Wednesday 20 Nov 2019 | 10:48 | SYDNEY
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Australian Perspective

Shifting power balances are creating uncertainty about the existing regional order and Australia’s place in it. As one of the most globalised countries on the planet, Australia is highly dependent on an effective and active international policy. It is a Western nation surrounded by populous and booming economies in Asia and the Pacific, but has enormously important bonds with nations like the USA and the UK from which it is geographically isolated. The Lowy Institute interprets Australia’s place in the global and regional order, examining the complex ways in which Australia engages with its neighbours, partners and the evolving international system. The work of the Lowy Institute traverses Australia’s foreign policy, defence, intelligence and security, its diplomacy and overseas network, the ANZUS alliance, Australia’s trade, overseas development assistance, and its relationships in Asia and the Pacific.

Oil drops 50%, world shrugs

What does the fall in the price of oil do for global economic growth? If the price of oil had swiftly risen by 50%, economic commentators would be calling this an economic disaster. In fact the price has fallen by 50% since June last year, yet this ray of good news hasn't pierced through the

Australian recognised by UN's chemical weapons watchdog

A scientist and WMD expert with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), Dr Robert (Bob) Mathews, has been honoured by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for his contributions to chemical weapons disarmament in a ceremony on 1 December in The Hague. Dr

India's new Asia-Pacific strategy: 'Act East'

It has been a busy year for India in the Asia Pacific. From multilateral summits to bilateral diplomacy, the Modi Government has deliberately moved to step up engagement with its East and Southeast Asian partners. At this year's India-ASEAN Summit, Prime Minister Modi announced his intention to

Abe's mandate: The strategic dimension

As discussed in part 1 of this post, Prime Minister Abe is likely to make the economy his first post-election priority. He wants to pull the economy out of recession and set the basis for long-term growth. But he cannot ignore national security. Abe's own deep interest, allied with that of a

Lima climate conference: Slow movement on Planet UNFCCC

As haggard negotiators left the UN climate change conference in Lima in the early hours of Sunday morning, many observers noted the contrast between the political acrimony that characterised the final days of these tortured discussions and the sense of optimism that many felt going into the talks

Jerry Singirok on PNG violence

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Melanesia Program, and Mark Tamsitt, Research Associate at the Lowy Institute. Last weekend's clash between the PNDGF and police, which led to four soldiers being shot and sparked days of rioting and looting in Port Moresby, is a serious incident that needs

G20 Brisbane Summit: Australia's adolescence on show

Australia had a prime chance to demonstrate its adult status in chairing the G20 Summit this year. What did it do with the opportunity? It showcased some of the characteristic behaviours of an adolescent country, my term for Australia in a new Lowy Institute Paper. Tantalisingly, it also showed

Beyond the Boom: A response to John Edwards

Senior economic policy makers, economic analysts, academics and commentators have been concerned about the daunting challenge of structural and budget adjustment facing Australia due to the decline in mineral prices from the levels reached in the boom period of 2003-04 to 2011-12. In Beyond the

Why economics doesn't explain China's FTA decision

Malcolm Cook and I have been debating why China has been willing to bless Tony Abbott with an FTA when Mr Abbott has so strongly opposed Beijing's political and strategic interests and aspirations in Asia. Why has President Xi met Mr Abbott's stick with such a juicy carrot, especially when

East Timor, Australia and the 'Timor Gap'

Tom Allard recently reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that Australia and East Timor are ready to restart talks on the maritime boundary between the two countries, with all its complications of petroleum revenues and history. The tradition is to keep these talks under wraps, but Allard's article

ABC and SBS cuts: Australia's loss in a global century

The $254 million in cuts to the ABC budget, outlined today by ABC Chief Executive Mark Scott after Malcolm Turnbull's statement on Wednesday, have been coming for a long time – at least since the Lewis review which proposed efficiencies to reduce the ABC's annual budget requirement. Since then

Why does China bother with coercion?

Hugh White's willingness to admit his mistakes and revisit his assumptions is admirable. His error in predicting that China would punish Australia by withholding final agreement on the FTA out of displeasure with the Abbott Government's pro-US and pro-Japan tilt is understandable. After all, Beijing

New Caledonia: Australia must show assertive impartiality

Thirty years ago to the week, New Caledonia was torn apart by violent protests. The pro-independence FLNKS boycotted an election and town halls were burned throughout the country. It provoked a four-year long civil war euphemistically known as 'the events'. At first, Australia supported the Kanak

Adolescent Australia's road to adulthood

In his new Lowy Institute Paper, Peter Hartcher is correct when he writes that Australia is an adolescent country. However, I believe the roots of our adolescent behaviour lie deep in the lack of maturity of our national consciousness. The juvenile language of our leaders, our false bravado, and

Obama on Asia: Holding the Brisbane line

America's commitment to security, dignity and prosperity in Asia, facing up to global challenges, and some strong words on climate change – President Obama's just-concluded speech in Brisbane was a hybrid package. I imagine other contributors will add context to his applause-evoking remarks on

Defence challenges 2035: Securing Australia's lifelines

By Rory Medcalf, Director of the Lowy Institute's International Security Program and James Brown, Military Fellow Debates on Australia's defence policy have long oscillated between two schools: one focused on the physical defence of Australia's territory and its immediate maritime approaches, the

