Monday 30 Mar 2020 | 23:44 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Australia and Korea: Not so close

Guest blogger: Brendan Howe (pictured), Professor of Diplomacy and Security, Ewha Womans University GSIS, Seoul and visiting CISS Research Fellow, responds to Malcolm Cook's post on our undervalued relationship with Korea.  Malcolm Cook highlights the importance of Korea to Australian

BHP-Rio: The mega acquisition

BHP's proposed acquisition of Rio Tinto is, no doubt, ready to bounce back to life any day now. So far, BHP has failed to make a bid that Rio Tinto believes represents fair value. But I wonder whether the Australian government and other regulators will allow the merger to take place.  BHP

The limits of creative middle-power diplomacy

Quote of the day goes to Phillip Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald: Rudd's trip was well received at home, but he is not overplaying what he achieved. He urged NATO to do more about Afghanistan's opium production; he pleaded with China over Tibet; in the US and Europe he

Reader riposte: Australia weakness

Chris Skinner writes to us about defence policy, with my response below: I think your naiveté is breathtaking in declaring ‘...what if things go really well in the region over the next decade?’ as a basis for any sort of policy development, let alone that of national security!

Government acts on cyber-terrorism, but will it help?

Media reaction to news that the Government is considering laws to monitor email traffic has focused on privacy. That's entirely legitimate, but there should also be concern about how useful it is for any Government to have these powers. It is reassuring to hear the Attorney-General

Reader riposte: Paying for our foreign policy

Carl Ungerer responds to Andrew Shearer's post on recent DFAT budget cuts: Shearer rightly points out that DFAT is ‘cash strapped’. But the under-investment in foreign policy didn’t just happen overnight. The Howard Government froze the DFAT budget in 1996. Staffing levels

The costs of having 'the best' for our military

I've written several posts (most recent here) questioning  the terms of the defence procurement debate. Too often, multi-billion dollar decisions about the merits of this tank versus that tank, or frigate A versus frigate B, are discussed much as one would compare horses running in the 3.

Uh-oh, I see a Chinese values debate

Watching the war of words over the Olympic torch relay and the Chinese government’s policy in Tibet, I am getting a foreboding sense of déjà vu about the bad old days of the early 1990s Asian values debate. The 'sacred flame', when not being hidden, is passing demonstrators who

How will we pay for our grand foreign policy ambitions?

Guest blogger: Andrew Shearer is the Lowy Institute's new Director of Studies. He was previously foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Howard. This morning’s Australian reports that DFAT faces a cut of $109 million in the forthcoming Budget. On coming to office, the Government

John Button

We haven't yet marked John Button's passing here at The Interpreter, because as far as I know, he never played a prominent role in Australian foreign and trade policy (though he did reform Australia's car industry, so there's a trade element there). Still, I thought I'd share

Reader riposte: Those fickle Kiwis

On Tuesday I wrote a short post about the recently signed NZ-China free trade agreement, pointing out that the NZ Herald had declared China to be New Zealand's 'new best friend'. This, I thought, would come as a bit of a shock to Australian readers. Paul Cotton responds:

Our Tibet protests all sound and fury

If I understand Graeme Dobell's analysis on ABC radio this morning correctly, Kevin Rudd will not mind at all that the Chinese Embassy in Canberra registed complaints about Rudd's Washington comments on human right abuses in Tibet. Rudd, after all, used quite moderate and careful language in

The Iraq war: Calling all Australian policy-makers

The Australian television premiere last night of the excellent PBS documentary Bush’s War and Raoul’s post from Washington are reminders to Australians of how much more we know about the processes and ideas that took the US into war in Iraq than we know about how Australia got there. So far as

Reader riposte: The Cole Inquiry

Alison Broinowski writes: In addition to Professor Charlesworth’s useful reminder about Australia’s dismal performance at the UN, the Rudd Government might also clarify its position on cluster bombs, Israel’s wall, the US embargo on Cuba, and Oil For Food. The last is particularly

That perennial China question

Over at Blogocracy, Tim Dunlop is using the Olympic torch imbroglio to start a discussion about where Australia ought to stand on the perennial China dilemma: As I say, Rudd isn’t the only political leader with this problem and like most of them, he needs to find a much better way

