Wednesday 05 Aug 2020 | 03:46 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Reader riposte: Where are the experts?

Steve Smith writes: Really enjoy reading the blog. Just wondering if you caught this SMH article on Monday. A couple of quotes: 'There is not a single Australia-based scholar with up-to-the minute knowledge on either Chinese elite politics or macro-economics. Last year Stephen Joske,

Indonesia and travel advisories

Australia's travel advisories always raise a few questions. They have been a particular irritant in the relationship with Indonesia, but the impact they have is curious. The first line of the current travel advice to Indonesia reads: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to

Reader riposte: Buy Russian?

Patrick Sheppard responds to a post of mine about Australia's air defences; that post also appeared (in lightly edited form) on Business Spectator: I read your article in the Business Spectator. A very interesting read to say the least. One questions jumps out at me and I’m sure it would to

Indonesia: Let not count our chickens

Peter Hartcher is exactly right about the almost miraculous advances made by Indonesia since the end of the Suharto era. And yet, it must be said that it is very easy to sing these praises when there is a friendly and largely amenable President holding office. But as long as SBY is in control

The politics of a permanent threat

Calling the jihadist threat 'permanent' sidesteps the need to offer a judgement about whether Australia is winning or losing the struggle against terrorism. Avoiding the ultimate victory question in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper serves the political interests of the Rudd Government as well

Defence corporate welfare

Crikey yesterday ran a handy little summary (free subscription required) of the latest Productivity Commission report on the financial assistance that government provides to various industries. Crikey reports a recent increase in 'industry assistance', which is a polite term for what could more

Indonesia: Media should lift its game

Fergus notes the luke-warm feelings Australians have for Indonesia (reciprocated by Indonesians). One of the explanations of this attitude is the carping, condescending and critical tone of Australian journalistic commentary on Indonesia. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's problems with

Relax, our air defences are fine

Robert Gottliebsen of Business Spectator (which occasionally carries Interpreter posts) recently wrote a column about what he called 'the largest and most dangerous cover-up in the nation's history'. That's quite a claim, and it deserves some scrutiny. 'Largest' might be literally true, in

Australia-Indonesia ties need a jolt

Whatever diplomatic niceties accompany the visit to Australia this week of Indonesia's president, both sides will be keenly aware the bilateral relationship is not as strong as it should be. Lowy Polling shows Australians don't have particularly warm feelings towards Indonesia, and Indonesians feel

Canberra embassy update

Last month, reader Will Grant wrote to me in response to a post about Canberra's embassies. Will said, 'I've heard that having embassies in the national style was a specific request of the Australian Government (or possibly the National Capital Authority's predecessors) in the early Canberra years

Lubyanka on the Lake

That's the nickname now attached to ASIO's huge new headquarters, I was told in Canberra earlier this week. You get a sense of the scale of the building from the above image of the building site, taken on The Interpreter's behalf by the good people at RiotACT, an indispensible blog about the life

Tokyo upset with our N policy too?

East Asia Forum today carries a piece by Japanese academic Takashi Terada about Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada's recent visit to Australia. It ends like this: Okada's visit to Australia last month might have been the first step towards this new-type of partnership between the two

Tokyo ponders southern righteous wail

In raising anew the threat to take Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Rudd has certainly grabbed Tokyo's attention. Japan's diplomatic chattering class is, however, just a bit bemused about what it all means. I've had an email conversation with a senior Japanese journalist who

Australia strategic snow-blindness

James Brown has worked as an officer in the Australian Defence Force and completed his Masters in Strategic Studies in 2009. These are his personal views. The death this week of Australia's 'Mr Antarctica', Dr Phillip Law, is a reminder of just how much Antarctic strategy is overlooked in

Did Malcolm Fraser save NATO?

