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Weekend catch-up: Cyber strategy, a response on subs, threatening Pakistan and more

Is Australia's media interrogating or demonising China, the risks of anti-migrant sentiment, the weirdest North Korean crisis yet and more.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in Afghanistan, September 2017 (Photo: Jim Mattis/Flickr)
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in Afghanistan, September 2017 (Photo: Jim Mattis/Flickr)
Published 7 Oct 2017 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

This week on The Interpreter, Jon Stanford responded to criticism from Defence Minister Marise Payne and Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne of his Insight Economics paper on Australia's future submarine capacity:

The government's response has been disappointing. The first instinct was to go ad hominem; the sponsor of the report was an 'armchair critic' and the authors had never driven a submarine. As Hugh White pointed out on Lateline, in light of Defence's record the implication that we should just 'trust the experts' in matters of military procurement is somewhat risible.

The notion that a thorough interrogation of Chinese influence in Australia amounts to demonisation, as argued in the Australian Financial Review, is baseless, wrote John Fitzgerald:

A bold free press is one of the few instruments a democracy has at its disposal to check the encroachment of a Leninist state into its jurisdiction. An open, respectful, and evidence-based conversation on this encroachment in the media is essential to getting Australia’s relationship with China right.

Roland Rajah continued the debate over Andrew Leigh's Lowy Institute Paper Choosing Openness by asking why the argument for globalisation had not yet been won:

Globalisation's proponents often downplayed the fact that there are indeed losers and adjustment costs involved and, unsurprisingly, this imbalance often carried over into the relative policy emphasis. Recent research has also shown that the costs are much deeper than many originally thought. Globalisation's losers were thus never sufficiently compensated.

In the wake of populist uprisings, this imbalance in thinking is slowly being corrected – though there is a long way to go to translate changed rhetoric into substantive policy changes, let alone landing on the right solutions.

And John Edwards examined the acute risks posed by anti-migrant sentiments:

In an insightful recent piece The Australian Financial Review's political correspondent Laura Tingle, reporting on the German election, interviewed Mark Hauptmann, an MP from Merkel's Christian Democratic Union representing a prosperous electorate. He was quite clear that the unexpectedly strong vote for the far right was ‘at least half due to the failed policy regarding immigration and the role of Islam in Germany’.  As Tingle pointed out, writer David Marr reached a similar conclusion about Pauline Hanson and One Nation in his March 2017 Quarterly EssayThe White Queen. One Nation voters, he found, don’t like strangers. To my mind the biggest threat to openness is from antipathy to uncontrolled migration, rather than trade and investment.

While the tools of journalism may have changed, the rules are the same, argued ABC Middle East Correspondent and the 2017 Lowy Institute Award Winner Matt Brown:

Scepticism and cross referencing remain essential. You’ve got to be a bit old school to make the new school worthwhile. I tend to only use digital sources I’ve already met in person. I’ll go one level out from them if the accounts of those people are consistent with the broader context, other sources or have been proved correct in previous conversations.

Rachael Buckland and Khalid Koser outlined how Australia could contribute to the UN Global Compact on Refugees:

Though other regional economies may be competitive, Australia’s relative wealth and long history of contributing to refugee issues on the international stage means it will have to take a leadership role – whether it likes it or not – to address future regional displacement. This is particularly true in the Pacific, where impending environmental displacement positions Australia as the country of first asylum.

Pakistan is unlikely to be fazed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis's rhetoric of attempting cooperation on Afghanistan 'one last time', argued Hussain Nadim:

Over at least the past decade, Pakistan has become inured to US threats, and has established measures to ensure that the cost of translating those threats into action have increased substantially.

Robert Kelly on five lessons from the weirdest North Korean crisis yet:

In the 10 years I have lived in South Korea, there has not been a North Korea crisis like this. Usually these events stem from some obvious North Korean provocation, such as the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010 or the landmine attack of 2015. There then follows a set of steps all but ritualised at this point.

Stephen Grenville on disarray in the macroeconomic policy debate:

US Fed Chair Janet Yellen is perplexed by current low US inflation. In the latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF is searching hard for explanations for low wage growth. The Bank of Japan is still persisting in its quixotic quest to encourage higher inflation. The wisdom of tight budgets during the feeble recovery after 2008 is now being questioned more widely.

And finally, Ambassador for Cyber Affairs Tobias Feakin on the Australian government's new International Cyber Engagement Strategy:

The digital revolution is fundamentally a story of prosperity, of growth through disruptive business models, the opening of new markets, and of sustainable and inclusive development enabled by digital technologies. But these benefits are not guaranteed. We must work collectively – domestically, regionally and globally – to secure our digital dividends. This is what Australia’s new International Cyber Engagement Strategy is all about.

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