Sunday 22 Apr 2018 | 22:27 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Australian warships challenged in South China Sea

How should we react to news reports that China challenged Australian warships in the course of transiting the South China Sea, on their way from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam? Without knowing where the challenge occurred (was it inside 12 nautical miles of a

New trans-Tasman vision needed

“There is no closer friendship than that between Australia and New Zealand,” Malcolm Turnbull and Jacinda Ardern declared after their leadership meeting in Sydney in March. Their language reflected many such statements over the years. And it’s true. Our communities understand each

Australia vs China, Europe vs Russia

The “bitter split among Australia academics” (reported in the Financial Times) with regard to attitudes towards China, and the Skripal poisoning incident that prompted an unprecedented number of European countries to take highly symbolic measures against Russia, have a common denominator

The lack of appeal in Nauru

The decision to terminate a long-standing arrangement that saw the Australian High Court act as a partial appellate court for Nauru, as reported last week, has heightened concerns about Nauru’s appropriateness as a venue for an Australian immigration detention centre. The timing of the

Getting our maritime security effort right

Australia does not have a coast guard, but does guard its coasts. It has achieved this since 2005 by using the inter-agency operational authority now known as the Maritime Border Command. This authority combines assets from Defence and what is now the Australian Border Force (ABF) under a

The many questions about China’s Vanuatu ambition

What to make of the extraordinary story in Australia’s Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday about reported discussions between China and Vanuatu that could allow the People’s Liberation Army to establish a presence in the South Pacific nation? If true, there would be significant cause for

Watching on: Australia and the Korean Peninsula talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet for the first time on 27 April at Panmunjom, the “truce” village on the border of the two countries. The rapidly changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula has reached a critical juncture.

Timor Trough: the rumpled carpet on the sea floor

John Carlson says Australia approached maritime boundary negotiations with Indonesia in 1972 by arguing the Timor Trough was the meeting point of two geologically distinct continental shelves at a subduction zone. But the trough does not constitute two separate shelves any more than a rumpled carpet

The exciting prospects of a strong defence industry

The Turnbull government is spending $200 billion over the next decade to build-up our military capabilities, the largest amount in peacetime history. We need those weapons, vehicles, ships, systems, and aircraft to defend our nation and our interests. Capability is our first priority but, unlike

What next for the anti-whale hunters?

Japan’s whale hunters are expected home any day, carrying up to 300 minke whales killed in the Southern Ocean. A harpoon ship, Yushin Maru No. 2, quietly slipped into Shiogama Port on Saturday, while the giant abattoir ship Nisshin Maru is still at sea (with its marine tracking monitor turned off

Silent Invasion: the question of race

Clive Hamilton’s new book Silent Invasion: Chinese Influence in Australia is coming in for considerable criticism. Some of it is warranted, including elements of this thoughtful review; some of it is not. I will discuss both kinds when I join Hamilton in conversation in Canberra next month

Resettlement in PNG was never a viable option

In mid-2015 I was approached to work as a claims assistance provider at the Manus Regional Processing Centre. Initially, I was hesitant because I did not want to be part of an arrangement I believed was morally, if not legally, reprehensible. The processing of asylum seekers was of concern

What DFAT really thinks of Australia joining ASEAN

Ahead of Malcolm Turnbull’s weekend confab for South East Asian leaders, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo reportedly thought it would be a “good idea” if Australia joined ASEAN. Lowy’s Aaron Connelly is dubious. Reality check: Australia has not been invited to join ASEAN, and will not

Australia–Indonesia: strangers next door

At the weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on the margins of the Australia-ASEAN Special Summit. Although Turnbull seems to have built the positive personal relationship with Jokowi that eluded Tony Abbott, managing the bilateral

ASEAN is not South East Asia

The upcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit has led to a surge in analysis of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Australia-ASEAN relations in Australia. In February, ASPI released a special report by Graeme Dobell recommending Australia seek ASEAN membership claiming that ASEAN

Australia’s fraught global arms ambitions

Australia’s new defence export strategy to transform the country into a top-10 global arms exporter raises many questions. This indicates that the government does not fully understand – or, at least, is yet to fully explain – the mechanisms behind the international

Gender equality in the Foreign Policy White Paper

International Women’s Day has, for more than 100 years, been a celebration of the contribution of women and girls to their communities, nations, and the world. As Australia’s first female Foreign Minister, I am keenly aware that while International Women’s Day is important, it is what we do on

Aid, poverty, and gender inequality in the Indo-Pacific

Inequality remains a pervasive human rights challenge and a critical barrier to economic development in the Indo-Pacific region. The Abbott and Turnbull governments’ decision to retreat from international development assistance funding has only exacerbated this problem. The erosion of long-

Timor Gap: a boundary, yet disputes linger

The signing of a treaty between Australia and Timor-Leste marking maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea represents a huge step forward in resolving the two states’ long-standing disputes. The conciliation process that led to the agreement was groundbreaking for being the first time such an approach

Multilateral trade versus self-interest

How should countries respond to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium? One response would be to retaliate. Another would be to emphasise the damage done to the global multilateral trade framework. Yet another would be to negotiate a side deal to avoid, and perhaps even benefit

The Timor Trough – two separate shelves

In her article “How Australia crossed a line in the Timor Sea”, Kim McGrath claims that Australia had evidence supporting Indonesia’s claim in maritime boundary negotiations – but buried it. This serious charge is not substantiated by the 1970 report from then Bureau of

Joyce and the leadership churn: better get used to it

Ever since John Howard was unseated in the 2007 election and Australia launched itself into its decade-long cycle of political leadership instability, us foreign-policy types have wondered what damage it must all be doing to Australia’s reputation abroad. For the BBC’s Nick Bryant, a regular

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

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