Overseas financial sector reform: Let join the debate

The Australian financial sector is generally in good shape, but the strains overseas will lead to a rethink of the 'international best  practice' rules for regulating and supervising the financial sector, and this will put pressure on us to adopt whatever international changes occur. The

A human rights agenda for the Rudd Government

Guest blogger: Hilary Charlesworth (pictured), Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the ANU continues our international law thread kicked off last week by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. During the period of the Howard Government, human rights were given a

F-22 leverage

This morning I posted news that the F-22 Raptor, a top-of-the-range stealth aircraft that Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon wants to consider for the RAAF's new fighter, is having maintenance problems in US service. But there is some more promising news for F-22 advocates. Aviation journalist

Reader riposte: Ruddernomics

Two readers have written in with comments on my recent post on Rudd’s announcement that he will now be staying with Ambassadors when he travels abroad. Jerry Argyriou writes: It’s interesting that business magazines praise leaders that lead by example in cutting expenditure

Rudd Afghanistan 'breakthrough' could haunt him

I somehow doubt Kevin Rudd is really claiming credit for NATO’s reported ‘breakthrough’ political statement affirming a strengthened commitment to Afghanistan, even though Dennis Shanahan’s front-page report for today’s Australian newspaper, complete with cheerleading headline, would

Reader riposte: Too much focus on 'hard security'

Peter McCawley writes: Graeme Dobell's comment that 'One of the old divides in Australian diplomacy is between the Northeast Asianists and the Southeast Asianists' is quite true. And it is also true that Southeast Asian specialists have noticed this emphasis in the Prime

China in two minds about the 6PT

Greg Sheridan is right to be skeptical about the near-term prospects for turning the Six Party Talks into a more formal and permanent regional security institution. That the Talks have thus far failed to achieve North Korean denuclearization is perhaps less significant than Washington and Beijing’

More Pacific partnerships...with China?

In his speech to the Brookings Institution on 31 March, Prime Minister Rudd suggested  China should be encouraged to work with other donors to develop appropriate OECD-consistent norms for development assistance delivery. He added that, as getting assistance to Pacific Island nations on a stable

Reader riposte: Who gets in the 6PT, and why

Brendan Howe comments on Prime Minister Rudd's support for turning the Six-Party Talks into a permanent security mechanism: So Rudd would 'welcome any efforts by the US, China, Japan and others to extend the six-party talks mechanism into a broader security mechanism - one that

Rudd: We will economise on the beaches!

The recent news that our spartan PM will shun the luxuries of five-star hotels and stay instead at Ambassadors’ residences while travelling abroad is an interesting one for the bean counters to analyse. What appears like a selfless sacrifice by the PM to save taxpayers the cost of a hotel room

Rudd the Northeast Asianist

One of the old divides in Australian diplomacy is between the Northeast Asianists and the Southeast Asianists. No points for picking Kevin Rudd as a Northerner, not an ASEANist. In pushing for the Six-Party Talks to become the basis for Asia’s attempt at 'doing a Europe', Mr Rudd has

ICC Prosecutor talks to The Interpreter

I recently interviewed the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Dr Luis Moreno-Ocampo (pictured left). In the post below he points out the significance of having Japan on board as a new member and says eventual US membership is inevitable. He talks about Australian cooperation with

Educating Barack

One of Barack Obama's weakest foreign policy moments on the campaign trail came in an April 2007 debate (yes, they've been at it that long), when he was asked to nominate America's top three allies. Obama listed the European Union and Japan, then ran out of steam, mentioning China as

Rudd backs the 6PT mechanism

At least one of my colleagues has strong feelings about the long-standing American proposal to turn the North Korea Six-Party Talks into a permanent regional security mechanism, and no doubt he is not best pleased that Kevin Rudd has endorsed the idea overnight. Rory's argument that you

Our foreign policy should focus on ends, not means

Guest blogger: Andrew Shearer is the Lowy Institute's new Director of Studies. He was previously foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Howard.  At the risk of being accused of partisanship again, I’m pretty sure I would have described the Howard Government’s foreign policy as

Rudd to Fukuda: Why didn't you call?

