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Weekend catch-up: Turnbull in the Big Apple, a farewell to Cameron, Ohio goes red and more

Weekend catch-up: Turnbull in the Big Apple, a farewell to Cameron, Ohio goes red and more
Published 24 Sep 2016 

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

This week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull flew to New York, where he sparred with former PM Kevin Rudd, met with the rapper Ludacris, and addressed two summits on refugees and immigration.

The UN Summit’s main achievement was the adoption of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, wrote Jiyoung Song:

UN officials have described the Declaration as a 'miracle' and a 'game-changer', while NGOs, journalists and academics have largely dismissed it as an 'historic failure'. The truth lies somewhere between.

While at the summits, Turnbull exhorted Australia’s border security model. But if other countries were to follow it, the consequences would be disastrous, argued Frances Voon:

The problem is that if all states insisted that no asylum seekers were allowed onto their territory uninvited, the entire system of refugee protection would fail. If other countries heeded Australia’s exhortations to replicate its ‘model’ border security approach, the very foundations of refugee protection would be seriously eroded.

Elsewhere at the UN, it was a high-stakes week for the secretary-general candidates. Sarah Frankel on how the field is faring:

The former Portuguese prime minister turned UN refugee chief remains the frontrunner, clearly topping all four straw polls thus far. Many speculate that Russia is behind one of his two 'discourage' votes, suggesting that Antonio Guterres still has to overcome Moscow's preference for an Eastern European and the perception of being too pro-Western.

Simon Heffer filed an absolutely crushing obituary for former UK PM David Cameron’s political career: [fold]

After so catastrophic a failure of judgment he had no choice but to resign. And, as befits a man who has always given the impression of being in it for himself, there was nothing to persuade him to stay in politics, hence his decision to quit last week. It isn’t the first undertaking he has broken: he is that sort of man.

After attending a Young Australians in International Affairs panel on digital diplomacy (along with the Institute’s own Sam Roggeveen), UK diplomat George Morrison reflected on why online diplomatic communication matters:

We can get hung up on the number of social media accounts a foreign ministry has, how many likes a tweet received, or how many followers we have. These numbers are great: they are easily measured; they boost egos; and they can be spun as demonstrating successful digital engagement. But they don’t go to the heart of Sam’s question: What difference has it made? In the end, as public servants, we need to demonstrate to taxpayers why it is worth investing in digital.

While Turnbull was overseas spruiking Australia’s multicultural bona fides, an unfortunate poll result was released back home: 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration. This number may not be as bad as it looks, I argued:

A significant chunk of Australians may support the notion of banning Muslim immigration, but it's not clear it's a policy priority for anyone outside a very small segment of the population.

Peter Layton argued that the government’s foreign affairs white paper probably won’t be an actual strategy:

While shaping our future has an attraction, in the modern era strategies often lose out to political and bureaucratic pragmatism. Our new white paper seems unlikely to end up as a true strategy, as such an approach is tough on several levels. And if an event-driven White Paper is eventually settled on, there is a model available. Responding to events was the approach underpinning the UK's 2015 National Security Strategy. A DFAT white paper that stresses readiness to respond to (rather than shape) events appears more likely than Julie Bishop's desires might suggest.

Should Indonesia decide to reinstate the death penalty for Philippine national Mary Jane Veloso, the Australian government should intervene diplomatically, wrote Amy Maguire:

At the moment, Australia is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy, including from Indonesia. The committee’s recommendation for broader and less partial advocacy against the death penalty will enable Australia to demonstrate the strength of its abolitionist stance. In turn, Australia may hope to more effectively influence other states to abandon capital punishment in law and practice.

Mereoni Chung analysed how social media in Fiji is providing an outlet for political dissidence:

In Fiji social media is creating an alternative space for freedom of expression and assembly, similar to that seen in some other restrictive democracies. Young Fijians are at the forefront of political development. They know the best hope for real democracy is literally in their hands.

Leon Berkelmans argued for a more civilised debate over Chinese influence in Australia:

One thing that does not engender trust or credibility is the ad hominem attack, or the snide comment. I’ve seen too much of that lately, and it has come from both sides. I’ll call out two publicly.

As Australia lobbies the US to pass the TPP, two parliamentary committees have established inquiries in to the TPP with a timeframe beyond the Obama presidency, wrote Greg Earl:

The federal government’s lobbying of US politicians to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP) trade deal this week may look a little hollow when the Americans see what is happening Down Under.

Emma Connors wrote on what’s going on in the swing-state of Ohio:

In this election campaign, at least in Ohio, people are not always impressed by what is but they're willing to back someone they don't believe, often mainly because they dislike the other candidate more. No wonder it feels surreal.

Finally, is it time for a new intelligence review? John Blaxland:

Nowadays a wide range of government bodies not only draw on the intelligence products of the Australian Intelligence Community, but also conduct their own intelligence analysis. More organisations than ever also draw on the work of the AIC to raise their own security awareness and to help with contingency and other planning. The lines have blurred, suggesting there is some benefit from reviewing the AIC.

 Photo: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong

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