Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 11:14 | SYDNEY
People | experts Alex Oliver
Director of Research
Lowy Institute
Areas of ExpertisePublic opinion polling; Australian diplomacy, public diplomacy and consular affairs

PNG new generation: An interview with Governor Julie Soso

[vimeo:54410857] In October I spent a week in Port Moresby interviewing some of PNG's newly elected MPs for the Lowy Institute's Leadership Mapping Project. This work continues our earlier survey work in PNG which was interrupted by the constitutional crises in late 2011 and early this year. The

PNG new generation: An interview with Sam Basil MP

[vimeo:53643898] At the end of October this year, I traveled to Papua New Guinea as part of the Lowy Institute's Leadership Mapping Project to interview Papua New Guinean leaders about their careers, motivations and aspirations for their country. I timed my visit to to coincide with the first real

DFAT Secretary pulls no punches as he departs for Defence

Annual reports are not noted for their fast pace or thrill factor. They contain lists of activities and achievements; they laboriously detail outputs and summarise outcomes. They sugar-coat and they are often self-congratulatory. So the 2011-2012 DFAT Annual Report, released two weeks ago, was not

Rebuilding Australia diplomatic network...when circumstances allow

Two significant reports have been released in the past two days which, if their recommendations are followed, should have a considerable impact on the health of Australia's diplomatic network: Sunday's White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century and the report released yesterday by the Joint

Wednesday linkage: presidents, subs, Philippines, Huawei, nukes

An infographic from neatly compares the cost of educating the contenders in the US presidential contest Australia is better off buying US submarines rather than developing our own, according to provocative Kokoda Foundation chair and defence analyst Ross Babbage. (Thanks Danielle

Monday linkage: maths, China, free speech, Burma, security app

A word of caution to economists from John Aziz: 'Over-reliance upon or excessive faith in mathematical models can lead to bad forecasting and bad policy decisions.' (Thanks to Samantha for this one.) From Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the the Lee Kuan Yew School of Government in Singapore and noted

'Abandoned' Pippi Bean and Carr consular conundrum

Following aid-worker Alexandra ('Pippi') Bean's safe departure from Libya last week, Foreign Minister Bob Carr felt compelled last Friday to issue a press release explaining the Australian government's handling of the case, in an attempt to fend off a barrage of criticism from the media, Ms Bean

UK-Canada diplomatic sharing

Foreign ministers of the UK and Canada yesterday announced that their two nations have signed a memorandum of understanding on Enhancing Mutual Support at Missions Abroad.  The announcement has generated a small torrent of speculation and alarm from the press in both countries and further afield

The Melinda Taylor case: Implications

Almost exactly one month ago today, Melinda Taylor, a lawyer with the International Criminal Court, was released from custody by the Libyan authorities who had arrested and detained her in Zintan for 26 days in June and July. Ms Taylor was in Libya in the course of her official duties representing

Reader riposte: Evacuations from Syria

In response to my post on UK\'s apparent readiness for a civilian evacuation from Syria, reader Jonathan Darby posted the following. My comments follow: Whilst I don\'t like to get in the way of a good story, did you by any chance check the MoD official blog? There you might have read this response

UK ready for Syria evacuation. Are we?

A report emerged this week (thanks Sam) that the UK is gearing up for a possible mass evacuation of British citizens from Syria, with a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship to be deployed to the Eastern Mediterranean for exercises after the Olympic Games finish. The exercise has evidently&

DFAT: Starting to master its languages

The news from the RG Casey building, home of DFAT in Canberra, has been improving of late under the stewardship of DFAT Secretary Dennis Richardson. The most recent is a promising revelation in Senate Estimates that the Department is increasing its investment in language training for diplomats:

PNG elections: Meet the candidates III

[vimeo:45180045] After 8 years at Ok Tedi Mining and 16 years in agriculture, Allan Bird is an agribusiness expert running for the seat of his home district, the province of East Sepik. He is 39 and married with nine children. Allan joined Ok Tedi (then owned by BHP) aged nineteen after

PNG elections: Meet the candidates II

[vimeo:41461916] Last week we began a series of posts introducing candidates in the 2012 PNG elections, kicking off with my conversation with the Hon Bart Philemon, PNG\'s Minister for Public Service and standing for an impressive fifth term of parliament. The next candidate in our series is Sir

PNG elections: Meet the candidates

[vimeo:45108183] The 2012 election in Papua New Guinea is well underway, with polling commencing on 23 June and due to finish at the end of this week. Because of the complexity of party politics in PNG, however, and the high number of candidates and small political parties, the result won\'t be

MFAT survives NZ 'zero budget'

The New Zealand Government released its budget last Thursday. Given the general gloom and the somewhat hyperbolic media reporting on the major change program going on at New Zealand\'s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), what was widely publicised as the \'zero\' budget appears to be

Rebuilding DFAT, post by post

Over the last few years, various people at the Lowy Institute have argued strongly that Australia is under-represented diplomatically in the world. Australia lags behind most of the developed world, with 95 posts across 77 of the 193 UN member states. The running down of the Department is not new &

DFAT budget: On the mend?

