Monday 22 Oct 2018 | 19:26 | SYDNEY
What's happening on
  • 22 Oct 2018 15:30

    Vietnam’s quandary: red or green?

    Vietnam is caught between Chinese rocks and a climate change hard place – and looks to partners like Australia for help.

  • 22 Oct 2018 13:00

    Canada and Huawei: letting politics slip in

    Canada's decision to allow Huawei to participate in it's 5G mobile networks is all about politics.

  • 22 Oct 2018 11:30

    Chinese whispers and Pacific agency

    Pacific island countries are well aware of strategic risks, and want the issues that worry them most to be in focus.

Australia in the World

Australia’s Israel-Palestine conflict

Labor was quick to pounce on a “desperate” Scott Morrison to accuse him of breaking “bipartisan foreign policy” after the prime minister flagged the prospect that Australia could recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Which is true enough on the specifics. But broad questions

Reconciling with China in the Pacific

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Wang Yi struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone, expressing the wish to partner with Australia in the development of the Pacific

Encryption does not create privilege

Australia’s Director-General of Security, Duncan Lewis, has published his urgings in support of a bill before the federal parliament to impose obligations on communication service providers to facilitate investigative access to encrypted communications. Formerly, such a public participation by

Realigning the Australian Army

The Australian Army is spending up big, announcing a $5.2bn contract for more than 200 Boxers (armoured reconnaissance vehicles from Rheinmetall, as opposed to Boxster of the Porsche variety), while also releasing a tender for another 450 even bigger and better armoured personnel carriers. While

Australia-PNG: relationships are what matter

Papua New Guineans tell each other with pride and excitement that the eyes of the world will be upon them 40 days from now, when they host the APEC Leaders Meeting in Port Moresby on 17-19 November. They are not fazed that Donald Trump won’t be there. His representative, Mike Pence, is

Turning the dial on international broadcasting

Right when Australia finds itself with serious strategic interests in its neighbourhood, it has managed to turn its once influential international broadcasting voice into a whisper.  One that’s difficult to hear outside a handful of major cities across the region. 

Japan’s advice to Australia to co-exist with China

Japan’s Shinzo Abe now ranks as one of the region’s most experienced prime ministers, and will likely meet with Australia’s newest leader, Scott Morrison, in November. China’s growing influence in the region is a topic both leaders must discuss, given that the prosperity and stability in

Indian migrants in Australia find political voice

As a doctoral student exploring theory and creative practice of diasporas in the mid-2000s, I ended up making a documentary about Indian migrants in Adelaide (titled, I Journey Like a Paisley). There was little academic or popular literature on the matter then. A few years later, the racist

Time to fill the big hole in US-Australia ties

“We want to know to whom should we talk”, asked one South American diplomat in frustration at staffing problems in the US State Department. The question underscores, again, the failure of the Trump Administration to adequately staff its foreign service. This failure is not merely a curiosity,

Not just a pretty place: Australia’s soft power

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's (DFAT) soft power review comes at a time when information is rising as an instrument of foreign policy. DFAT faces new challenges and therefore needs a renewed vision and mission for its soft power. The review is sorely required. In orthodox

Spilt milk: protecting exports during drought

Drought is an unavoidable hazard of farming in Australia. As the economic pressure mounts from the current drought in northern New South Wales and Queensland, there is increasing stress on farmers in the region, including in the dairy industry. The federal government has stepped in with

The case for a foreign aid tsar

The Australian aid program has always laboured under multiple and competing objectives, both implicit and explicit. This was identified in the 1997 Simons Report on foreign aid, commissioned by the Howard Government, into what was then a separate agency, AusAID: The managers of the aid

We already have an agricultural visa

It’s not all that often the National party – the junior member of the Coalition government – has an obvious influence over Australia’s relations with its neighbours. But a push for a new agricultural visa by the Nationals and supported by the lobby-group National Farmers Federation is

What Canberra’s turmoil means for foreign policy

The latest eruption of political infighting in Canberra was unusual for the ineptitude of its instigators, who failed to get their own candidate into the job, and the persistence of the after-shocks. These included the resignation from parliament of the defeated prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and

PNG: new friend versus old, APEC and polio 

The condemnation of China last week by Nauru’s President Baron Waqa at the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting may have been bolstered by Taiwan’s substantial investment in that tiny Pacific nation of 13,000 people. Nauru is one of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic relations with

