Monday 10 Aug 2020 | 12:42 | SYDNEY
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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

Hidden gems in the 2020 Force Structure Plan

The recent release of the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan provided an outline of the government’s defence policy and capability priorities for the next decade. The Force Structure Plan in particular helps define how an additional $270 billion will be invested to deliver critical

Social credit: The next China risk for Australian business

As China recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, the apparatus of the state is about to be devoted to a new form of social control. By the end of 2020, China plans to introduce its national social credit system. For some, this evokes dystopian visions of a surveillance state, monitoring more than a

Devaluing DFAT

The launch of the 2020 Defence Strategic Outlook prompted some observers to argue that Australia should boost the firepower of its diplomacy as well as its defence force. They reminded us that DFAT’s budget for diplomacy had been shrinking for decades, a trend documented in other assessments. Then

Putting study abroad on ice carries a diplomatic cost

With global travel slashed to a bare minimum early in the Covid-19 pandemic, study abroad programs were among the first Australian organisations outside hospitality and retail to feel the economic impact of the crisis. With looming uncertainty and often no choice but to study online, most Australian

A high-risk, low-reward defence posture

For all the commentary generated by the release of the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan, which outline Australia’s defence policy and capability priorities for the next decade and beyond, it is strange that little attention has been paid to one particular phrase that the

Australia’s Russia problem (and how to solve it)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update goes some way to preparing Australia to compete in a new multipolar, Indo-Pacific–anchored strategic environment. But a notable absence from the document is Russia. This matters. Australians too often speak of Moscow’s irrelevance and weakness since the end of

A diplomatic step-up to match our military step-up

The release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update marks an important milestone in Australia’s strategic thinking. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted, we are facing one of the most challenging set of strategic circumstances since the 1930s. The 1930s was characterised by a deep economic shock

Keeping the Kremlin in the Kelvinator

One effect of Australia’s more assertive posture on the People’s Republic of China has been to try to split off Beijing’s current and potential partners. This thinking was apparently behind Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s recent suggestion that Australia should back Russia’s participation in the

Indonesia: Still caught between trade and protectionism

The entry into force of an ambitious Indonesia-Australia trade deal on Sunday is a boost to the bilateral relationship, coming after nearly a decade of difficult negotiations. No two neighbouring G20 economies trade as little as Australia and Indonesia, and the investment relationship is similarly

The cost of conspiracy in muddling public health messages

A spike in coronavirus cases across Melbourne has seen local hotspot suburbs largely locked down and some 3000 people in public housing towers prevented from leaving home at all. But the sharp reminder that “This is not over” which now flashes on freeway signs across Australia’s second largest

Economic diplomacy: Diversification dilemmas

Costing the D word Diversification might be the word of the moment in the lexicon of Australian trade debate, even though few advocates make much attempt to explain how it will actually work. But now we have two interesting efforts to quantify just how selected reductions in trade with China in

Defence Strategic Update 2020: A first assessment

The Defence Strategic Update 2020 launched yesterday in Canberra is a notably candid assessment of the strategic challenges Australia faces and the measures with which the government plans to meet them. It explicitly declares “Australia’s ability – and willingness – to project military power

Vale Owen Harries 1930–2020

On behalf of my Chairman Sir Frank Lowy as well as the Board and staff of the Lowy Institute, I would like to express my sadness at the news that our friend, colleague and mentor Owen Harries passed away yesterday. When Owen joined the Lowy Institute as a Nonresident Fellow shortly after its

Owen Harries: Never the ideologue

It would be difficult to think of anyone who has been more percipient about international affairs in recent decades than Owen Harries. Harries, who was the Australian ambassador to UNESCO as well as editor of the National Interest magazine for several decades in Washington, never occupied high

The goals for Australia to do better

Although the idea is hard to bear, we now all know that Australia’s 2019–20 bushfire catastrophe and the Covid-19 crisis will not be one-off historical events. Public health experts have long warned zoonotic disease pandemics will be on the rise due to global warming and ecological, behavioural

Australia should support India in the Himalayas

The conflict between India and China on their disputed Himalayan border may be an important turning point in their relationship. Australia should take the opportunity to show firm support for India over the issue. Last week’s fighting between Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh was the bloodiest

Canberra vs Beijing: A response to Sam Roggeveen

Sam Roggeveen is absolutely right. Australia’s China debate has been dramatically transformed over the past few years. Like him, I welcome a robust discussion about our relationship with Asia’s emerging power and our major trading partner. It’s a pity China’s citizens can’t have one about

Canberra vs Beijing: A reply to Alan Dupont

Australia’s national debate about China has been dramatically transformed over the last few years. China’s rise is arguably the most important thing to happen to Australia’s place in the world since federation, so the fact that we are debating its implications so openly and

Marise Payne stakes a claim for cooperation

It would be welcome for Marise Payne to give more interviews and public speeches like the one she delivered Tuesday evening about “Australia and the world in the time of Covid-19”. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull made this very point about his “good friend of many years” in his

NATO: Rebranding exercise or new product launch?

It is hardly surprising that many foreign policy developments that would normally feature in the news have lately been demoted well below the headlines, as domestic turmoil in the United States has dominated conversations across the country and the globe. Under more ordinary circumstances, two

Climate change makes Covid-19 politics look easy

Covid-19 has been an extremely difficult challenge for national policymakers. If policy and politics are about managing competing interests and prioritising different constituencies, the varied national Covid-19 responses point to the acute challenges of getting this balance right. How do we

The case for Australian strategic ambiguity

It is June 2021. An American destroyer sailing near a reef held by Beijing in the South China Sea has had a collision with a Chinese frigate that was attempting to drive it off. Both vessels have suffered multiple fatalities and, damaged, are at anchor near the reef. While who was at fault is

Who really killed the Quad 1.0?

The tale has become accepted diplomatic folklore. In the telling, it was Australia, back in 2008 in the early days of the Rudd government, that decided to scuttle the then-nascent Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the four-way talks also involving Japan, the United States and India. To compound

Seychelles: Truth, justice and Australia

Australia has not usually had a high profile in the Indian Ocean island states such as Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. This despite Australia’s huge Indian Ocean littoral, presence of three oceanic territories, mutual Commonwealth links and substantial investment. Inter-governmental visits

A G7+?

“Flattery with a catch” is the best way to describe Donald Trump’s call to include Australia in an expanded Group of 7 meeting, or G7. No doubt Canberra would love a seat at the top table. But the US President has also proposed bringing Russia back into the fold ­– which will be

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