Putin flexes muscle ahead of G20

What to do if you are the leader of a former superpower about to travel to a small-ish country whose leader has promised to shirtfront you? The answer seems to be to flex a little muscle. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is in Beijing today for the APEC meeting ahead of this week's G20 Summit in

Australia's provincial reflex

'The provincial reflex', Peter Hartcher's coinage in The Adolescent Country, a Lowy Institute Paper released today, is a neat way of describing the chronic parochialism that has infected Australia public life for much of the past decade. It is a period, paradoxically, when the shift in global

The case for Pacific Island regionalism

A few months ago I stood on a beach in Tarawa, the most populous of islands comprising the Micronesian nation of Kiribati. It's long and thin sliver of land where you can walk from one side of the island to the other in minutes. It has a population density up to twice that of Sydney or New York, but

Australia and the AIIB: A lost opportunity

The debate about whether Australia should join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has gone beyond the realm of economic development and investment to hit at the core of Australia's apparent security dilemma. The initial concern revolved around the governance arrangements and whether

Whitlam's Indonesia leadership was far from 'visionary'

It is certainly fitting to examine Gough Whitlam's foreign policy record and considerable achievements. However, in seeking to whitewash the controversy over Whitlam's role leading up to Indonesia's brutal invasion of East Timor in December 1975, Gary Hogan's piece does us all a great disservice.

Whitlam on the world stage: Courage, vision and wit

Gough Whitlam with the author in Manila, 1973. Gough Whitlam had political courage and a vision for Australia. A forward-looking, pragmatic realist, he sought to reshape Australia's approach to the countries of North and Southeast Asia, the region in which we are forever situated. It was

Whitlam's visionary leadership on Indonesia

As commentators rightly eulogise Gough Whitlam's foreign policy achievements, most of the attention has focused on his grand outreach to communist China and the independence of Papua New Guinea. These two acts were conspicuous hallmarks of Whitlam's game-changing diplomatic moments. A 1979 Peter

Can Australia remain a top 20 nation?

A few times over the past year, Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has referred to Australia as a 'top 20 nation' or a 'top 20 country'. She prefers this to the standard description of Australia as a middle power, a term she has mostly avoided. As she responded to the Sydney Morning Herald's

On Whitlam and the US alliance

The passing of Gough Whitlam was always going to be a seismic moment in Australian national life. As Paul Kelly writes in today's Australian, the former Labor leader lived 'long enough to see his life mythologised in the national story'. Debate has and will continue to rage about his legacy, both

Quick Comment: Jokowi should enjoy the party while he can

As Catriona Croft-Cusworth’s commentary and photos showed, there is a celebratory mood in Jakarta this week with the inauguration of Jokowi as Indonesia’s new president. In the spirit of reconciliation, Jokowi’s defeated opponent Prabowo Subianto even showed up for the ceremony. For this

Jokowi's maritime inaugural address

The inauguration speech of Indonesia's 7th President, Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, was powerful despite its brevity, or perhaps because of it. It contained a striking blend of personal humility, national pride and an ethos of unremitting work. But as an analyst of Asian geopolitics, I was most struck by

Ebola: Lessons from earlier pandemic scares

In July 2014, Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Baggoley, assured us that the risk of the deadly Ebola virus spreading to Australia from West Africa was very low. At that stage, cases of this most recent outbreak of the disease had been confined to West African countries and in particular

Ebola: It is time for Australia to act

By Catherine King MP, Federal Shadow Minister For Health and the Member for Ballarat. The Ebola crisis is no longer a humanitarian crisis for West Africa; it now poses a direct threat to world economic growth and if not contained, will spread well beyond the borders of Sierra Leone, Liberia and

ABC bureaux closures: Sacrificing the bang for the bucks?

The latest news from the ABC bunker is that while Lateline may survive the latest round of cuts, the bureaux in Tokyo and Delhi may be shut down. The ABC Board met yesterday, reportedly to decide on measures to achieve efficiencies of up to $100m following the Budget and the Lewis Review, and in

Australian Customs: A bigger role to play in trade

In a new Lowy Institute Analysis launched today, Nicholas Humphries, the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service Fellow at the Lowy Institute, examines how Customs can increase Australia's trade competitiveness at a time when goods and services are increasingly produced across borders in

Terrorism at home: The law cannot save us

I picked up my tickets for tomorrow's AFL Grand Final the other day. My team, the Sydney Swans, is playing and I should be excited to be going. Instead, I have been infected by the unease gripping Melbourne. I ask myself, am I taking a risk by attending the game?  We are told by our political

In Fiji, Bainimarama is back, stronger than ever

The Fiji elections have delivered a crushing victory for Rear Admiral (Retd) Bainimarama, author of the 2006 coup. The victory was crushing not only for FijiFirst, Bainimarama's party, but also for him personally. FijiFirst received 293,714 out of 496,364 votes cast, giving the party 59.20% of the

Corruption in China: The cultural divide

Since Xi Jinping took over the multiple reins of leadership in China he has overseen an unprecedented crackdown on corruption. Government officials at heights or with connections generally considered to be safe have not been spared. A notorious example is Zhou Yongkang, former chief of China's

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