Friday 21 Feb 2020 | 16:24 | SYDNEY
What's happening on


Trump, Putin and information warfare

The recent DNC hack, which led to the leaking of emails purporting to show favouritism towards Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, is another example of the arms race moving into cyberspace. It has also sparked a frenzied hunt for the perpetrator, with Russia the most logical candidate. Undermining

Daesh’s first big stand in Kabul

The release of the United Nations’ mid-year report on civilians casualties (CIVCAS) in Afghanistan came two days after ‘the deadliest single incident recorded by the UN in Afghanistan since 2001’. Eighty civilians were killed and as many as 290 injured in a suicide attack on peaceful

A five-point human rights agenda for DFAT

Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Julie Bishop will remain as Australia’s foreign minister and that Frances Adamson, an experienced diplomat, will start a five-year stint as the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Boeng kak community

G20 Chengdu meeting: Falling from the 70th floor?

Another G20 meeting has come and gone. At the conclusion of their two-day gathering in Chengdu, finance ministers and central bank governors sent a signal that they remain firmly focused on monitoring emerging economic events. Once again, though, the G20 can be accused of kicking the can down the

Movie trailer: A Tale of Love and Darkness

First-time director Natalie Portman also stars in this adaptation of Israeli novelist Amos Oz's memoir. According to IMDB, the film is 'A story about the childhood of Oz in Jerusalem and his youth in the Kibbutz during the British Mandate and the first days of the state of Israel. The plot describes

What we know about Penny Wong and foreign policy

Over the weekend Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, announced a fairly major reshuffle of the Labor shadow ministry. Tanya Plibersek has left foreign affairs for the domestic battleground that is education; Senator Penny Wong (formerly of the trade and investment shadow ministry) will take her

Globalisation and income distribution

Many political pundits see widening income disparities as the key factor in the Brexit vote and associate these with a single cause — globalisation. There is no doubting that income distribution within individual countries has become more unequal in recent decades, but is globalisation the

It's not looking good for the TPP in US Congress

Are the Blue Dog Democrats to blame for US inaction on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement? Well, at least partially.  With the World Trade Organization stalling, regional agreements like the TPP are the next best option for making international trade easier and cheaper. And with

Three reasons why Malaysia's Najib isn't going anywhere

Money stolen from the troubled Malaysian state fund 1MDB was laundered in jaw-dropping ways: multi-million dollar real estate in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and London; art worth US$130 million; and funding for Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street, among others.  The US Department of Justice (

Black Swan 2020: China's NEO that goes geo

As an analyst of regional security, I spend much time absorbed with the usual suspects; nuclear proliferation, arms modernisation, territorial tensions, plus a panoply of non-state challenges from terrorism, cyber and other domains. While the divisions between state and non-state security concerns

No confidence vote: Showdown in PNG politics

In less than 24 hours, Papua New Guineans will know the fate of  Prime Minister Peter O’Neill when the national parliament sits for a vote of no-confidence. There are three possible scenarios: O'Neill may survive the vote; he may opt to relinquish the nation’s highest office to a

Amid a chaotic 2016, time for the G20 to stand and deliver

'May you live in interesting times' is a modern western saying that is often wrongly described as an ancient Chinese curse. But you get the feeling that those working on the Chinese G20 Presidency would be justified in feeling burdened with the curse of an interesting 2016. G20 finance ministers

Our media degrades the currency of fear

It has been written before, quite correctly, that a key strategy in dealing with the terrorist threat is national resilience. And one part of developing such resilience is language. The wrong choice of words can unnecessarily inflame or sensationalise a situation. Conversely, rational and

Santoso dead: Now for the next chapter

One of the biggest manhunts in post-Suharto Indonesia has found its target, and Santoso, Indonesia's most wanted terrorist, is dead. He was found and shot on 18 July by the elite army unit Kostrad; not by the police who had been searching for him for the last five years. His death has implications

The PCA ruling, Australia and Timor-Leste

The Hague tribunal decision last week in the South China Sea case will have far reaching implications, finding that any ‘historic rights’ China claimed within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of other states were extinguished by UNCLOS itself, and China's subsequent ratification of the treaty

Lebanon's fragile stability

Incredible though it may seem, after the events in Turkey this weekend Lebanon is looking like one of the most stable states in the Middle East, despite not having a president or a fully-functioning government   I arrived in Lebanon in early June this year and was immediately struck by the

Media access to Nauru is Australia's concern

Last week David Aedang, Nauru’s newly re-elected government, released a statement taking aim at Australian and New Zealand media outlets for their allegedly unethical and biased coverage, specifically naming four of them: ‘It’s time for the Australian and New Zealand media to show more

