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Washington (AFP) July 17, 2012
Australia's main opposition leader pledged Tuesday to avoid "indulgent" policies if in power, pointing to hesitation by the government to export cattle to Indonesia and sell uranium to India.
On a visit to Washington, Tony Abbott laid out a vision for his conservative Liberal Party's foreign policy, vowing rock-solid relations with the United States but also promising to work closely with Asian nations.
"We will try to avoid indulgent gestures over, for instance, live cattle sales to Indonesia or uranium sales to India, where our friends want us to be a secure source of supply," Abbott said at the Heritage Foundation think-tank.
Australia's Labor government froze cattle exports to Indonesia for several weeks in June 2011 after a graphic documentary aired on Australian television about cruelty to cows in Indonesian abattoirs, prompting a public outcry.
The Labor Party last year voted to sell uranium to India after a passionate debate. The left-leaning party earlier opposed uranium sales to India as the world's largest democracy refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Abbott said that as prime minister he would make his foreign trip to Jakarta and voiced some apprehension about relations as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prepares to end his second and final term in 2014.
"The advent of a new president in Indonesia will obviously pose some challenges, if only because President Yudhoyono has been a remarkable friend to Australia," he said.
Despite differences in other areas, Abbott praised the Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her predecessor Kevin Rudd for maintaining close relations with Washington.
Abbott rejected assessments that the United States was in decline due to the rise of China and other emerging powers.
"What's remarkable right now is that, perhaps for the first time, the world appears to have more confidence in America than America does in itself," he said.
"For the most of the world, the whole point of growing richer is to be able to enjoy more of the movies, music, fashion, pastimes and consumer goods of America and Britain and to adopt the kind of lifestyle enjoyed by the residents of Western cities," he said.
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