Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of History and Politics, Faculty of Arts


This thesis examines Australian foreign policy change towards East Timor in 1998-99 and towards Solomon Islands in 2003. The thesis demonstrates the complexity of foreign policy decision-making through an analysis of these two cases. A new theoretical model of foreign policy change is presented and applied. It argues for the importance of investigating both domestic and international factors that influence foreign policy decision-making, as well as for the interaction between these producing a combined influence or pressure on decision makers. Of equal importance is the key decision-makers themselves in as much as they must perceive that a “window of opportunity” exists for foreign policy change to actually occur. This thesis argues that domestic factors played a key role in the Australian foreign policy change towards Indonesia regarding East Timor in 1999. Together with events in Indonesia, these caused the Howard government to change its policy in September 1999, after having been most reluctant to do so. The Australian government’s decision-making process was mainly reactive rather than proactive in this case. International factors played a larger role in the case of Australian foreign policy change towards Solomon Islands in 2003. Their interaction created a window of opportunity that the Howard-government perceived and acted upon. The Australian government was more proactive in this case, although it reacted late to a situation that had unfolded for the past three years. The model illustrates how in both cases pressure was brought to bear on key decision makers and how domestic and international sources of change affected foreign policy.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.