More heat than light in Australian FONOPs debate

Australia’s febrile domestic politics produced another petty point-scoring moment after the shadow defence minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, sought political mileage from last Tuesday’s historic South China Sea arbitration.  Senator Conroy criticised the government for not sanctioning

Video: Islam, Islamism and secularism

An excellent quick video published by The Atlantic and narrated by Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution on the historical and contemporary role of Islam in Middle Eastern politics: (h/t @BrendanTN_

Nice provokes resignation rather than outrage

This year's French National Day celebrations were held under 'haute surveillance'. And yet an Islamist mass murderer succeeded with another atrocity. Why, and what now? Some answers might be valid not only for France. To be sure, the terrorist act in Nice on the evening of the 'Quatorze Juillet'

Five factors to watch in Rudd’s UN chief gambit

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s bid to become the UN secretary-general (SG) is finally out in the open after he requested Australian government support for his nomination, ending months of speculation. Foreign minister Julie Bishop has confirmed Mr Rudd’s request will today be put

Why Australians remember Fromelles

Fromelles is now one of the most famous battles in which Australians fought during World War I, routinely remembered as the greatest disaster in Australian military history; 5533 casualties in 24 hours, all for an operation that manifestly had no strategic value. But Fromelles was not always

A very Turkish coup

Although coups and the Turkish military used to be synonymous, this weekend's attempted coup, while disturbing, was in the end not a very well executed one. The plan was launched after working hours and while President Recep Erdogan was on holidays, which showed a sense of timing. Apart from this

Weekend catch-up: South China Sea, Theresa May, AAA, and more

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter. This week the Permanent Court of Arbitration delivered a ruling in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013 over China’s claims in the South China Sea. The tribunal ruling favoured the Philippines and

South China Sea: A course-correction needed

Tuesday's South China Sea adjudication demonstrates that the UNCLOS framework is totally unsuited to sorting out the complex conflicting claims in the South China Sea in a way that the relevant parties will accept. By effectively announcing the Philippines as winner and China as loser, the tribunal'

The migration-security nexus in Asia and Australia (part 5)

In my earlier posts in this series on the migration-security nexus in Australia and Asia (see part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4), I’ve identified human insecurity as the major source of migration from Asia to Australia, and explained some commonly held human security concerns, or rather myths

Toppling Saddam: The view from Kuwait

Almost everybody seems to now agree; the second Iraq War (started in 2003 with the intention to force regime change in Baghdad, and still ongoing as a civil and sectarian war with heavy foreign involvement) was a grave mistake at best and an illegal, unnecessary and immoral act at worst. The war

Kim Jong-un sanctions: Why the US is targeting the man

On 6 July, the Obama administration introduced a new set of North Korea-related sanctions: this time, the North Korean hereditary dictator Kim Jong-un is targeted personally. Announcing the new measures, a US Treasury official said:' Under Kim Jong-un, North Korea continues to inflict intolerable

Chilcot: Australian dimensions

After seven years and at a cost of about $20 million, the report of the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK involvement with the 2003 Iraq War was released last week. At 2.6 million words it is almost five times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace but, unlike Tolstoy’s epic, it has  very

Abe's surreal election victory

On 10 July, Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition won an impressive victory in Japan’s half-upper house election. Having campaigned on the need to stay the Abenomics course, Abe stated in his victory speech that he would convene commissions on the constitution in both houses of parliament.

One ruling, four very challenging tests

The ruling by the Arbitration Tribunal that is comprehensively in favour of the case filed by the Philippines in January 2013 poses four separate tests, none of them easy. 1. The test for China The biggest test is that posed by the ruling for China. It is also the most difficult. Now, if China

The bolt from The Hague

Yesterday’s unanimous Award by the five-member tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration was three years in the making, but for the Philippines it was worth the wait. Of the 15 cases submitted by the Philippines in its dispute over China’s excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea

Chilcot: Intelligence, policy and war

Sir John Chilcot’s report had an impressively long gestation. The eventual release of 12 volumes totalling over two and a half million words amounts to a comprehensive indictment of British Prime Minister Blair’s unilateral decision to support the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. More than

The G20 stalls on fossil fuel subsidies

G20 countries agreed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies in 2009. Seven years later, they are still making the same promise with no agreement as to how and when they will achieve this goal.  There have been some important developments in global energy since the 2009 Pittsburgh G20

What THAAD deployment in South Korea means for China

Last week South Korea and the US confirmed their decision to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on South Korean soil. This deployment is a joint response to North Korea’s continual testing of new medium- and long-range ballistic missiles and to its belligerent