Regional security dilemma in the Pacific

After changes of leadership and of government in Canberra, those of us who work on Pacific island issues are usually inclined to be optimistic. We hope that the incoming Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister might care more about the Pacific, might be inclined to spend more time in the

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, trade deals and TPP

Development lesson Australia can probably thank China’s amorphous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for helping push over the line the bilateral trade agreement that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will claim as his first diplomatic triumph on Friday. The key breakthrough in the agreement is set to

Australia right to question Manning visa

In August 2013, when military judge Colonel Denise Lind sentenced Private First Class Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to 35 years in jail, she never described Manning as a whistleblower. In fact, she said Manning’s conduct: was of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to

Julie Bishop: buffeted by headwinds

Few can quibble with the accolades that Julie Bishop has received in recent days for the manner in which she performed the role of Australian foreign minister. The first woman to hold the position, she graced the world stage with a mixture of professionalism and poise, dignity and discipline. No one

No, Australia has not caught the Trump bug

It was just a week ago, before Scott Morrison came from nowhere to snatch the prime ministership, that Peter Dutton looked odds-on to be Australia’s next leader. Australia’s politics seemed to be shifting decisively to the right. Major parties are getting weaker around the West, and Australia

Julie Bishop and her place in the history books

Julie Bishop resigned as Foreign Minister on Sunday, just short of her 20th anniversary as member for Curtin in Western Australia, and her fifth as Foreign Minister. In the coming days, there will no doubt be numerous reflections and dissections of her time as Foreign Minister. Deposed Prime

The world won’t wait for Scott Morrison

Healing bitter internal party divisions after a week of political bomb-throwing will be an onerous enough task for Scott Morrison, newly anointed Prime Minister of Australia. That’s before running the country, let alone positioning Australia in the world, or dealing with Donald Trump. The

Huawei in Australia: the 5G fear

The Australian government has officially blocked Chinese telecommunications firms, most notably Huawei, from providing equipment to Australia’s new 5G mobile phone networks, citing concerns over national security. While the issue in question regards some of the world’s most sophisticated

Soft power and reviewing Australia’s global appeal

Few foreign-policy concepts have drawn as much attention as “soft power” – the ability to influence the behaviour of others through the power of attraction and ideas. As coined by Harvard’s Joseph Nye, soft power arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and

How Peter Dutton changes Australian foreign policy

Peter Dutton was standing beside Malcolm Turnbull at joint press conference in May when a journalist asked whether Australia would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as its US ally had formally done so the day before. “No, our embassy will remain where it is,” Turnbull responded, as

Prime Ministerial persistence: Australia vs PNG

Remember when Australia used to refer to its near neighbours in the region as the “arc of instability”? The leadership shenanigans on Tuesday will have given the BBC’s former Australia correspondent Nick Bryant an opportunity to update his description of Canberra as the “coup capital of the

Malcolm Turnbull: ruling the void

It is tempting to look at the last 11 years of political leadership instability in Canberra and ascribe it exclusively to either the incompetence or malevolence of individuals. The overarching story is that the major centre–right and centre–left parties in Western democracies each represent an

Wisdom of strangers: tackling racism in Australia

A week or so back, my phone flashed with a news alert. “Is Australia becoming a more racist country?” was the headline from CNN. This was days before a newly appointed senator stood up in the national parliament in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon and called for a “predominantly

Diplomacy in the post-broadcasting era

The Department of Communications is now reviewing submissions on the issue of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia-Pacific region. This is timely. As always, communicating Australia’s views and voices to the Asia-Pacific region is important. And, more than ever before, finding effective

Who has been best for Australia: Trump or Obama?

