Tuesday 19 Mar 2019 | 16:52 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

India: never quite in focus

Last month, Financial Times columnist Edward Luce asked, what would it take for India to get America’s attention? His question was rather aptly answered a couple of weeks later with a spot of brinkmanship in Kashmir (Pulwama terrorist attack: Modi under pressure), meaning India hit the

Economic diplomacy: trade and traps in ASEAN

Middle aged spread Southeast Asian countries are about to become the primary focus of Australia’s public diplomacy this year as the “Australia now” program stretches its budget from the usual single country approach to all ten countries of the ASEAN group. This stepped-up

Australia and Indonesia trade: deal (not quite) done

The signing on 4 March of the Indonesia Australia–Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) has been hailed as a major bilateral trade agreement and a diplomatic breakthrough given recent tensions between Canberra and Jakarta. However, now the negotiations are concluded, there may

How open should Australia be about the China challenge?

Former trade minister Andrew Robb made news yesterday when he criticised former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy, Barnaby Joyce, for the “toxic” state of Australia’s relations with China. It’s just the latest skirmish in a heated and occasionally quite hostile debate in

Canberra’s Pacific pivot is bereft of vision

A refreshing wave of Pacific-mania is sweeping Canberra. There’s new postings, a new Office of the Pacific, a high profile visit from the prime minister to the region, and two major announcements on Pacific infrastructure: the creation of the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for

An Australian model for the renewable-energy transition

Australia is experiencing a remarkable renewable energy transition. The pipeline for new wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity systems is 6-7 Gigawatts (GW) per year for the period 2019-21. This equates to 250 Watts per person per year compared with about 50 Watts per person per year for the

Matthew Flinders, national pride and dinner diplomacy

On 25 January, archaeologists announced that the body of Matthew Flinders, who had completed the first circumnavigation of Australia in 1803, had been found under London’s Euston station. The discovery excited Australian interest more than it perhaps otherwise would. Three days earlier, Prime

The long tail of the al-Araibi case

With Hakeem al-Araibi now landed in Australia, returned from Thailand, what seems like a totally unnecessary crisis looks to be over. After some 11 weeks of excruciating limbo, and with numerous heroic efforts here in Australia and elsewhere to free the refugee footballer, now vindicated, it

Doctors help the moral case for border security

On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill supporting the transfer of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for urgent medical care. The bill, initially put forward by independent MP Kerryn Phelps in late 2018, provides expanded capacities that allow two doctors

Film review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Jackson achieves magnificently his professed goal of making a film about the human experience of the war. The commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War were so regular that by 2018 a degree of commemoration fatigue seemed to have set in. Was there anything more than could be said

Blocking asylum, by sea and air

The case of Saudi teen Rahaf Al-Qunun dramatically demonstrates the difficulties many refugees face when attempting to escape the risk of harm at home and find safety elsewhere – whether they travel by leaky boat, or through international airports surrounded by business travellers and holiday-

What is the F-35 for, exactly?

The Royal Australian Air Force announced last week that it has commenced flight operations with the first two of its new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. When the first full squadron of F-35s is operational in 2020, the Air Force will have made a substantial capability leap, particularly in “data

Australia’s new Pacific Czar

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now established an Office of the Pacific, a measure foreshadowed in 2018 as part of Australia’s Pacific “step up”. Ewen McDonald, formerly High Commissioner in Wellington and a Deputy Secretary in DFAT, has been appointed head of the Office.

Australia articulates its Indian Ocean priorities

At the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship geopolitical conference held last week in New Delhi, Australia’s high-level presence was noticeable. Foreign Minister Marise Payne led the delegation from Canberra and was accompanied by Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell. Campbell’s

Aid mergers: no unscrambling the egg

Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has called for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to be rolled into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This would be a monumental mistake for a country looking for relevance in a post-Brexit world. Over the past two

Money talks, and Australia doesn’t have a G8 voice

British think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, recently released its Audit of Geopolitical Capability, which it describes as providing the “fullest picture of who’s up and who’s down on the international stage”. According to the 2019 audit, Australia was up, ranked eighth in terms of

