Thursday 02 Jul 2020 | 21:45 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Slow news

Are we still suffering from the tyranny of distance? Did Friedman call it too early? This weekend the SMH published an article titled 'Giving with one hand and taking it all back with the other' on China's aid giving to Namibia. The New York Times had published the same piece (albeit a much

5-minute Lowy Lunch: The UNSC bid

Yesterday the Lowy Institute's own Michael Fullilove made the case for why Australia should bid for a UN Security Council seat. You can read Michael's paper here, listen to his speech here, or join me below for a short chat with Michael. I started by asking him why the UN still matters to Australia

Balibo: Lives and interests

Graeme Dobell’s post on the Balibo Five makes the perfectly valid point that journalists covering wars must take risks, and they are justified in doing so because they perform an important function. For that reason he rejects the idea that the Balibo Five were wrong to be where they were and

Missile defence: The Australian angle

On Obama's decision to scrap America's eastern European missile defence sites, The Age says '(i)t is not yet clear what that means for plans for the Asian sections of the system and joint experimental work being carried out by Australia, Japan and the US.' I'm not aware precisely what trilateral '

Reader riposte: Costello replies

Former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello replies to my post of 26 August about Australia's journalism culture, a piece sparked by Costello's op-ed alleging pro-Labor bias at the ABC: You do not address the other issue I raise. Am I right or am I wrong about the preponderance of Labor staffers

The Bomber and the Doctor

Give Kevin Rudd credit for being both a policy wonk and a master political spinner. Appointing two former Opposition Leaders to two diplomatic posts in one day? Priceless. Appointing two leading politicians to two diplomatic posts in one day but structuring it so as to avoid any real flak about

Order in the house

A reader alerts The Interpreter to Foreign Policy's list of the world's rowdiest parliaments. This is all prompted by Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst ('You lie!') during President Obama's recent speech to Congress, causing some to argue that the Americans know nothing of robust parliamentary debate.

Bearing witness at Balibo

The pragmatic realists have spent several decades trying to bury the Australian journalists murdered by Indonesian troops in East Timor. The most brutal and explicit example of this was offered nearly three decades ago by one of the great Australian diplomats of his generation, Sir Keith Shann. The

Rudd: Still on the wall

Walking to a meeting at Peking University last week, whose picture did I notice hanging on a wall inside the School of International Relations? There might not be many books by Lu Kewen on the Chinese bookshelves these days, and he may not be top of the list of world leaders Beijing will be

Rudd rejected essay

Sorry to be so late to this, but to my embarrassment I only discovered today that Kevin Rudd's rejected essay for Foreign Affairs has emerged, thanks to an FOI request by The Age. In his review of the article, Greg Sheridan criticises The Age's Daniel Flitton* for mocking Rudd's jargonistic

Some perspective on Balibo

One view is that morality demands that the Australian Government do everything possible to seek justice for the journalists killed in Timor in 1975. To give the other side of the argument puts one in the position of the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men: defending the indefensible. But,

Reader riposte: War crimes

James Cockayne offers a correction to his earlier reader riposte about Australian war crimes law: The very good post by Alex Duchen on Balibo today made me scurry back to my law books to check something, and I realise now that I was mistaken about the last piece of my analysis last week on

The Beeb and The Interpreter

It seems that BBC News is not a regular reader of The Interpreter. Two weeks ago, we noted that the much feted Exxon-PetroChina deal was not the largest single LNG deal ever signed in Australia. Rather the earlier Santos-Petronas one was. Alas, BBC News still hasn’t got this news

Feeding the reactors

This FT article today is a startling insight into the world's plans for switching to nuclear power. Those of us who know nothing of nuclear reactors except Lucas Heights, Chernobyl and the one Monty Burns built in Springfield are in for a shock. The accompanying interactive map shows alternately

Learning to say 'No, Minister'

Is it a coincidence that this has emerged at around the same time as this? First: The Howard government actively discouraged official advice on whether Australia should commit to the Iraq war and was given no such advice, senior public servants who ran the departments of Prime Minister and

