SCOTT MORRISON LOWY ADDRESS
Scott Morrison says Australia won't be copping any directions from international organisations that go against the country's interests, but hasn't nominated instances when this has been a problem.
And Labor has reminded the prime minister that any international rules Australia must adhere to are the result of agreements the nation has voluntarily joined.
Mr Morrison used a speech on Thursday night to argue Australia's international engagement will be driven by national interest rather than "unaccountable" global institutions.
"We should avoid any reflex towards a negative globalism that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community," he said.
His remarks have been seen as a thinly-veiled swipe at the United Nations, and closely resemble comments the US president made in New York last week.
Asked to elaborate on Friday, Mr Morrison said he meant "any time that global organisations think that they have a greater mandate over a country than the country themselves".
"We won't be copping from any global organisation or institution any instructions or directions that are at odds with our national interest and with any presumption that somehow, some global agenda is bigger than Australia," he told reporters in Burnie, Tasmania.
Pressed for examples, he spoke generally about Australians setting their own policies, "whether it's on border protection or anywhere else".
He would not be more specific.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was wrong to suggest Australia had somehow been forced into global arrangements.
"It's absurd to suggest that somehow voluntary agreements that Australia signs up to are imposed by bureaucracies or international organisations such as the United Nations," he told reporters in Sydney.
"Any agreement to which Australia is a party to is one which we have voluntarily signed up to."
And Labor's deputy leader Richard Marles said at the very least, Mr Morrison's comments struck the wrong tone when the world faced challenges that needed global solutions.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale criticised the apparent retreat from internationalism as "thinly-veiled justification to refuse to take action on climate change".
But Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia had a long record of engaging in international forums and cooperative work with other nations would remain the centrepiece of our foreign engagement.
"We seek an international system that preserves the unique characteristics of individual states.," she told reporters in Sydney.
"Sovereignty must be what we are about."
She was flanked by New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters, who observed that a lot of countries were globalist when it suited them and "seriously nationalistic" at other times.
ANU professor Brendan Taylor says pragmatism has long been a consistent theme in Australia's foreign policy but that can lead to it looking a bit muddled.
"It seems a bit erratic but I think there is an underlying logic to it," he told AAP.