Stepping up on Pacific infrastructure

Australia has decided it is going to do a lot more infrastructure financing in the Pacific. This is a welcome development. The Pacific faces some of the most difficult development conditions in the world and has huge financing needs, especially due to the effects of climate change. It is also

Responses to Australia’s Israel capital decision

Some, perhaps surprising, support from Bahrain to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s decision for Australia to formally recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while leaving Australia’s embassy at its existing location in Tel Aviv. According to a tweet translated by Al Jazeera, Bahrain’

Australia jostles over its Iran policy

If news reports are believed, Australia will on Saturday formally recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital while leaving its embassy to remain in Tel Aviv in an announcement to be made by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. If other news reports are believed, such a shift will be against the

The true cost of fast fashion

This article is based on episode 10 of the Good Will Hunters podcast, featuring an interview with Clare Press, sustainability editor-at-large at Vogue Australia.  It’s known as “fast fashion”, clothes cheap to buy, yet costly to make, if the true labour and environmental

How Australia should deepen ties with India

Ties between India and Australia have always been a little constrained – and unsurprisingly so, as traditionally there has been little to connect the two countries. For its part, Australia has for decades sought to have a better relationship with India, one that extends beyond shared democracy,

Steady but slow in Australia-Japan security cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Darwin was rightly billed as historic and “deeply symbolic”. It also delivered some substance, with the announcement of important deals on the financing of regional infrastructure and on deepening cooperation on maritime security. It did not

Review: lessons for Australia and Britain from Iraq War

Book review: Blunder: Britain’s War in Iraq, by Patrick Porter (Oxford University Press, November 2018). Clausewitz famously pointed out that war is a continuation of politics or policy by other means. Hannah Arendt wrote that “policy is the realm of unintended consequences”. Patrick

Barley and bases: China stings Australian farmers

China’s Ministry of Commerce announced on Monday that it would immediately start a year-long anti-dumping probe into imported barley from Australia. China is Australia’s largest export market for barley. In 2017, two-thirds of the Australian crop – 6.48 million tonnes, worth US $1.5 billion

Australia finds itself at a Pacific crossroads

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the establishment of the multibillion-dollar infrastructure development bank for the Pacific, the overriding sentiment was that this pivot to the South Pacific was designed to curb the rising Chinese presence in the region. But is this renewed

Chipping away at trust in democracy

With a series of state elections due and the federal election looming, there are important lessons that Australia needs to learn from the tone of US politics. In particular, there is a responsibility for Australia’s political leaders to act in ways that ensure, and do not undermine, the integrity

Abe’s visit to Australia: raising the stakes

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is scheduled to visit Australia this week on the heels of attending the ASEAN Summit. While there have been regular prime ministerial exchanges between Tokyo and Canberra throughout Abe’s long leadership tenure, there will be more at stake than usual on this

Signalling a whole-of-Australia approach to China

One of the most challenging aspects of Australia’s bilateral relationship with China is finding new ways to signal our interest in the big issues that are shaping the future of the region – a task almost as difficult as deciding amongst ourselves what those issues are. The signalling of

Bourke Street: debating terrorism

The violence in Melbourne’s Bourke Street last Friday is still being investigated as a terrorist incident and, as with all terrorist incidents, the media and public are rightly eager for information. While the authorities have been as open as they can be, this early in the process there

Where the new US envoy fits in the ambassadorial type

Arthur Culvahouse will be the next US ambassador to Australia. At last, the “diplomatic insult” that so worried former Nationals leader, deputy prime minister and later ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fischer has been put to rest. As the Washington Post notes, Culvahouse, a lawyer by training,

Labor’s ambitions in the Pacific

Speeches on foreign policy made by prospective Prime Ministers or prospective Foreign Ministers in Australia are a bit like bingo games for foreign policy analysts. We listen (or read the transcript) eagerly to determine how many of the various recommendations we have all been making to the

“Would you like thanks with that?”

I think we are in danger of reaching “peak veteran”. Former defence minister and Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson has called for people to publicly thank the military and veterans community and their families for their service, a campaign backed by News Corporation along with

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