In an interview with Mark Colvin, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser recounts a conversation with Vice-President Bush in 1982, during which Fraser is informed that President Reagan's UN Ambassador, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, is pushing Reagan to support Argentina after Argentina had invaded the

The counter-terrorism edifice

Potential jihadists have quite a few Canberra careers to support. A large edifice is being erected, based on the claim in the Counter-Terrorism White Paper that the jihadist threat is 'persistent and permanent.' At the centre of this counter-terrorism edifice stands the Prime Minister. The

Reader riposte: Invisible Australia

Peter Frank writes: You seem to have removed the ability to comment or respond to articles. Or have I missed something? Anyway, latest links include a Foreign Policy article on pacificism in Europe; a quite pertinent article given the tendency of Australian PMs and Defence Ministers to

Terrorism: Tone matters

The tone of Australia's discussion of jihadist terrorism has altered noticeably, yet the policy responses and the threat warnings seem little changed. The dissonance of policy setting versus verbal temperature runs through the Counter-Terrorism White Paper and much of the commentary it generated

Passports: Why are we upset?

It's not often that the foreign policy commentators at Australia's three major broadsheets agree on anything, but Peter Hartcher (SMH), Dan Flitton (The Age) and Greg Sheridan (The Australian) are all outraged over Israel's alleged use of fake Australian passports to help them carry out an

Our war crimes loopholes exposed

On Monday Senator Wong tabled some fascinating answers to a series of questions on notice from Senator Ludlam concerning Australia's approach to war crimes (see p.110 of this Senate Hansard, made available online this morning). Just incidentally, the questions were asked on 30 September 2009 —

Attacks on Indians: The numbers (not)

Last week Rory and I wrote a piece in The Australian arguing for a more transparent look at attacks on Indian students. As research for that article we asked (on 8 February) the Victorian Police and the Premier's Office for some stats. The police only got back to me on Tuesday the 23rd, but I

White paper defines 'resilience' away

The opinion piece I wrote for today's Sydney Morning Herald on the Government's new counter terrorism-white paper was obviously based on an initial reading of that just-published document, and perhaps with time I'll come to revise some of my views. But not yet. Reading over the document again

Reader riposte: Straight talk with US

Crispin Rovere writes: I am deeply impressed by your post on North Korea, and now especially the question you pose regarding our relationship with the US. It goes directly to my main criticism about the present nature of Australia's relationship with the US. It is not a problem with the

Can Australia save America from itself?

Hugh White's last two posts strike me as pretty convincing arguments for Australia to pull out of Afghanistan. Yet as I understand Hugh's position, he thinks our current commitment to Afghanistan is about right. He thinks Australia is doing just enough to 'pay its dues' with the Americans yet

Tokyo-Canberra: Low-level hedging

Australia's hedging against China has a dimension beyond the US alliance. Name it gently: J-A-P-A-N. How to describe Australia's hedging? It is not grand enough to be called a strategy. It does not yet have the status or coherence of a policy. Yet it is much more than an inclination or intention.

Garrett resilience

If you caught ABC radio or TV news yesterday you will know that Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who's under pressure over safety issues surrounding the Government's home insulation and solar panel schemes, cancelled an appointment to speak at an Australian National University conference. In

Indian student attacks: Time for action

One of the strangest lines to have been uttered regarding the attacks on Indian students is this one from Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland: '... If you look at the data they are safer here than they are in India'. What is bizarre about it is how he thought this kind of stat

Foreign aid a poor cousin to the military

Peter McCawley is a Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Project, ANU, and author of a forthcoming book on the economics of post-disaster reconstruction. In his most recent post, Jim Molan objects to some aspects of Sam's characterisation of his position on Afghanistan and Iraq, and tosses in

Indian student linkage

Amid all the heat and worry over how the student safety crisis is affecting Australia-India relations, here are some angles that deserve more attention: The Indian Express, consistently one of India's sharpest newspapers, brings a few breaths of fresh air to the overheated Indian media debate,

Reader riposte: Canberra embassies

Last Friday, I wrote of Canberra's embassies and High Commissions that... ...the effect of having most of them clustered together in Yarralumla, near Parliament House, is to turn the precinct into something of a theme park...That's particularly the case when some countries see the task of 

Trade as a foreign policy tool

Adrian Rollins has a feature article in today's AFR (behind the paywall) looking at the Australia-US free trade agreement (AUSFTA) and Australia's decision to jump on board the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) bandwagon. He concludes by noting a particular problem with high-profile PTA

Reader riposte: DFAT website

I asked for your feedback on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's new website. Here's reader Chris: DFAT's new site is a considerable improvement. But it still appears to lack an adequate email subscription facility that is offered by, for example, the US State Department. If one can

Do Australians like Chinese brands?

