Friday 14 Dec 2018 | 03:55 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Farewell to the Canberra Column

After five years and 300,000 words, this is my final Canberra Column. Is that a mountain of punditry or just a maze? A quick wade through the wordage leaves little doubt about the recurrent theme that runs through the five years: this was the era of Kevinism. As Prime Minister, The Kevin was his

Aid cut: A story of two bad policies

It's a blue moon occasion for Australia's foreign aid program to be the lead story across the morning news media. But bad policy decided in secret and then leaked to the media can ensure front page headlines, even for aid. And that's what has happened this week with the Government's decision to

Kevin Rudd Pax Pacifica

One less noted development in Australian foreign policy this year has been the evolution of Kevin Rudd's ideas on the future of the Asian order and the US-China relationship. Since an address to the Asia Society in New York in January, Rudd has delivered a series of speeches around the world in

Syria: Canada sensible independence

I like the independence of Canadian policy in the Middle East on some big issues. Exhibit A has to be the decision to refuse to join the US-led invasion of Iraq. Canadian independence of action is once again on display over the question of Syria. When President Obama gave the Syrian opposition

Des Ball: An Australian original

The career of Des Ball traces Australia's core strategic obsessions: the global balance, the US alliance and US bases in Oz, defence of the continent, and the creation of an Asian security community. As a public intellectual, Ball has had a big impact on the understanding and then acceptance

Reader riposte: Missing the bus to China

Sinclaire Prowse, a postgraduate student at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, writes: Julia Gillard’s opinion piece in the Australian yesterday, 'We'll follow Whitlam’s way on China', is a further example of the late arrival of the current Australian government

Managing environmental migration

Dr Khalid Koser is Head of the New Issues in Security Program at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and a non-resident Fellow at the Lowy Institute. Bloggers, government officials, academics, and radio interviewers have kindly (and in one or two cases, not so kindly) responded to my paper

Interview: Prime Minister Peter O'Neill

Senator Bob Carr is in Papua New Guinea this week on his first visit as Foreign Minister. He is attending the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum and touring the Highlands region with his counterpart, the PNG Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has just concluded a six-

Reader ripostes: Aid purpose, aid performance

Below, a comment on our aid debate from Anna Kent. But first, Thomas O'Connor, Senior Programs Manager at the Centre for Australian Progress, writes: An important distinction to make in the aid debate is between relief aid, which is about providing a stop-gap social safety net in developing

Blog feature ends, challenges remain

Today The Interpreter concludes its discussion on Australia's Defence Challenges, a sponsored partnership with the Department of Defence aimed at supporting external engagement ahead of the 2013 Defence White Paper and related processes. Several months ago we established the aims of this blog 

When the foreign minister rolls the PM

In cabinet, foreign policy choices normally and naturally reside with the prime minister and foreign minister. The rule was pithily expressed by Alexander Downer when I asked him once how a decision had been treated by cabinet: 'The Prime Minister voted for it and I voted for it, so it went through

Australia joins G20 troika. Now what?

Michael Gaskin is a PhD candidate studying the G20 in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. @mpgaskin On Monday Australia joined the G20 troika, the three-member steering committee comprised of the immediate past chair, the current chair, and the

Reader riposte: The limits of the aid debate

Sam Byfield from the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne writes: The Lowy Institute's commitment to stimulating debate about aid is laudable, and hopefully successful in elevating (and adding complexity to) the aid debate. On the issue of the AusAID's '

Reader riposte: What is foreign aid for?

Garth Luke is Lead, ODA and Emerging Issues at World Vision Australia. I agree with Hugh White when he says that we need to be clear about what aid is trying to achieve if we are to spend the aid budget most effectively. Most Australians believe that its purpose should be to help poor people in

What is foreign aid for, exactly?

Jeni Whalan's post on the issues that should get more attention in Australia's aid debate is full of good ideas. But can I suggest we add another issue to her list of things that need to be debated: what is Australian aid trying to achieve? The need for us to think about this question more

A better aid debate: Where to begin?

Dr Jeni Whalan lectures in Development Studies at the University of New South Wales. Danielle Cave this week called out the poor quality of Australia's public debate on aid. And she's right, of course. When the Government announced at budget time that it would take an extra year to reach the aid

Reader riposte: Mapping Sandy Island

Mike Prince, Director of Charting Services at the Australian Hydrographic Service, responds to Olivia Wilson's piece on Sandy Island, which appeared on numerous maps but which the Australian research vessel Southern Surveyor recently (re)discovered did not actually exist: Congratulations on an

Reader riposte: Name our defence 'crown jewels'

Conrad van Coller writes: The excellent Time.com Battleland blog carried a story yesterday outlining a new report from the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments which outlines a new plan for US defence planning in the coming 'decades of austerity'. Battleland highlights the four 'crown

Stimulating Australia weak aid debate

2012 will be remembered as a year of sluggish international policy debate. Ken Henry recently said he couldn't remember a time in the last 25 years when the quality of public policy debate had been as bad as it is right now. In my opinion, Australia's aid debate is no exception. Australia's

Peacekeeping: Lessons from Cambodia

Geraldine Doogue is civilian patron of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project. She presents ABC RN's 'Saturday Extra' and ABC1's 'Compass' programs. Part 1 of this series here; part 2 here.  The UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), led by Australian Lieutenant General John

Flying to the Asian Century

One bit of the Asian Century that has already arrived in Canberra is the way the Prime Minister keeps flying off to meet Asian leaders. Over a three month period, Julia Gillard has done Asia Pacific duty at APEC in Vladivostok, attended the Asia-Europe summit in Vientiane, and co-chaired the

PNG new generation: An interview with Sam Basil MP

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 sitting of the

Our sporting and diplomatic cultures

I'm attracted to Nick Bryant's idea of using football as a metaphor for Australian diplomacy, but he's altogether too nice about it. The sports metaphor also reveals some of our limitations*. In football and in diplomacy, Australians tend to be sticklers for the rules. We can't abide

The Pacific digital future

Led by bloggers, digital entrepreneurs and social media groups in Papua New Guinea, a Pacific 'digital generation' is emerging that is increasingly influencing public debates, forming policy ideas, holding institutions accountable and coordinating political protests. The potential size and

A new metaphor for Australian diplomacy: How about football?

