We kick off our election coverage with short contributions from Lowy Institute experts on what they regard as the most important international policy issue of this campaign.
Lowy Institute Deputy Director Anthony Bubalo:
Let me indulge a conceit and say that Australia’s policy in the Middle East is the most important issue in the campaign. Clearly it is not, but it certainly should be more important than it is. It is currently our biggest military deployment overseas and one in which we have significant blood and treasure at stake. Moreover, our actions in Iraq and Syria have an impact on the security of Australians at home. Our political leaders should be debating how well the campaign is going, and how long we will stay. But all we get is a great bipartisan silence.
Director of the International Security Program, Euan Graham:
The most important issue of this coming election is that, whoever wins, it should be the fixed decision point for Australia's prime minister throughout the life of the next parliament. The intra-party ‘spills’ of the past six years have become a dangerous norm, hurtful at home but also damaging to Canberra's credibility overseas.
Contested politics is part of the democratic overhead. Western democracies are under general strain. But Australia's election cycle is among the shortest. The joke that Australia is the Pacific's least stable democracy will stick if it happens again. Foreign policy continuity can still be maintained between officials, even ministers. But if Australia can't wait to change leaders in between elections, it becomes harder to sell stability where it is so desperately needed, in the near region. Even Japan has now apparently fallen foul of Canberra’s political 'churn', damaging a democratic friendship that Australia can ill afford to lose. The game of musical chairs has to stop.
Director of the International Economy Program, Leon Berkelmans:
Prime Minister Turnbull is keen to preach on an agile and innovative economy. However, increased intellectual property protections offered in our trade treaties are likely to stifle innovation as companies divert attention away from creation toward legal manoeuvring intended to protect their intellectual turf. In a recent draft report the Productivity Commission said: 'international agreements that commit Australia to specific terms and conditions relating to substantive aspects of our domestic IP arrangements — such as the duration of patent or copyright protection — have tended to work against Australia’s interests.' Further discussion and coverage of this issue is warranted.