The federal opposition says Prime Minister Anthony Albanese needs to counsel Kevin Rudd after Australia's next ambassador in Washington warned the United States to stop throwing its allies "under a bus".
Shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham said the prime minister would have to rebuke Dr Rudd if he didn't back his "opinionated" tone, with the former PM saying the US could only counter China's influence in the Asia-Pacific by using its economy as part of an overall security strategy.
"For the future, what is the missing elements in US' grand strategy? It's called the economy, stupid," Dr Rudd told Bloomberg TV.
"You cannot continue to assume that there'll be collective solidarity on security questions, but on the economy, the United States is happy to throw some of its allies under a bus."
Dr Rudd will take over as ambassador in Washington in March, and Senator Birmingham said the "discouraging" start required "deft handling and policy smarts".
"Is this tone sanctioned by Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese or have they already had to counsel Dr Rudd about his approach?" he said in a statement.
"Encouraging the US to pursue deeper economic engagement in our region and with other allies is smart, strategic ... opinionated lecturing of the US before you've even started your new ambassadorial role is far less strategic."
Dr Rudd said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan had done well "herding the cats" but America's "overriding protectionist sentiment" was preventing its markets opening up to Europe and Asia.
"What we want above all is to ensure the economies of East Asia remain market competitive and with greater and greater levels of access to the American market," he said.
The former prime minister stressed he was speaking in his capacity as president of the Asia Society and had not begun his ambassadorial role.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong made similar comments last month, saying Indo-Pacific nations wanted things like digital trade and energy transition from US leadership.
"We need to demonstrate that we have interests we want to nurture beyond security interests," she said at the time.
Dr Rudd also offered commentary on Chinese president Xi Jinping's COVID-19 "policy U-turn", suggesting it raised questions about his long-term standing.
"This will raise a whole series of questions in Chinese political circles, about the fallibility of Xi Jinping's political judgements, and so therefore, that does create a dent in the armour for the long-term," he said.