Thursday 21 Jan 2021 | 11:56 | SYDNEY
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Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

She won’t be right with “Australian-style” Brexit

As if 2020 has not been challenging enough, the United Kingdom is currently facing the prospect of ending its Brexit transition period on 31 December without a trade deal with the European Union. As post-Brexit negotiations on a UK–EU deal have continued without a breakthrough, the claim that the

When China lashed out

On the wintry night of 27 November 1950, Chinese troops suddenly descended upon the US 1st Marine Division and the 31st Regimental Combat Team around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, less than 100 kilometres away from the China-Korea border. Having failed to dissuade the United States with words from

Avoiding a “lost decade” in the Pacific

The horror year that has been 2020 is thankfully coming to an end with a dose of welcome optimism, now that vaccines are on the way. But the end is still far from within sight for many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours. In a new Lowy Institute policy brief, we argue that the Pacific is

Australia-Indonesia relations need to talk the talk

This year has been one of great tumult at Australian universities. Not least are the nonsensical proposals to axe Indonesian language programs by several universities, such as La Trobe, Western Sydney University and Murdoch. Australian universities are closing the door of opportunity to the

Do politicians really make “excellent envoys”?

The Interpreter has kept its eyes on political appointees to Australia’s diplomatic posts. Daniel Flitton’s most recent piece ended with the observation that the government should better explain why politicians make “excellent envoys”. The government explanation is likely to be, in the most

The Afghan inquiry and the question of responsibility

The politics in the fallout over the release of the long-awaited Brereton report into allegations of war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan threatens to overtake the actual subject of the inquiry. Even before China sought to insert itself into the issue, local introspection about what was

The case for going all-in on renewables

Current perceptions of renewables have been driven by the need to address climate change, a narrow view that overlooks benefits such as reducing our reliance on imported energy and creating thousands of high-tech jobs. As countries grapple with the outwardly ineffective efforts to pass climate

More pollies in more posts

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-

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

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

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

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