Wednesday 28 Oct 2020 | 08:07 | SYDNEY
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Economic diplomacy: Japanese investment takes a Toll

Will the bell Toll? The quiet flood of Japanese investment into Australia over the past few years amid at times mounting alarm about much lower levels of Chinese investment has been regularly noted here. But the astounding story of corruption and mismanagement inside the largest single Japanese

Stepping past the fatalism trap

The Australian government is fatalistic about its ability to shape the future of the Indo-Pacific region. This stems from longstanding assumptions – as Coral Bell wrote more than 50 years ago, Australians “remain fully and inescapably vulnerable to the diplomatic stresses arising in Asia, on

A Quad of consequence: Balancing values and strategy

What makes the Quad foreign ministers conversation this week in Tokyo consequential? Probably the strategic setting – a pandemic, global economic contraction and an accelerated Sino-US strategic competition on one hand, and rising regional tensions from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and

Smart China choices

Australian commentators often appear eager to paint Australia’s China choices in stark binaries. “The money or our sovereignty: China leaves us no choice” is one representative headline. Continued bilateral escalation could prove them right. But both states have an interest in trying to get

Evaluating aid in the Pacific

Each year, more than US $2 billion of foreign aid is invested in the Pacific Islands region, equivalent to roughly 8% of the region’s GDP. This aid comes in the form of thousands of projects from more than 60 donors. Information about these projects is often messy and opaque, with public

How much did the spies really know about the virus?

Something doesn’t quite line up in Bob Woodward’s latest book – and you have to look at what we know about intelligence assessments in Australia to understand why. Woodward tells us in Rage, his second look into the current White House, of top-secret warnings delivered to US President

Building a Covid vaccine strategy for Australia

This month, Australia signed a partnership with AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company behind the University of Oxford’s proposed Covid-19 vaccine, securing the rights to locally manufacture the vaccine, should it meet safety and efficacy requirements. The Oxford vaccine group has been one of the

Book Review: Where borders aren’t always badlands

Book review: Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb (eds) Too Close to Ignore (Melbourne University Press, 2020) Borders have been in the news in Australia, with the novel if frustrating experience of interstate pandemic restrictions leaving residents unable to cross previously free borders to access

No news is not good news

The rushed departure from China of two Australian journalists, the ABC’s Bill Birtles and the Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith, marks a new low in a relationship which had already seemed to have reached rock bottom. The threats to the Australian journalists are bad enough of

Islamic State’s new battleground – the courts

In the aftermath of Islamic State’s defeat, it was anticipated that fighters and other members of the group would appeal to the very court system of a liberal democracy whose laws they rejected and whose way of ordering society they sought to supplant when they joined the terrorist group. And in

Pandemic democracy

How will Covid-19 affect electoral democracy in Australia and around the world? The pandemic has starkly revealed two fundamental aspects of successful democracy: the extent of a given society’s trust between its citizens and their government, and the capacity of those same governments to

FITS and starts

Come December 2020, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) will have been in force for two years in Australia. Since its enactment in late 2018, FITS has courted significant controversy – including questions of its evenhanded application, collateral effects on rights, and constitutional

China sours on Australia’s wine

On Monday this week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced it has commenced an investigation into whether Australia has been subsidising winemakers. This follows a parallel investigation launched two weeks ago to examine allegations that Australian winemakers have also been “dumping” their

Australia needs the workers, the Pacific needs the jobs

Finding a consistent stream of agricultural labour in Australia has long proved a challenge. With Australians often unwilling to accept this type of work in the numbers required to get food to market, the government has sought to use visa schemes to remedy the problem, welcoming foreign labour. Yet

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

A post-pandemic trade revival

Albert Einstein once said that “in the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”. For an open trading nation like Australia, the pandemic is an unparalleled crisis. The nation is facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression, along with recessions in key trading partners, severe

Australia doesn’t need to choose between guns and butter

The Morrison government’s plan for defence spending outlined in the Defence Strategic Update last month has been incorporated into the Canberra consensus, with Labor offering no criticism and the mainstream press largely supportive. Yet as the government grapples with debt and deficit as the

Kamala Harris: Where does Australia feature in her worldview?

Kamala Harris’ anointment last week as Joe Biden’s US presidential election running mate was in some ways groundbreaking – she is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman on a major party ticket – but in most ways she is a conventional choice. Harris is a moderate Democrat

Defending Australia in a high-tech future

The recently announced $270 billion commitment to expand Australia’s military capability sets the tone for a deteriorating strategic environment. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are only part of the answer in aligning Australia’s response to this challenging future. It

Melbourne or Washington, all politics is local, again

We all see the world through our own eyes. But this truism is so often forgotten. In Melbourne, where I live, a curfew has just been imposed, businesses shuttered, troops are increasingly seen on the streets, and the local premier is warning darkly of “what further steps” might follow if

Five Eyes: Blurring the lines between intelligence and policy

The public aura around the decades-old “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand has expanded rapidly since the name was first publicly acknowledged. In 2014, an Australian prime minister publicly referred to the “Five Eyes” for the

Interesting times for TikTok

From Delhi to Washington to Canberra, the future of the digital economy may be heavily influenced by how one question is answered: What to do about TikTok? The popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance has been at the centre of a storm of controversy. Concern

India, Australia and containing the China challenge

Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs”: cricket, curry and the Commonwealth. In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of. On Friday, it emerged that

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