Wednesday 23 Sep 2020 | 21:48 | SYDNEY
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Global Issues

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

Covid-19 and Indonesian monetary policy

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it had become routine for central banks in rich countries to help fund budget deficits by buying government bonds. “Quantitative easing” (QE) has been common since the 2008 global financial crisis, keeping interest rates down. With Covid, some central banks

Bangladesh: Fight the power or shut up?

Hip-hop artists have long used rap music to launch cultural protests about social injustice, police brutality, inequality and discrimination.  Songs such as Tupac Shakur’s “Trapped”, which talks about seclusion of black youths in American neighbourhoods, NWA’s “F**k tha Police” or

Economic diplomacy: Borders, barriers and obstacles

Homeward bound While Australia’s embrace of economic sovereignty has so far involved more rhetoric than real financial resources, cash incentives for reshoring manufacturing are gathering pace in other countries. Last week’s €100 billion (A$162 billion) economic stimulus program from French

Working one for the planet

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and impotent in the face of the manifold problems that currently confront the world. Pandemics, persistent poverty, great power rivalry, not to mention the spectre of runaway climate change (which will undoubtedly make all of the above worse and possibly trigger the

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

How Russia benefited from Belarus’s turmoil

Mass protests and nationwide strikes in Belarus did not result in the overthrow of President Alexander Lukashenko, but they have pushed the Eastern European country deeper into Russia’s geopolitical orbit. Moscow and Minsk have reportedly agreed on resuming Russia’s energy supplies to Belarus,

Book Review: The seeds of authoritarianism

Book review: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (Doubleday 2020) If democracy is the guiding light of a civilised world, wherefore that world if the light is flickering? This is the premise of Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy. And as the title

Who’s watching the algorithms?

Just like the enigmatic algorithms behind popular social media platforms, facial recognition algorithms are unleashing their own share of social problems. Machine-learning systems, the bedrock of artificial intelligence, or AI, use data to learn who you are, where you go, what you do, and what

A diplomatic breakdown over “snapback” tests the UN

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the

Understanding the full spectrum of hate

What is the relationship between online and offline extremism? What types of data should be examined in order to understand this relationship? What is the full scope of violent extremist actions? These are all key questions that extremism researchers are trying to answer. Part of the answer may

Economic diplomacy: Spilled milk and foreign wages

Taking one for the team Spare a thought for Japanese company Kirin, which entered Australia in the vanguard of new ambitions for Asian economic engagement but is now a victim of an undeclared trade war with China. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s move to prevent Kirin selling its unsuccessful Lion

The killings in the Philippines grow more brazen

Earlier this month, days after Manila went back into a hard lockdown due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, unidentified assailants slipped past the Philippine capital’s strict quarantine measures and approached the home of Randall Echanis, a left-wing party leader and longtime activist. When

Book review: “The false promise of liberal order”

Book review: Patrick Porter, The False Promise of Liberal Order: Nostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump (Polity Press, 2020) A familiar response to the growing global disorder has been to lament the demise of the liberal or “rules–based” international order and to call for its restoration

Diego Garcia: The US has a clear choice

Mauritius is the legitimate sovereign over the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, which hosts an important US military base in the Indo-Pacific region. The government of Mauritius has publicly announced its willingness to enter into an agreement that would preserve the base,

World order in the time of coronavirus

The liberal order faces its greatest crisis since the end of the Cold War. Liberalism is in retreat around the world. The United States is led by a president whose America-first realpolitik contradicts the very idea of rules-based governance. Europe has seen the rise of “illiberal democracies”.

Economic diplomacy: A call to syringes, not arms

Going out or staying in With Australia experiencing its first recession in a generation, potential differences are emerging over whether future prosperity will come from more business integration with high-growth Asia or from preserving capital for economic sovereignty at home. These, of course,

Afghanistan’s unseen Covid crisis

The most striking thing about the top Covid-19 treatment facility in Afghanistan is the lack of basic measures preventing the spread of Covid-19. At the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in Kabul last week, security guards at the gate were maskless. So too a taxi driver delivering an

Cambodia: Hard choices

Cambodia’s foreign policy has been largely driven by the politics of survival, as the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has an ambition to perpetuate its domination of Cambodian politics for at least another 50 years. Of course, this survival

Chinese dams and the Mekong drought

The latest reports from the Lower Mekong Basin are cause for growing concern that another period of drought will succeed that of 2019, affecting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Expected rainfall from late May through June and July has not arrived, and the level of water flowing in the river is

The most important American election ever?

When Donald Trump and Joe Biden compete for the American presidency in November, it may prove to be the most consequential election the world has ever seen. Yes – that is a bit hyperbolic, but let’s consider what’s at stake. First, it’s not entirely certain that Trump will lose, despite

Cyber sovereignty cuts both ways

The White House's approach to managing the potential security threats posed by TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps is hardly a model of procedural justice. Without a clear legal or regulatory framework, the Trump Administration has issued executive orders banning transactions with the

The Beirut explosion and the plight of Syrian refugees

When you have the privilege of working in international relations, there are some experiences that stay with you for life. There are the places you go and the people you meet. Conversations that start at the roundtable, continue into dinner, and often go late into the night. At airports and hotels,

The invisible during the pandemic

Recently in Singapore, several migrant workers attempted suicide at their dormitories, with at least one death. According to the authorities, some of them did so because they failed to get employers’ permission to leave the city after purchasing flight tickets (in Singapore, a migrant worker’s

The way to post-Covid recovery in the Indo-Pacific? Act now

Australia plans to spend a lot more on defence to confront what Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will be “a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly”. A chorus of voices have responded that Australian foreign policy risks becoming unbalanced, with

Covid and crime: Twin tests for Papua New Guinea

There must be days when Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner David Manning wonders what he has signed himself up for. On Friday night, he revealed that his officers had found a ute-load of plastic-wrapped cocaine, just days after discovering an Australian-registered light plane that had

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

Under the influence: Peddling conspiracy in a pandemic

Celebrity sells – it always has. But in the digital age, the boundaries of celebrity have changed. Once it was the prerogative of movie, sports or music stars to front a fashion label or promote perfume. But nowadays the marketplace is saturated with any number of online lifestyle and wellness “

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