For a modestly-funded department with an operating budget of around $900 million, budget time has been pretty scary for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade these last few years. The 2008 budget (Rudd\'s first) slashed $120 million and 43 positions from a department already starved of

A network to sell Australia

In an opinion piece for Business Spectator, Lowy Institute Research Fellow Alex Oliver argues the importance of the Australia Network.Business Spectator, 20 April 2012

In defence of the Australia network

In a piece extracted in Crikey today (from her original post on The Interpreter on 18 April 2012), Alex Oliver argues the Australia Network plays a fundamental role in Australia’s public diplomacy to the region.Crikey, 19 April 2012The original Interpreter Blog post can be accessed 

In defence of the Australia Network

In what could only be described as a complete pasting, Professor Judith Sloan has called for the axing of Australia\'s international television broadcaster, the Australia Network, dubbing it \'repetitive, pointless tosh\'. Scrapping the service would save taxpayers millions of dollars, Sloan

DFAT: A small step into western China

In only his third media release as Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr has today announced (together with the Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Competitiveness) that Australia will open \'as soon as possible\' a new Consulate-General in Chengdu, western China. As Mr Carr explains, Chengdu

DFAT speaks up

Tonight\'s final hearing in the Joint Parliamentary inquiry into Australia\'s overseas representation will be an interesting one. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will make its second appearance in the inquiry, answering further questions from the bipartisan Joint Standing

5-minute Lowy lunch: Jamie Briggs MP

  For our latest 5-minute Lowy lunch, I interviewed one of Australia\'s newest and youngest MPs, the Liberal Member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs. Jamie won the by-election for Mayo in 2008 after the retirement of former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. Yesterday, Jamie delivered an impassioned

Lowy among world top think tanks

The 2012 Global Go-To Think Tanks Rankings were released last week, ranking the Lowy Institute again in the top 30 Global think tanks outside the US and fifth in Asia – its highest-ever ranking. The only survey of its kind, the University of Pennsylvania\'s rankings take on the

DFAT needs a movie star

In a bid to defend itself against congressional calls for cuts to the State Department budget, it appears State has recruited the star power of Michael Douglas. Douglas was quoted in Business Week yesterday saying: Congress is way out of line,” Douglas told reporters. Diplomacy “

5-minute Lowy Lunch: AusAID today

AusAID Director-General Peter Baxter gave this week\'s Wednesday Lowy Lunch lecture, delivering a spirited defence of Australia\'s aid budget, which you can listen to here. While AusAID has endured criticism over inefficient use of costly external consultants, Mr Baxter pointed out that

Asking too much of consular service

There must have been a heavy collective groan reverberating along the corridors of DFAT\'s RG Casey building earlier this week when Australia\'s diplomatic corps learned that the prime minister had personally spoken with the 14 year-old boy arrested in Bali for drug possession. As a consular case

Bipartisan support for a stronger DFAT?

In parliament yesterday the Labor member for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, tabled the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on DFAT\'s 2009-10 Annual Report. In an unusual show of bipartisanship, both Mr Danby and the Liberal Shadow Minister for Defence

Diplomatic disrepair: Fact sheet

This fact sheet accompanies the Lowy Institute report by Alex Oliver and Andrew Shearer, 'Diplomatic disrepair: rebuilding Australia's international policy infrastructure', released on 22 August 2011

Australia Network: The tender trap II

My earlier post questioned the Government\'s decision to move the Australia Network tender decision away from the Department of Foreign Affairs and to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. But that\'s process; there are also issues of substance. There is the money, for a start. Reading the

Australia Network: The tender trap

What to make of the mess that the Australia Network tender process has become? Yesterday, Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, who has been assiduously probing the progress of Australia Network tender in Estimates hearings, moved that all the reports and briefings prepared by the \'assessment panel

For DFAT, budget day is Groundhog Day

Not much in the budget to get excited about for the beleaguered Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Australia\'s economy continues its seemingly inexorable growth trajectory, and our aid spending flourishes with an 11% increase in official development assistance  &

We need to broadcast to the world, not whisper

In an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, Lowy Institute Research Fellow Alex Oliver argues that recent cuts to the BBC World Service and Voice of America indicate that the West is in danger of losing its voice to the world if damaging cuts to international broadcasting and public diplomacy

DFAT\ Cairo woes

The common perception of the diplomat is of a champagne-swilling elitist hobnobbing it on the cocktail party circuit. Perhaps this is why, budget after federal budget, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade gets such a drubbing. It's on again this year, with reports that DFAT's 

Egypt will feel the BBC\ pain

In a 2010 BBC survey, respondents in Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya and Turkey were asked how much they would miss the services of the BBC, CNN International, Voice of America or Al Jazeera. The Egyptian respondents said they would miss the BBC more than Al Jazeera. So of course you would think the

Lowy Institute ascends the think tank ladder

In the latest Global Go To Think Tank results, released yesterday, the Lowy Institute achieved its highest-ever ranking. It was one of only two Asia-based think tanks in the top 30 global institutions, excluding the US

Lowy Institute climbs the ladder

In the University of Pennsylvania's annual rankings of the world's top think thanks, released yesterday, the Lowy Institute achieved its highest-ever ranking: 27th in the top 50 think tanks worldwide (which excludes US institutions). The only other Asia-based think tank in the top 30

Australia deepening diplomatic deficit

In the November 2010 issue of Government Business Foreign Affairs and Trade magazine, Alex Oliver examines the continuing crisis in Australia’s foreign service. Funding cuts by successive governments have weakened the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the point where even its most basic

Friday sign-off

  Thank you to all who contributed to The Interpreter over the last two weeks. I'm signing off as acting editor, and Sam is back in charge next week. Some thoughts (or reading) for the weekend: World toilet day generated its fair share of toilet humour, but there is a serious message

Wednesday linkage: Myanmar

BBC musings on implications of Suu Kyi's release for jailed dissidents in China, and some on dissidents in Burma, from Simon Roughneen in the South China Morning Post. The Boston Globe on opportunities for the US. Views from Thailand, which has chosen the path of economic engagement with Burma

Friday linkage

Korea's JoongAng Daily reports that China has demanded through diplomatic channels that Korea not attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honouring jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. Reuters report says that Japan has received similar demands. France has said EU members will be there,