Reader riposte: War crimes loopholes

James Cockayne, Principal Legal Officer in the Extradition Unit of the Attorney-General's Department from 2002-2003, has this response to my post yesterday. You’re right on the money that difficulties arise as a result of the potential overlap between the political offense exception to

Australia all at sea with US and China

Today's Sydney Morning Herald has this intriguing story suggesting US and Australian military leaders want a new shape for trilateral security engagement – this time involving China. The source appears to be an interview with the Commander of Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating, who was in

Time to review war crimes legislation

Back in February I speculated that Australia might be inching towards a first — the successful extradition of a resident accused of war crimes. The decision by the full bench of the Federal Court yesterday makes that look less likely. Croatia had sought the extradition of the accused on the

Choice and necessity in Australia way of war

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. I have found the concepts of 'war of necessity' and 'war of choice' very handy. I cannot vouch for what President Obama meant when he called Afghanistan a war of necessity. I can only assume that he used it to convey a sense of

Biggles rides again?

The Punch today reports on a mysterious aircraft used to find missing Victorian cabinet minister and bushwalker Tim Holding. According to The Punch: ...this afternoon Victorian police have contacted news organisations telling them to remove any reference to the plane being an AFP plane with

Who the bloody hell are we?

Last week, Trade Minister Simon Crean announced that 'the Australian Government will spend $20 million over the next four years to deliver a new international brand for Australia.' In his press release, he asserts that 'we need a cohesive brand that captures the essence of Australia and

Balibo: In defence of Foreign Affairs

In 1975, Lance Joseph was the Assistant Secretary in charge of the Southeast Asia branch of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The release of Robert Connolly’s new film Balibo has inevitably returned the spotlight to events surrounding the deaths of five Australian-based journalists at that

Allan Behm, bow-tied assassin

The Age reported on the weekend that former senior defence official Allan Behm had been appointed Chief of Staff to Greg Combet, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science. The Age says he was recruited 'to help oversee the Australian Defence Force's massive re-equipment program and

Japan: The day after

The DPJ, with its slogan 'Japan will change!', has won a landslide victory in an election that saw over 70% of the electorate come out despite an approaching typhoon. The Japanese clearly want change and the DPJ now has to deliver. When it comes to thinking about Australia-Japan-US triangular

China: Getting from row to kow-tow

China's leaders launched a campaign of diplomatic punishment against Australia and it will need a nod from the top to get a ceasefire. The problem that will obsess Canberra in the next two months is twofold: how many more hits will Beijing deliver, and what should be the tone and colour of the

China: The Howard formula

Beijing has decided to punish the Rudd Government for economic and strategic slights: Defence White Paper retribution has mixed with anger at the workings of the Australian market and is further inflamed by anything Canberra says about separatist tensions within China. Beijing has quickly delivered

Santos deal puts Gorgon in the shade

What's the biggest LNG export deal Australia has signed with an Asian state-owned oil and gas company? If you have been following the Australian and global news lately you would probably plump for the recent Gorgon deal signed between Exxon Mobil and PetroChina. If one is a keen follower of press

Our journalism culture

Two perspectives in the Australian media today about our culture of political journalism, one from former treasurer Peter Costello and another from ABC TV journalist Leigh Sales. Sales' piece is about the way politicians refuse to answer journalists' questions. She argues that the tactic of

Public diplomacy adrift

Though prepared seven months ago, the Federal Government’s response to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on Australia’s public diplomacy is still worth a look. The original Senate Committee report in 2007 was a gruelling 244 pages. Despite its

Great power ambitions in ashes

Here at the Lowy Institute, we routinely recommend policy changes on pressing international issues that are of defining importance to Australia's national interests and international reputation. So in that spirit, allow me to suggest that Michael Clarke should really be batting at no.4. That won't

Renewable security linkages

The Australian Government’s new renewable energy bill mandates that twenty percent of Australian domestic electricity must be drawn from renewable sources by 2020. Whatever environmental benefit, the bill’s passage is a timely event to reconsider the opportunities Australia can derive from

