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Australia in the World

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I suppose Will Hodgman has plenty of experience in charge of a small island state. Because otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzle why the former Liberal premier of Tasmania should be picked as Australia’s next High Commissioner in Singapore, as was announced this week. Labor was quick to brand

China: Explaining that tweet

No doubt you have seen the offending tweet already. If you’re in the mood to be outraged, it is still pinned to the top of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s Twitter feed. Outrage was clearly on the minds of our politicians: the PM called a snap press conference to condemn the

The UK’s unwelcome foreign aid cut

The recent move to cut billions of pounds from the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget was long feared by advocates. As result, one minister has flagged her resignation, and others have made threats to cross the floor. The reduction of the UK’s aid spend from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national

Who was Hugo Grotius and what is a “Grotian world”?

On Monday, the UK-based think tank Policy Exchange awarded Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison the inaugural Grotius Prize “in recognition of his work in support of the international rules-based order”. In his acceptance speech, Morrison spoke of the award’s namesake, the 17th-

PNG budget: Pluses and minuses

Papua New Guinea’s 2021 National Budget was passed in the parliament on November 17 under unusual circumstances. The traditional pre-budget lockup for economists and media was cancelled, and no opposition was present. Parliament was reconvened quickly by the Speaker following a defection of

The submarine capability gap

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update released by the Morrison government on 1 July concluded that Australia’s strategic environment is deteriorating – and deteriorating faster than was anticipated in the 2016 Defence White Paper. This grim finding, with warnings “coercion, competition and grey-

Japan-Australia: The chance to sweeten the deal

Typically, much of the initial foreign policy interest in a new (or slightly revised) Japanese government tends to look towards the United States – to consider the adjustments necessary to the alliance, to plan the first face-to-face meeting, to determine the nickname that will characterise

Leading by example: Two different responses to China’s rise

Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) stand as critical security partners with the United States, and have supported the open, rules-based international order for well over half a century. Both have shed blood in this mission, standing with the US in every war since the Korean war

A Trump legacy?

The “who won” question isn’t quite resolved. Bleary-eyed pundits fossicking over every county result are making about as much sense – and as much noise — as a flock of seagulls scrabbling for chips on the beach. Joe Biden might just have the numbers. But Donald Trump hasn’t been blown

But what does “rules-based order” mean?

Although the “rules-based international order” is central to Australian strategy, what exactly this concept means remains a work very much in progress. For Australia to achieve its objectives for the order, it will have to get more specific. A hardy perennial The importance to Australia of

Taiwan: Rising stakes for Australia

The Taiwan Strait is a key hotspot in the intensifying US-China rivalry, where the two superpowers’ spheres of influence overlap. Beijing claims the area as a uncompromisable “core interest” of sovereignty and territorial integrity, while the US seeks to maintain its close economic, political

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

Changing the narrative of climate change

Few people would recognise respiratory failure as a critical threat to their health without also placing Covid-19 – an amplifier of respiratory failure – in the same category. Yet, this is essentially the way many Australians view climate change and its impacts, according to the 2020 Lowy

Economic diplomacy: Federal budget hits and misses

Hide and seek It says a lot about the extent of the pandemic cash splash and the domestic politics of the federal budget that an unexpected rise in development aid spending didn’t even make the Treasurer’s speech. Aid spending will rise about 4% this year, confounding expectations that this

A budget of skewed priorities

It’s been a few years since my once-regular annual budget analysis for the foreign affairs, defence and trade portfolio. But of course, this is not just any budget.  This is a big-spending budget to address the most significant national and international crisis of a century. Before the

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

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