Ed. note: the Lowy Institute is hosting a conference this Friday on Football Diplomacy: Australia's Engagement with Asia Through Football. For me, Australian diplomacy has never been about the punch, however much DFAT is portrayed as the departmental equivalent of the boxing kangaroo. It is

Defence budgets: Some historical perspective

Derek Woolner is a Visiting Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. He was Director of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Group in the Commonwealth Parliament’s research service till 2002. The debate in The Interpreter over the consequences of the reduced Australian defence budget

Keating on Indonesia

Bravo! We might have expected that Paul Keating would go beyond the anodyne in talking about the Asian Century. But when the Asian dialogue is dominated by China, it takes special panache to repeat the radical view he put forward as Prime Minister in 1994: 'no country is more important to

Drawing the wrong lessons from Timor

John Blaxland and Albert Palazzo are quite right: there was a clear risk in 1999 that escalation in East Timor could have led to serious combat. I'd disagree that this was something understood only by those in the field, and not by those of us in Canberra. On the contrary, some of us in Canberra

Calling all China scholars

I commend to all Interpreter readers Stephen FitzGerald's recently published paper, Australia and China at Forty: Stretch of the Imagination (it was meant to be a speech to ANU's Australian Centre on China and the World, but due to illness, FitzGerald did not deliver it). FitzGerald, Australia

Journalism in the Asian century

Let the footnotes of history record that, in the week the Gillard Government published its Asian Century White Paper, Australian readers of The Economist saw on its cover a picture not of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney but of China's new leader, Xi Jinping. The campaign story, 'America on a knife-

Reforming the credit rating agencies

Australia rarely gets an opportunity to have any substantial role in the development of what Tom Friedman called the 'Golden Straitjacket': the rules and understandings that govern and support international economic integration. But a recent Australian court judgment may provide a modest

We have a terrorism insurance pool?

This was unknown to me until yesterday, but yes, Australia does have something called the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation. The best plain English description of ARPC's role that I could find was not on its own website but comes from the National Insurance Brokers Association: The

East Timor: Good planning or good luck?

Dr Peter Dean is a Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU. Hugh White, writing in response to Al Palazzo and Jeffrey Grey, has questioned the use of East Timor as an example of the limitations of the ADF to undertake operations at this time. In response I offer a quote from Dr Bob

Defence spending: Losing our credibility

In an opinion piece in today's Australian Financial Review, I argue that US concerns about Australian defence spending are very real and that the Defence Minister's comparisons between Australian and US defence austerity budgets are very misleading. This is for four reasons: Australia's

What Australia can learn from PNG

The recent Lowy Institute PNG New Voices Conference was a much-needed shock to the complacency I have become attuned to as a member of Australia's international policy community. It was the best Lowy Institute conference I have ever attended. In fact it was the best conference I have ever attended

Asian century: Careful what we wish for

With more than 50 years spent studying, writing about and living in Asia for extended periods, I am at the forefront of those convinced of the need for greater engagement with Asia. So I welcome the release of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper as a wish list of some of the things our

Multiculturalism in the Asian Century

What role does Australian multiculturalism have to play as the Asian Century progresses? At a time when the country is reaching out to its neighbours, it seems axiomatic that Australia should celebrate its ethnic diversity and particularly the contribution of its Asian-born citizens. Unsurprisingly

Australia close shave in East Timor

I share Jeffrey Grey's and Albert Palazzo’s concern that the trajectory of the defence budget carries strategic risks which are perhaps not properly understood by those making the decisions. But I'm not sure that their use the 1999 East Timor crisis to support their case is historically

Obama II: Implications for Australia

Here's a short video I recorded this morning with Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Fullilove, focusing mainly on the Australian angle to Obama's victory. The Lowy Institute paper I refer to in one of my questions is here: The Audacity of Reasonableness: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, US

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

There no peace dividend, just a liability

These views are the author's own and do not reflect those of the Department of Defence or the Australian Government. Jeff Grey's recent Interpreter post on Defence cuts is the latest in a number of compelling pieces expressing concern over the Government's direction for the nation's future security

Bob Carr Arab democracy conundrum

Australia's successful ascent to the UN Security Council will require it to address issues it had previously been happy to simply let pass by. One of these is the increasingly hypocritical attitude Western states have adopted towards democratisation in the Middle East.  While I was taught many

What are we defending ourselves from?

James Goldrick's thoughtful response to my last post raises lots of important issues. Let me touch on two of them. First, James says that my argument for sea denial over sea control focuses too much on high-intensity conflicts and especially power projection in such conflicts.  James says we

To defend Australia, we must defend the sea

Hugh White and I have been debating the subject of sea control and sea denial. As part of that exchange, Hugh posed questions to me which were related to particular scenarios. The difficulty with postulating any scenario is that it can be treated as one of those 'Yes Minister' irregular verbs: your

Asian Century: Marker, map and menu

Australia has shifted a long way beyond the comforting promise that it could engage with Asia without having to change itself.  The Asian Century White Paper enshrines the understanding that much in Australia must be transformed. The White Paper is a map identifying 25 important roads with some

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