Friday 23 Feb 2018 | 05:47 | SYDNEY
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How Australia crossed a line in the Timor Sea

The UN Compulsory Conciliation between Australia and Timor-Leste, which aims to set a boundary in the Timor Sea, appears to be inching towards resolution, with details emerging in the Portuguese media last week of a deal involving a median line boundary and a revenue-sharing arrangement

The ABC Cabinet Files and the secrets exposed

The second-hand furniture business in Canberra must be booming. The last few days of Australian news has been dominated by the extraordinary story of how the ABC got hold of a trove of secret documents – dumped, apparently in ignorance, inside a locked filing cabinet at an ex-government

The awkward case of the Australian “spy” in Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has denied bail to Australian film-maker James Ricketson in an espionage case that is fast becoming an embarrassing headache for both countries involved. In laying espionage charges against Mr Ricketson – a messianic crusader of the poor – Cambodia has inadvertently

Joining the dots to Vancouver

Represented by Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson, Australia was one of 20 countries that participated in a conference last week on coordinating international approaches to North Korea. Co-hosted by Canada and the US, and held in Vancouver, the conference had

Waitangi Day and Australia Day: contrasting symbolism

In a little more than a week, New Zealand will celebrate its national day, Waitangi Day. This year will mark the 178th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, the agreement between the British Crown and New Zealand Maori rangatira (chiefs) that led to New Zealand becoming a British colony

Best of The Interpreter 2017: China's influence

Former senator Sam Dastyari cetainly found that history repeats itself as farce. Or as Stephen Conroy, the former Labor defence spokesman that Dastyari infamously contradicted over the South China Sea, would later observe, it took a 'unique set of abilities to

Review: Kevin Rudd and his road to be PM

Kevin Rudd remains a polarising figure in Australian politics. The subject of near-messianic support as ‘Kevin07’, his legacy is contentious. His latest attempt to influence that legacy is Not For the Faint-hearted, the first (!) volume of his autobiography. Political memoirs are inevitably

Clear messages required in Twitter-age of diplomacy

Robert Ayson is quite right to pick me up on the distinction between pre-emptive and preventative military strikes. My post on Australia’s policy towards a US attack on North Korea argued Australia should make clear that it would not support a pre-emptive US strike at the North’s nuclear and

What should Australia rule out on North Korea?

In place of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ambiguous commitment to support US military action against North Korea, Hugh White wants a clear statement ruling out Australia's participation in a 'pre-emptive' attack. But in turn there are two points of ambiguity in White's argument that may get in

Canberra conversations, with Gareth Evans

This is Episode Three of Canberra Conversations, an occasional podcast series on The Interpreter where I talk with some of the big names from the foreign policy and national security worlds in Australia's capital. In episode one I talked with Mike Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of

Canberra conversations, with Frances Adamson

This is Episode Two of Canberra Conversations, an occasional podcast series on The Interpreter where I talk with some of the big names from the foreign policy and national security worlds in Australia's capital. In Episode One, I spoke with Mike Pezzullo, Secretary of the Department of Immigration

Islamic State is changing the face of terrorism

If thwarted terrorist plots are anything to go by, then Australia surely does live up to its reputation as the lucky country. In the past month there were two narrowly missed major attacks that were part of the same conspiracy against Australian aviation. The latest plot was the thirteenth

Should war require parliamentary approval?

In light of US President Donald Trump's erratic attempts to intimidate North Korea, several prominent voices have argued that Australia's parliament should be granted control over any decision to go to war. I think that would be a mistake, though not for the reason you might think. Former

Australia and Korea’s wars: A debate worth revisiting

Tensions have temporarily abated on the Korean Peninsula, following the latest blustery exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. In typically mercurial fashion, after threatening 'fire and fury', President Donald Trump has now praised Kim Jong-un’s 'decision' not to launch missiles at Guam as '

Death of a Lebanese terrorist

They say that the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn. And if the reports of the death of the terrorist Khalid Sharrouf are confirmed, then it meant that he died as a Lebanese, rather than Australian citizen (he was stripped of his Australian citizenship early this year). This doesn’t

Rhetorical arthritis won’t sell an Australian republic

By putting the creation of an Australian republic back onto the political agenda, Labor leader Bill Shorten has once more brought to the fore the connection between the nation’s constitutional status, its identity, and its place in the world. But perhaps the most surprising aspect of Shorten’s

Marriage equality fiasco damages Brand Australia

Often it is the glaring contradictions of Australian life that catch the international eye. The successfully multi-cultural country with one of the most punitive approaches to asylum seekers of any western country. The sun-dried continent where climate change scepticism remains a mainstream

Australia and ASEAN: The next 50 years

Australia's future, and our future prosperity, are inevitably in Asia.   Julia Gillard pointed to this in 2012 when she launched the ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ White Paper, saying 'whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia's return to global leadership, Asia’s rise.

