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Global Issues

China's coal addiction

A recent paper in Nature says that 'no other country is investing so much money or generating so much renewable energy' as China. 'Its build-up of renewable energy systems at serious scale is driving cost reductions that will make them accessible to all.' The International Energy Agency reckons

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.

Why Larry Summers might be wrong about China's growth

Forecasts of China's growth always attract interest, even when they are a year old. Larry Summers and Lant Prichett are getting another good run with the paper they published last year (see my earlier post), which analyses emerging-economy growth in general, but of China and India in particular

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

G20 Monitor: The G20’s growth agenda

This issue of the G20 Monitor provides a guide to the policies that G20 members will have to tackle to achieve the G20’s 2 per cent growth target, drawing on the recommendations of the IMF, OECD and a number of international think tanks

The WTO is in big trouble

The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Roberto Azevedo, says the institution has descended into 'paralysis'.  Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Roberto Azevedo, Bali, 2013. Following the failure to get India to remove its objection to advancing the

Which countries are driving global growth?

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. With the G20 focused on increasing economic growth, it's worth remembering where the global action is. The above graph from the IMF Multilateral Policy Issues Report, published in July, shows that the emerging economies have been doing the heavy

China wants a bigger piece of the smartphone business

The smartphone in your pocket embodies today's cutting-edge technology. It is also a product of a global supply chain decidedly old-school in the way it shares rewards. Two brands, Apple and Samsung, scoop over 100% of the profit pool (the other brands are losing money, giving them negative

Why the IMF's poor forecasting matters

Economic forecasting is the butt of jokes, but someone has to do it. You can't make sensible macro policy without some view of how the economy will travel. It's the IMF's thankless job to be the high-profile forecaster for the globe. The Fund's latest World Economic Outlook acknowledges its recent

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

IMF changes its tune on infrastructure

In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF has joined the chorus of international institutions (G20, OECD) calling for more infrastructure spending. What new elements does the Fund bring to this argument? Global growth has been disappointing. One reason is that governments have cut back on

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

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

Indonesia's economy at a crossroads

With the passing of the presidential baton from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Joko Widodo just a month away, Indonesia is at a political crossroad, with the first clear break from the politicians who were part of the Soeharto years. Monday's Indonesia mini-update at the Lowy Institute, a half-day

If Justin Lin is right, industrial carnage awaits

Justin Yifu Lin insists China can grow at 7-8% for another 20 years. A contrarian with a remarkable personal background, the former World Bank chief economist's views influence his country's top leaders and their sense of destiny. What he says matters. How, and how fast, China grows will be highly

Turkey: Cautious partner in battle against ISIS

Judging from President Obama's 10 September speech announcing the expanded operation against ISIS and the Jeddah Communique that John Kerry hammered out last week, Obama is expecting a lot from Egypt, Jordan and Gulf states like Saudi Arabia. At a minimum, the Communique (which is hardly binding)

The other humanitarian crisis

The ramping up of the international effort against ISIS has consumed much of the world media's attention in the last few weeks. However, there is another international crisis unfolding that has killed on a comparable scale, and which threatens to claim many more lives.  The Ebola epidemic

The end of economic convergence? Not quite

Given that emerging economies continue to grow two or three times faster than advanced economies, the persistent gloom about their prospects is puzzling. The latest example comes from The Economist, which argues that convergence, the process by which poorer countries catch up to rich countries

Obama and ISIS: Snowden leaks reveal tough choices

  Though the US President will be the last to trumpet it, a revelation from the Edward Snowden National Security Agency dossier unveiled late last month might provide some context for the difficulties he faces in plotting a course of action to counter the threat of the Islamic State (IS) movement

G20 2014: Reform of the international organisations, financial regulation, trade, accountability and anti-corruption

This issue of the G20 Monitor discusses the reform of international economic institutions, financial regulation, and the trade, accountability and anti-corruption agendas at the forthcoming Brisbane G20 Summit. It also provides a summary of the key ideas from the ‘G20 Conference: Strengthening

The environment and the news cycle

I loved this bit from US environmental activist Bill McKibben, who is guest blogging on Andrew Sullivan's site: Every day there’s something more immediately important happening in the world: ISIS is seizing an airbase this morning, and California is recovering from an earthquake, and Michael

A breakthrough in Chinese climate policy? Not likely

I argued back in April that China's 'synthetic natural gas' (syngas or SNG, which is gas made from coal) is 'bad economics, bad science and an environmental catastrophe'. I also said that 'what is striking is the ambition of Chinese plans versus the widespread scepticism of SNG worldwide and

G20 must save the WTO, among other things...

