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Event Reports

Political Dialogue Program in Australia and New Zealand with Dr Klaus Schueler and Dr Peter Hefele

by Katja Theodorakis

Tackling the New Challenges for Political Parties and Liberal Democracies in Changing Times

KAS Australia and the Pacific was pleased to welcome Dr Klaus Schueler, State Secretary (ret’d) and former Federal Managing Director of the CDU, for a political dialogue program with Australian and New Zealand politicians, political party and industry representatives, academics and think tank experts. Dr Schueler, who is now the Board of Management’s representative for national and international politics at LANXESS and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation was accompanied by Dr Peter Hefele, Director Team Asia and the Pacific, KAS Berlin.

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They engaged in a series of roundtables, bilateral meetings and discussions in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Auckland and Wellington on timely issues such as populism, European integration, climate politics as well as the new challenges to democracy and the rules-based order in a changing global environment.

In Australia, Dr Schueler for instance addressed the German Australian business community and academic audiences in Brisbane and Sydney on ‘Germany and Europe in the post-Brexit/post-Merkel era’ and exchanged views with policy makers and political partners at the Federal Parliament in Canberra, including the Minister of Finance Mathias Corman.

A key event was also a public lecture at the University of Queensland which centred on the challenges to democracy and the rules-based order in a changing global environment. It was titled Disruptive Times -Liberal Democracy under Pressure. Rather than simply lamenting a ‘crisis of the West’ and liberal values, Dr Schueler sought to go beyond defeatist assessments and examined what can be done to enable liberalism to deliver on its promises to individuals and societies – both domestically as well as internationally.  For this end, Dr Schueler proposed a recalibration of liberal values based on critical reflection of where the trajectory of Western liberal democracies may have gone off course over the past decade. Specifically, he highlighted a number of inflection points and unhelpful economic and socio-political narratives in order to draw out lessons: with the end goal of what Dr Schueler described as “polishing away blind spots and giving liberal democracy its shine back”.

Overall, the focus was on how to weather the storms of a changed political landscape since both Germany and Australia as well as New Zealand are facing various challenges in their respective domestic settings as well as internationally. As value partners, navigating changing political and economic tides requires a delicate balancing of pragmatism and principled commitment to the foundational tenets of liberalism. Matters of international trade, global security and multilateralism have become pillars that determine the stability of domestic political and economic systems for both countries, including issues of climate change and energy politics. The various discussions, round tables and bilateral meetings reinforced the need to stick to the tried and proven narrative of what the liberal order can offer for societies and individuals.

In New Zealand Dr Hefele further had the opportunity to meet some of KAS Australia’s key cooperation partners, including the German New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (GNZCC), the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA), in Auckland and the Asia New Zealand Foundation (ANZF) as well as The New Zealand Initiative in Wellington. The topics discussed included current economic challenges (EU-NZ FTA negotiations, Brexit, Coronavirus), the Indo-Pacific to the German and European engagement in the Region.

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Katja Theodorakis


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