The Trump/Turnbull transcript: The PM’s parting gift

So mesmerised have Australian commentators become with the Trump/Turnbull telephone conversation from late January that the leaking last week of the verbatim transcript was always going to breathe new life into the episode. Some journalists even appear to be the modern day equivalent of the Roman

Chinese spy ships: The devil in the detail

Recent posts in The Interpreter (by Iain Henry, Euan Graham and James Goldrick) have commented on the presence of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off the Queensland Coast during Exercise Talisman Sabre. All these posts are broadly correct – the incident suggested Chinese hypocrisy with its

What NAFTA renegotiation means for Australia

It was always part of the Trump agenda to do something about the North American Free Trade Agreement (‘one of the worst deals ever’) covering the US, Canada and Mexico: the outcome is renegotiation rather than the threatened termination. The Office of the United State Trade Representative has

A Home Affairs Ministry: Details to follow

While responses to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement on 18 July about the creation in 2018 of a Home Affairs Ministry ranged widely, the fact is that the decision has been made. But the announcement was short on detail and unclear in some areas, and the challenge now is to understand

India-Australia relations: Getting over the Quad blues

Last week the Indian warships INS Kamorta, INS Shivalik and INS Jyoti arrived in Western Australia’s port city of Fremantle to participate in a bilateral exercise. The military drills came close on the heels of a controversial decision by New Delhi to reject Canberra’s request for observer

Back in focus: The United Nations Command in South Korea

Following his recent speech at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked a question about North Korea. This excerpt from his answer should be of interest to Australians, among others: We obviously work very, very closely with the United Nations Command.

Belt and Road PPPs: Opportunities and pitfalls

China’s push for the new normal has seen its local governments convert to public-private partnerships (PPPs), long-term contracts between a private party and government to provide a public asset or service. More than 12,000 such projects worth around US$2 trillion have kicked off since public

Four Corners sees the Party-state in all the shadows

Last night ABC TV aired a Four Corners/Fairfax Media investigation into China’s power and influence in Australia that promised to uncover 'how China's Communist Party is secretly infiltrating Australia'. The program traced the stories of various individuals and their ties to China and concluded we

When will Australia acknowledge a changed America?

Since the election of Donald Trump, a great deal of faith  – naturally enough – has been put in the very occurrence of encounters that Australian ministers and prime ministers have had with their American counterparts. Whether it be introductory calls that both Ministers Bishop and Payne

AUSMIN: For the US, a refreshingly ‘normal’ meeting

The Australia-US Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) on Monday was noteworthy for how normal it was. The meeting stood in stark contrast to the recent NATO Summit, where President Trump managed to raise more questions about the American commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance than he answered. In

Incident at Three Pagodas Pass

After decades of strained bilateral relations, Australia’s defence ties with Myanmar are gradually being restored. The office of the Defence Attache (DA) in the Australian embassy in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), which closed in 1979, was reopened in 2014. This coincided with a port visit by HMAS

Australian refugee policy: Twists in the tale

On the airwaves this week, Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton continues to describe asylum seekers who are yet to submit their protection applications as 'fake refugees'. The Minister’s comments ignore the fact that government policy actually prevented these 7500 people from applying

Australia, Vietnam, the diaspora and generational change

Australia's Vietnamese diaspora is a remarkable element in the fast-evolving relationship between the two countries. Hanoi and Canberra are both doing what they can to help Australian Vietnamese to forge and strengthen links that can pay enormous dividends in trade and tourism. This latest chapter

Book review: PNG, Australia’s Northern Shield?

Given the general gloom that seems to dominate contemporary Australian perceptions about Papua New Guinea’s ability to govern itself, it is refreshing to learn how mournfully doubtful successive Australian Cabinets in the late 1960s through to PNG’s independence in 1975 were about our former

Onus on Turnbull to remember Sri Lanka’s Victims

This week, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is visiting Australia. Besides growing economic cooperation, apparently 'enhanced cooperation on development and sport' between the two nations is on the agenda. But let’s hope that beyond friendly cricket matches, Prime Minister Malcolm

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