This article belongs to Australia - Land of the Free? column.

This week Australians have witnessed our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, swanning around Washington. Our newspapers and TV screens have been full of self-satisfied grinning faces of Rudd with Bush, and the three presidential candidates.


Australian Prime Minister
It seems that once elected Australian Prime Ministers head for Washington to establish their credentials with the US Government. Remember Bush called Howard 'a man of steel' and they acted like best mates. This week the President also referred to Rudd in the same way.


All of this forelock touching and fawning over each other is to preserve the US and Australian Alliance we are told.


At one time the Alliance was vital to Australia. In 1942 when the Japanese were driving down through Asia with Australia abandoned by Great Britain, the United States of America rode into the breach personified by General Douglas Macarthur rushing to the great South Land after being defeated in the Philippines and in a word saved the nation from being invaded. Although, our own troops on the Kokoda Track and the Huon Peninsula in New Guinea had a lot to do with stopping the Japanese too.


Australia was grateful, and has been ever since. So much so that Australian service men and women have been involved in all of America's wars ever since. If the US goes to war so does Australia. However, there always seems to be a reason forthcoming other than support for the US such as the Communist threat in both Korea and Vietnam, Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.


For all of this support Australia USA trade is out of balance and US farmers have lobbied the politicians to keep Australian goods out of their markets. Unfair trade barriers limit access to US markets in music and entertainment.


The reason for the loyalty is fear. Australia sits in Asia, close to Indonesia and China. Although, now much closer politically to our Asian neighbours, Australians are still nervous that someone may wish to expand their territory into the Great South Land.


Perhaps with new Asian migrants in all parts of Australia, and with much more understanding of where we sit in the scheme in our part of the world, this reliance on America will contract until we learn to trust our neighbours.


Now is the time to cut back on slavishly following our powerful friend, but still preserve the alliance. It's possible to still be friends without agreeing with every action and maintaining our dignity.


It should also be recognised that when the US came to Australia's rescue in 1942 it was in their interest to do so. If the Japanese didn't attack Pearl Harbour would they have been so willing to assist?


Likewise, these days, America only does what is of benefit to them. Perhaps in the future Australia's interest won't coincide with the USA.