US President Donald Trump comes in for widespread criticism, but he has at least one well-placed Australian defender. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer says that for Australia, Trump has been better than Obama. On the whole, Trump has been “good for us”. This is seriously misguided. Let

Bring Australia’s Navy home from the Middle East

Last Wednesday, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Warramunga docked at Garden Island, ending a nine-month deployment to the western Indian Ocean. It was the 66th deployment of an Australian warship to the Middle East region, part of an almost continuous Australian

Tips for DFAT: how to Facebook

There are approximately 340,000 people in Timor-Leste using Facebook. More than a quarter of them follow the Australian Embassy in Dili’s Facebook page. This number is growing. The figures from Papua New Guinea and Cambodia are similarly encouraging. Why? Before answering, consider another

International broadcasting: not so simple as ABC

Australia’s international voice, once strong, influential and broadcast across much of the Asia-Pacific, has become little more than a croak into the ether. Substantial cuts to funding, waning government commitment, changing national priorities, and digital disruption have resulted in Australia

ASEAN might not be the way

Former senior Australian diplomat Geoff Raby’s substantial article written for the Asia Society and reproduced in the Australian Financial Review this week continues his “realist” approach to discussion of Australia’s foreign policy choices. It’s another piece

NZ and Australia: Big Brothers or Distant Cousins?

“Being in the Pacific, of the Pacific” was an aspiration announced by New Zealand’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau at a recent conference in Wellington. New Zealand’s Pacific identity has been a continuing theme of the Pacific reset policy&

Managing the release of convicted terrorists

It has been nearly two decades since the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a national framework to combat terrorism. Now, in the long shadow of the September 11 attacks, some of Australia’s convicted terrorists are nearing the completion of their custodial sentences. From 2019 onwards,

When friends disagree: New Zealand and Australia

One of Jacinda Ardern’s early prime ministerial tasks was to head off some potentially bad optics in New Zealand’s most important bilateral relationship. After all, she was leading just the sort of government that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said would be difficult to work with

Julie Bishop’s new Timor-Leste chapter

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrived in Timor-Leste at the weekend, on her first official visit and the first by any Australian minister to the country in five years. Bishop arrived with the promise of a beatific “new chapter” in the two nations’ previously fraught

Bomb, bomb Iran

In this rather strange ABC News article that appeared on Friday, it is reported that “senior figures in the Turnbull government” claim that Washington could bomb targets in Iran as early as next month, and that Australia would assist in target identification. Bombing undisclosed

Taiwan and Australia’s refugee treatment deal

Last month, a secret deal was revealed between Taiwan and Australia to send asylum seekers from Nauru to Taiwan for medical treatment. In Australia, the news has added to the controversy surrounding offshore detention centres, a crucial debate given reporting of yet another

A blueprint for India–Australia economic relations

Few people are as qualified as Peter Varghese to draw up a timely, sound, and realistic blueprint to build a dynamic yet sustainable economic partnership between India and Australia. Unlike the case with China, an expanded trade and investment relationship with India will enhance Australia’s

Economic diplomacy brief: India ties, Labor on BRI

Passage to India Two statistics in the new report to the Australian Government on the future economic relationship with India underline how this is going to be a battle of perceptions even before anyone gets to the policy ideas. The first is a crony capitalism index, which estimates

Australia and India: different worlds

Peter Varghese’s independent report on Australia’s economic strategy for India, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, sounds a confident note for the future of the relationship. Although the focus of the report is trade, geopolitical alignments are one of three

Indonesian tourism booms, Australia misses out

It didn’t even make the news in Australia, but two weeks ago India announced it will now allow Indonesian tourists to visit without having to apply or pay for a visa. This development allows Indonesian nationals to choose India, in addition to all the ASEAN nations, as a holiday destination

China business and China threats

China has loomed large in the Australian economy for two decades. Be it the demand for iron ore or coal, or the education, property, and tourism markets, the Australian economy has boomed with China’s wind in its sails. As China is now the world’s second largest economy, its global

Nauru ABC ban: Australia damned by faint criticism

He fainted on me. Big bloke, my local guide on Nauru, who in the sunbaked heat took me Topside on the island to steal a look at the refugee camp among the scraggy rocks known as the pinnacles. And down he went. Nauru was happy for reporters to visit the country then. In 2013, I was one of the last

Australia’s Women, Peace and Security policy

The Australian Government is in the process of developing its second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The whole-of-government policy is designed to guide the national implementation of the suite of eight UN Security Council resolutions that identify women’s security as a

Thinking about Australia’s power and influence

Most discussion about Australian foreign policy inevitably revolves around questions of power and influence. A quick peruse of The Interpreter turns up various pieces considering how Canberra has recently or might soon endeavour to influence a variety of different actors in world politics: be it

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