 This post on the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog caught my attention: China may be the world’s third largest economy, but Chinese brands still remain less well known than foreign counterparts and product safety problems continue to plague “made-in-China” goods. Lately I'

DFAT tidy new website

A colleague points me to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's redesigned website. This is a welcome change, as the new site certainly is easier on the eye. Frequent users should drop me a line to let me know whether it is more user-friendly as well. One man who will be watching this

Coral reefs critical to maritime security

I have always thought that marine biology sounded like a pretty good career choice.  Though fate took me elsewhere, this might explain why, while the RAN Sea Power Conference debated some big military-strategic questions, I skipped out for a period to attend a Maritime Advancement Award 

Fiji: It time to talk about values

At our first Wednesday Lowy Lunch event for the year this week, I spoke about the year ahead in the Pacific. On Fiji, I said it was important Australia had a relationship that allowed our Government to protect business and consular interests, mitigate damage to the region and maintain links so

Wednesday Lunch at Lowy: 2010 The year ahead - Research staff presentations

On 3 February, at the first Wednesday Lunch at Lowy for 2010, three Lowy Institute scholars discussed where the world and our region are headed after a tumultuous year in 2009. Will things be calmer or more uncertain?Mark Thirlwell, Program Director International Economy, assessed the post-GFC

5-minute Lowy Lunch: The year ahead

The Lowy Institute kicked off another year of Wednesday Lowy Lunches with a panel discussion about the year ahead. You can listen here to Lowy Institute research staff members Michael Fullilove (on US politics), Mark Thirlwell (on the word economy), and Jenny Hayward-Jones (on the Pacific).

Defence: How not to improve policy contestability

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. Andrew Davies, author of a recent ASPI paper on re-establishing contestability in Defence, may have lots of very good ideas. The re-establishment of internal contestability mechanisms that look like the long-disbanded Force

Notes from the Sea Power conference

Last week's Sea Power 2010 Conference charted a course for Australia's amphibious forces, and the security environment in which they will operate. The impressive range of Australian and international speakers sparked quite a few insights, and reminded us of others. Some of the key takeaways I

Welcome to 2010

At at reception at the Westin Hotel on Thursday 28 January 2010, Dr Michael Wesley, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute, spoke of what we should expect in the decade ahead

Reader riposte: Indian students

Dr Alison Broinowski writes: I agree with Rory that an opportunity for frankness about crimes against Indians in Australia has been lost. But how long do we have to wait before we hear of anyone being arrested or questioned, not only about the latest events, but the earlier ones as well? There

First class, second class, Collins class

Australian Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner has a reputation for speaking plainly. Not yesterday, when he told the Seapower 2010 conference that the availability of the nation's Collins class submarine fleet was 'less than optimal'. When you get below the surface, that actually means 

Rudd bilateral ups and downs

Why does Kevin Rudd have as many downs as ups in the key bilaterals? In my Report Card column, the Prime Minister got a B- for foreign policy, but the mark was significantly boosted by one multilateral achievement – the elevation of the G20. Absent that gain for Australia at the top table,

The Kevin foreign affairs pass mark

Kevin Rudd may well have underperformed in areas of foreign policy, but he still deserves at least a B- mark, based on one achievement alone. The posts by Sam and Malcolm, plus Rowan Callick's feature on Rudd's diplomacy, set me to musing on a score sheet or report card. To make it easy, the

China-Google: How do we fix this?

I've just done an interview with Sydney radio host Deborah Cameron about the China-Google dispute. I'm unhappy about my last answer. Deborah asked me if I felt the Prime Minister ought to be speaking out more about China's increasingly assertive behaviour toward foreign companies. I replied

A touch of Bollywood in Parramatta

Two events in the past few days – one positive, one negative – have the potential to act as circuit-breakers in the crisis over the welfare of Indian students in Australia. The negative event was the suggestion by the extremist Shiv Sena Party that Australian cricketers should be banned