace’. He argued that as the Cold War faded the United Nations was moving ‘back to the position its founders intended for it’, and in the future Australia might need to depend on the principles of the United Nations Charter to protect its interests. Australia was ‘not sending ships to the Gulf region to serve our allies; we are going to protect the international rule of law which will be vital to our security however our alliances may develop in the future’.