Saturday 21 May 2022 | 06:53 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

A strategy for uncertain times

It seems obvious that the next government will need a national security strategy. In the election campaign foreign policy debate last week Marise Payne and Penny Wong agreed that Australia’s national security environment was more complex than ever and seemed to concur that this demanded a more

Looking for a little sizzle from the 2022 election campaign

Bipartisanship no refuge for patriots It was notable how last Friday’s relatively buttoned-down debate between Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her Labor opponent Penny Wong was greeted as two patriots maintaining a disciplined bipartisan approach to foreign policy. It is obviously better that

Getting the most from Australia’s regional engagements

Depending who wins the election this Saturday, either Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese will attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo on 24 May as Australia’s Prime Minister. Prior to last year, Quad Leaders’ meetings weren’t on the calendar – now they’re happening virtually or in-person twice

A required update for the EU-US Trade and Tech Council

The second EU-US Trade and Technology Council meeting took place in Paris at the weekend. An outcome of the EU-US Summit in June 2021, the TTC was established to strengthen and coordinate transatlantic cooperation and develop values-based approaches to global trade, economic and technology issues

AUKUS: More than meets the eye

The clear intention of AUKUS is to tip the military balance in the Indo-Pacific in favour of the United States. The various initiatives in the pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are headlined by cooperation to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia

Bell teals for big parties in Australia’s election

When former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull used a speech in Washington last week to empathise with the rise of independent candidates in Australia’s traditionally two-party political system, he was accused of treachery by some Liberal party colleagues. But measured by the rise of non-major

The case for rejuvenating DFAT

A number of experts have argued for change at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure it is match fit for the major geopolitical challenges facing the country. Some criticism of DFAT’s performance – for example, that it is insular and that it spends too much time analysing

Chinese bases in the Pacific: A reality check

There was barely concealed panic in Australia when news broke that China had struck a security agreement with Solomon Islands. What if this is really a basing deal that allows China to station military aircraft or warships permanently? Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s emphatic denial on

Economic diplomacy: Trade shifts challenge a new government

Make or break Trade matters haven’t made much of an impact in Australia’s election campaign, not surprisingly overshadowed by Solomon Islands in the foreign affairs debate and now interest rate rises in the domestic debate. The Labor Opposition stepped up the rhetoric at its campaign launch

Imagining Labor’s first 100 days in foreign policy

With new leadership and a fresh mandate, a Labor government could take significant steps in foreign policy in its first hundred days in office under the leadership of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Though more substantive differences (namely on the Pacific) have

Solomons security pact: Sogavare, China, and Australia

Labor has described Solomon Islands’ security pact with China as Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the Pacific since the Second World War, but this is hyperbole. Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the region – ever – is its failure to address (at both a national and

A first for India and a chance to trade up with Australia

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AIECTA) signed on 2 April marks a first for India in terms of liberalisation of “substantially all” trade and timeline of negotiations. India has often been blamed for prolonging trade negotiations with its rigid stance on tariff

Time to think big on the future of Australian diplomacy

Worry about the underfunding of Australian diplomacy has almost become an annual ritual around budget time. But with an election imminent, this has become a higher stakes discussion given that the federal opposition has promised to rebuild Australian diplomacy if it wins office. Funding is, however

Does Australia have too many elections?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison might have officially fired the starter’s pistol for Australia’s election campaign on Sunday, but the ritual belies reality. This race has been underway for months. Indeed, democracies across the world hear a common complaint that vote-conscious politicians never

Economic diplomacy: Priorities shift amid a budget aid boost

Back to the future The Morrison government gave the development aid sector an unexpected surprise with a budget spending increase mostly in the Pacific, just as the latest crisis in Solomon Islands was occurring. There is still plenty of grumbling that this – perhaps parting gift given the

AUKUS can be a good platform for cooperation with India

Someone famous once reputedly quipped “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” So there is a certain echo to the AUKUS arrangement, which brings together Australia, United Kingdom and United States to share vital defence technologies in an effort to stabilise the Indo Pacific

A silver lining to DFAT’s budgetary woes

The 2022 federal budget was handed down on Tuesday night, and it appeared mostly bad news for Australian foreign policy. Amid all the talk of an international order deteriorating before our very eyes, government will reduce spending on diplomacy and overseas aid by as much as 19 per cent in the

Changing our view of Pacific visas

Much to the disappointment of Agricultural Minister David Littleproud, in February the Australian Agricultural Visa (“Ag Visa”) was reportedly rejected by Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam. These were three of the four nations invited to join the scheme (Indonesia, which expressed interest,

Trade policy agenda facing new drivers

There can be little doubt that the conduct of Australian trade policy will become more complex and challenging for the foreseeable future. Two trends are salient. First, with the deterioration in global geopolitical circumstances, trade policy and foreign and strategic policy have increasingly

Does the Quad Plus add up?

According to its members, the Quad – a group comprising the United States, Japan, India and Australia – seeks to present an inclusive vision for the Indo-Pacific region, and its members seek to work with a range of countries. Despite this rhetoric, the group hasn’t established any clear

The end of Antarctic exceptionalism?

Moscow’s latest invasion of Ukraine has turned Vladimir Putin’s Russia into a pariah state, essentially overnight, and seen the country saddled with an unprecedented international sanction regime. The long-term implications of freezing cooperation and dialogue with Russia are significant –

We need to stop talking about the grey zone

The concept of a grey zone in international affairs has gained popularity as analysts have tried to understand how states compete for strategic advantage in a more complex and interdependent world. But war in the Ukraine has underscored how the concept now obscures more than it clarifies. The “

Common enemies and instinctive friends

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Likewise, there may not be an instinctive alignment of my two adversaries. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reference to “arc of autocracy” and the “instinctive” alignment between Russia and China in the address at the Lowy Institute was

What if Trump wins again?

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has seen a return to the political alignments of the 20th century, with the United States as the leader of a grouping of democracies against a Russian dictatorship uneasily partnered with China. But Donald Trump has offered a radically different response,

Russia-Ukraine: Lessons for Australia’s defence

Lesson 1:  The era of state-on-state conflict is still with us The idea that war between nations has become an anachronism over the last 40 years has some statistical support, but evidence from the post-Cold War period of relative peace needs to be weighed against hundreds of years of

A global Australia needs to be a confident Australia

Australia’s foreign and security policy successes, stretching back to its first days as a Commonweath, are few and far between. More often, it has been a bit player, bumptious and condescending to its neighbours while remaining deeply deferential towards its principal protectors. Given the many

Is bipartisanship on national security a good thing?

In the mass of commentary on the Morrison government’s feverish attempts to paint Labor as “weak” on national security and not to be trusted with China policy, one word has been prominent: bipartisanship. The pithy Oxford Languages’ definition of bipartisanship is “agreement or

Delivering promises will show steel in Quad

The German naval chief, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, lost his job during a visit to Delhi last month. During an interaction where he went woefully off-script, he urged the West to offer “respect” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and keep the focus trained on China, a “not so nice