As John Lennon wrote, 'life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.' How true for Australia's plans for the G20. Life is not being kind in the lead-up to the Brisbane G20 Summit. The head winds for the summit so far include: International organisations (the IMF and World Bank)

G20 2014: The G20 Brisbane Summit, inequality, energy and anti-corruption

The 12th edition of the G20 monitor contains an overview from John Lipsky on the G20’s role in global governance after the global financial crisis; a paper by Geoff Weir on the G20, Thomas Piketty, and inequality; thoughts from Hugh Jorgensen and Christian Downie on multilateral energy governance

BNP Paribas fine is G20's dollar dilemma

There are many countries which do not much like the central role of the US dollar. But while they generally (and grudgingly) agree that there is not much to be done about it for now, a punishment recently meted out by US financial regulators against BNP Paribas (BNPP) has incensed European leaders

Just how expensive is renewable energy?

I raised this topic recently when The Economist pointed to a new Brookings study which argued that the cost of renewables had been severely underestimated. There was some pushback in the comments thread, and now I see that Green Tech Media, an American green energy industry website, has also

G20: The case for an inclusive growth target

Earlier this year Treasurer Joe Hockey negotiated a significant commitment among G20 Finance Ministers to aim for an additional 2% of global growth over the next five years. As countries develop their action plans for achieving this goal in the lead-up to the next G20 Finance Ministers' meeting in

From the comments thread: Green energy

Two reader comments I'd like to flag in response to my piece highlighting new research by the Brookings Institution's Charles Frank, written up in The Economist, which suggests renewable energy is still way too expensive to take over from coal, oil and gas. Here's OfKember: The basic inadequacy

Green power still too expensive

This piece from The Economist would have been useful context for the green-energy puff piece broadcast on the ABC's flagship current affairs show Four Corners on 7 July. The Economist has highlighted new research from the Brookings Institution which looks at the full cost of generating various

Time to put security issues on G20 agenda

Given developments in the Ukraine and tensions elsewhere in the world, the time has come to put security and geo-political issues directly on the agenda for the meeting of G20 leaders, and for those leaders to bring their foreign ministers to the Brisbane Summit. Soon after President Bush announced

MH17: What does international law say?

In the days following the shooting down of MH17, the UN and governments around the world have quickly turned to discussing how to bring the perpetrators to justice. While the most likely scenario is that pro-Russian Ukranian rebels shot down the aircraft by mistake, the lack of clarity around the

Climate action: Public opinion is not the problem

A newly released IPSOS Global Trends Survey  shows, according to a Guardian columnist, that Anglophone countries are particularly inclined towards climate denialism: When you click on the interactive version on the IPSOS website, you see that the bottom red line (for the US) shows 32%

China: Climate wrecker or climate leader?

Lisa Williams is author of the new Lowy Institute Analysis, China's Climate Change Policies: Actors and Drivers. The views expressed here are her own and do not reflect the views of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or the Australian Government. As the world prepares to fight for (

Syria, MH17 and the art of the possible at the UN

Australian diplomacy at the UN has kicked up a gear over the last two weeks. On 14 July the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2165, drafted by Australia, Jordan and Luxembourg, setting up a new mechanism to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria. And yesterday it approved

UN in South Sudan: The ghosts of Rwanda and Srebrenica

By Charles Hunt, Lecturer in International Security at the University of Queensland, and Mark Malan, Senior Lecturer in Peacekeeping at Massey University in New Zealand. UNMISS peacekeepers in Juba, South Sudan. (UN Photo.) As the last of the reinforcements arrive for the newly mandated UN

Carbon tax repeal: Learning from Europe

In September 2010, the Australian Labor Party's Greg Combet sat down with The Australian's Samantha Maiden to explain why the coal industry 'absolutely' had a future. Given Australia is a leading coal exporter, this should have been unexceptional, except that Combet had been put in charge of the

MH17: A long shadow over AIDS 2014

The spectre of the MH17 outrage is casting a long shadow across AIDS 2014, the 20th international AIDS conference, which opened yesterday in Melbourne. Six of its delegates, including one of the world's leading HIV/AIDS scientists, Dutchman Jeop Lange, were among the flight's 298 passengers.

Russia's MH17 response: How to mismanage a crisis

For Western audiences, Moscow's initial prickly attitude to the downing of MH17 can be read as an example of how not to manage a crisis. Even with the weak hand he inherited, President Vladimir Putin has been consistently strong when on the foreign policy offensive, devising creative ways to advance

Will Putin go to the Brisbane G20 Summit?

One consequence of the tragedy over MH17, apparently at the hands of Russian-backed separatists, is that it raises the question of whether President Putin should attend the Brisbane G20 Summit in November. Some newspapers are reporting that Australia is threatening to ban Putin. The predominant

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