Pyne out on a limb

Ummm, I don't think Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne has really thought this through. He says Chinese attempts to interfere in the Melbourne Film Festival and the proceedings of the National Press Club are a result of: ...the familiarity that this Government believed that it had with

Foreign invasion in Australian fiction

Sixteen years after it was first published, I have just joined the millions of Australians who have been thoroughly gripped by John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began. Ostensibly aimed at 'young adult' readers, this book and its sequels follows the adventures of a group of country teens

Australia-China: December challenge

Australia-China political relations at the moment are not a 'win-win situation' underpinned by China’s 'charm offensive' and 'skillful' diplomacy. Not much charm or statesman-like skill is observable in China’s diplomatic response to Australia’s reaction to the arrest of Stern Hu or Beijing's

Washington Post: Australia sanctioned?

Do readers have any idea what this could be a reference to? Similarly, Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said: "If we wink at this nuclear-capable rocket in the world can we object to North Korean and Iranian tests without looking

Australia-US: Have we peaked?

In his joint paper with Michael O'Hanlon about the US-Australia alliance under Rudd and Obama, Michael Fullilove points out that 'for the first time in history, the US president has thicker personal connections to our near neighbour Indonesia than to Australia.' If you're tempted to think this

Does helping China always help us?

From Hugh White's contribution to the 2009 ANU China Update: China does not need to equal the US in military capability, but simply limit US options...The shift is already underway. American capacity to project power in Asia is slipping away as China develops the capacity to deny important

Breaking: Departmental appointments

Fairfax's Peter Martin seems to be the only one with a transcript of the PM's announcement. Highlights: Dennis Richardson to head DFAT. Nick Warner from Defence to ASIS. Ian Watt from Finance to Defence. So the question now: with Richardson returning from Washington, who's our next US

Afghanistan: Faulkner statement a failure

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq. In a lecture by Prof Hew Strachan at the Land Warfare Studies Centre yesterday, discussion of Clausewitz’s 'second trilogy' (I am knee deep in shallow water here because 'On War' is still on my 'to read' list) caught my

Can we afford the White Paper plan?

Allan Behm, a former head of the International Policy and Strategy Divisions of the Department of Defence, is a risk analyst with Knowledge Pond. Media reports of an imminent change at the top of the Department of Defence reinforce the view that the Government is serious about realising the $20

Michael O'Hanlon interview

Here's a brief email exchange I had with Michael O'Hanlon (pictured) of the Brookings Institution, co-author with our own Michael Fullilove of a new Perspectives paper on Obama, Rudd and the US-Australia alliance: SR: What do you make of reports that US commanders are considering requesting

The national security phalanx

The strength of the ancient Greek/Macedonian phalanx drew from symbiotic protection. The shield carried by each hoplite soldier afforded protection to his neighbour, and so on in each rank. Each hoplite’s life depended on working in intimate and precise cooperation with his comrades –

Friday funny: Uncle Steve

You may have heard that Hollywood director John Hughes has died. Although Slate described Hughes as a closet Republican, he wasn't overtly political, so although he's a loss to the world of movies, there's not a great deal in his body of work for this international policy blog to hang its hat on

Afghanistan: Time to belt up?

The Afghanistan debate between Jim Molan, myself and others (click on the 'read more in this debate' button above to see the whole thread) has drawn heavily on a London Review of Books article by Rory Stewart. Just to reinforce a point I made in one post about distinguishing between the 'how'

Reader riposte: More on the UNSC bid

Alistair Maclean didn't like yesterday's reader riposte by James Ingram: Nonsense. The logical conclusion of this argument is that alliances necessarily deny an independent voice for the smaller of alliance partners. The same argument pre-supposes that alliance membership renders us less

Reader riposte: UNSC membership

James Ingram, former Australian diplomat and head of the UN World Food Program, comments on Australia's UN Security Council aspirations: Raoul's piece hits the target. In an address to the Lowy Institute in August 2007 on UN reform, I suggested that: '...we would be unwise to seek membership