Saturday 19 Sep 2020 | 18:41 | SYDNEY
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Book Review: Where borders aren’t always badlands

Book review: Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb (eds) Too Close to Ignore (Melbourne University Press, 2020) Borders have been in the news in Australia, with the novel if frustrating experience of interstate pandemic restrictions leaving residents unable to cross previously free borders to access

No news is not good news

The rushed departure from China of two Australian journalists, the ABC’s Bill Birtles and the Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith, marks a new low in a relationship which had already seemed to have reached rock bottom. The threats to the Australian journalists are bad enough of

Islamic State’s new battleground – the courts

In the aftermath of Islamic State’s defeat, it was anticipated that fighters and other members of the group would appeal to the very court system of a liberal democracy whose laws they rejected and whose way of ordering society they sought to supplant when they joined the terrorist group. And in

Pandemic democracy

How will Covid-19 affect electoral democracy in Australia and around the world? The pandemic has starkly revealed two fundamental aspects of successful democracy: the extent of a given society’s trust between its citizens and their government, and the capacity of those same governments to

FITS and starts

Come December 2020, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) will have been in force for two years in Australia. Since its enactment in late 2018, FITS has courted significant controversy – including questions of its evenhanded application, collateral effects on rights, and constitutional

China sours on Australia’s wine

On Monday this week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced it has commenced an investigation into whether Australia has been subsidising winemakers. This follows a parallel investigation launched two weeks ago to examine allegations that Australian winemakers have also been “dumping” their

Australia needs the workers, the Pacific needs the jobs

Finding a consistent stream of agricultural labour in Australia has long proved a challenge. With Australians often unwilling to accept this type of work in the numbers required to get food to market, the government has sought to use visa schemes to remedy the problem, welcoming foreign labour. Yet

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

A post-pandemic trade revival

Albert Einstein once said that “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. For an open trading nation like Australia, the pandemic is an unparalleled crisis. The nation is facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression, along with recessions in key trading partners, severe

Australia doesn’t need to choose between guns and butter

The Morrison government’s plan for defence spending outlined in the Defence Strategic Update last month has been incorporated into the Canberra consensus, with Labor offering no criticism and the mainstream press largely supportive. Yet as the government grapples with debt and deficit as the

Kamala Harris: Where does Australia feature in her worldview?

Kamala Harris’ anointment last week as Joe Biden’s US presidential election running mate was in some ways groundbreaking – she is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman on a major party ticket – but in most ways she is a conventional choice. Harris is a moderate Democrat

Defending Australia in a high-tech future

The recently announced $270 billion commitment to expand Australia’s military capability sets the tone for a deteriorating strategic environment. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are only part of the answer in aligning Australia’s response to this challenging future. It

Melbourne or Washington, all politics is local, again

We all see the world through our own eyes. But this truism is so often forgotten. In Melbourne, where I live, a curfew has just been imposed, businesses shuttered, troops are increasingly seen on the streets, and the local premier is warning darkly of “what further steps” might follow if

Five Eyes: Blurring the lines between intelligence and policy

The public aura around the decades-old “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand has expanded rapidly since the name was first publicly acknowledged. In 2014, an Australian prime minister publicly referred to the “Five Eyes” for the

Interesting times for TikTok

From Delhi to Washington to Canberra, the future of the digital economy may be heavily influenced by how one question is answered: What to do about TikTok? The popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance has been at the centre of a storm of controversy. Concern

India, Australia and containing the China challenge

Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs”: cricket, curry and the Commonwealth. In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of. On Friday, it emerged that

Hidden gems in the 2020 Force Structure Plan

The recent release of the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan provided an outline of the government’s defence policy and capability priorities for the next decade. The Force Structure Plan in particular helps define how an additional $270 billion will be invested to deliver critical

Social credit: The next China risk for Australian business

As China recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, the apparatus of the state is about to be devoted to a new form of social control. By the end of 2020, China plans to introduce its national social credit system. For some, this evokes dystopian visions of a surveillance state, monitoring more than a

Devaluing DFAT

The launch of the 2020 Defence Strategic Outlook prompted some observers to argue that Australia should boost the firepower of its diplomacy as well as its defence force. They reminded us that DFAT’s budget for diplomacy had been shrinking for decades, a trend documented in other assessments. Then

Putting study abroad on ice carries a diplomatic cost

With global travel slashed to a bare minimum early in the Covid-19 pandemic, study abroad programs were among the first Australian organisations outside hospitality and retail to feel the economic impact of the crisis. With looming uncertainty and often no choice but to study online, most Australian

A high-risk, low-reward defence posture

For all the commentary generated by the release of the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, which outline Australia’s defence policy and capability priorities for the next decade and beyond, it is strange that little attention has been paid to one particular phrase that the

Australia’s Russia problem (and how to solve it)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update goes some way to preparing Australia to compete in a new multipolar, Indo-Pacific–anchored strategic environment. But a notable absence from the document is Russia. This matters. Australians too often speak of Moscow’s irrelevance and weakness since the end of

A diplomatic step-up to match our military step-up

The release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update marks an important milestone in Australia’s strategic thinking. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted, we are facing one of the most challenging set of strategic circumstances since the 1930s. The 1930s was characterised by a deep economic shock

Keeping the Kremlin in the Kelvinator

One effect of Australia’s more assertive posture on the People’s Republic of China has been to try to split off Beijing’s current and potential partners. This thinking was apparently behind Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s recent suggestion that Australia should back Russia’s participation in the

Indonesia: Still caught between trade and protectionism

The entry into force of an ambitious Indonesia-Australia trade deal on Sunday is a boost to the bilateral relationship, coming after nearly a decade of difficult negotiations. No two neighbouring G20 economies trade as little as Australia and Indonesia, and the investment relationship is similarly

The cost of conspiracy in muddling public health messages

A spike in coronavirus cases across Melbourne has seen local hotspot suburbs largely locked down and some 3000 people in public housing towers prevented from leaving home at all. But the sharp reminder that “This is not over” which now flashes on freeway signs across Australia’s second largest

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