Prime Minister Rudd had an awkward moment at a press conference yesterday when a Japanese journalist asked him if he had spoken to his Japanese counterpart on the phone. Rudd's answer was less than elegant: Asked if there should have been telephone contact between him and Mr Fukuda

Defence procurement: Beyond the 'form guide'

Debates about whether we should purchase certain expensive pieces of military kit should be far broader than just comparing the performance figures of various destroyers or fighter jets as if weighing the form of one racehorse against another. Unfortunately, the media sometimes covers defence

Reader riposte: More on middle-powerdom

From Edward Cohen, a former Lowy Institute intern now studying for the MPhil in International Relations at Cambridge University: The recent post by Allan Gyngell and email from Hans van Leeuwen raise an interesting question: what is 'middle power diplomacy' and how does Kevin

Some good news on Pacific labour mobility

During a comprehensive speech on Australia’s relations with the Pacific at the launch of the Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, addressed the contentious issue of labour mobility. He announced that

Reader riposte: Defining 'middle power'

Carl Ungerer is Director of the National Security Project at ASPI: The Prime Minister’s recent speech mentioning ‘creative middle power diplomacy’ has the foreign policy community scratching its collective head. Where did this come from? What is a middle power? If we’re a middle

Reader riposte: What is a 'middle power'?

In reponse to my commentary on Kevin Rudd's foreign policy speech, Hans van Leeuwen writes: I'm no champion of the Howard-Downer foreign policy, but is it possibly a little unfair to characterise them as not having engaged with the UN? After all, didn't Australia make a

More aircraft carriers?

This had the potential for a good yarn — not only does Ian McPhedran claim the Navy has asked for aircraft carriers and cruise missiles, but he implies that the wish list so annoyed the Government that it gave Chief of Navy Russ Shalders the sack. Problem is, the story contains no named sources

A third view of the Rudd speech

All foreign policy speeches by Prime Ministers have a domestic and an international audience, but this one seemed more than usually directed to the local punters. At the speech’s core was a solid justification for his overseas trip and for his government’s interest in foreign policy generally

Australian vulcans

Over Easter I belatedly started reading James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans, about George W Bush's senior foreign policy cadre and what they have in common: (i) a focus on the military as a tool of foreign policy; (ii) a rejection of the America-in-decline thesis and a re-assertion of

Another view of the Rudd speech

Three elements of the PM’s speech to the ANU East Asia Forum struck me as interesting and important. First, Mr Rudd made a strong case for the centrality of international policy in Australia’s national life: he said it is ‘the natural expression and extension of the nation’s

Rudd first big foreign policy speech

With the proviso that I have only read the prepared text of Kevin Rudd’s speech and not the speech ‘as delivered’ (media coverage here; I will post a link to the speech when I can find one. UPDATE: Here it is), count me as underwhelmed by his remarks, delivered tonight in Sydney. Rudd

The Australia-India Strategic Lecture

The thorny issues in Australia’s relations with India — uranium sales and how to deal with China — received some thoughtful treatment in the second Australia-India Strategic Lecture, hosted yesterday by the Lowy Institute and the Australia-India Council. Although the lecture,

Northeast Asian security dialogue: Here we go again

Ahead of Kevin Rudd’s first Prime Ministerial to the US and China, this Sydney Morning Herald report suggests that the Bush Administration is keen to enlist the Australian Prime Minister in its now desperate bid to forge some permanent regional security structure out of the Six Party Talks on

Reviewing the effectiveness of aid

I often wonder why aid spending is not the subject of greater public interest in Australia. Expenditure on politicians’ overseas travel and renovations of Ambassadorial residences abroad attract more media scrutiny than much more significant government spending (just under $3 billion in 2006-07

Rudd will go to Tokyo later, and all will be well

Malcolm Cook draws up an impressive list of of Japanese worries about the new Rudd Government to counter my argument that the Prime Minister's decision to exclude Japan from his first big overseas trip is of little consequence. I certainly agree that it is important for Australia to maintain

Japan has a right to be worried about us

In his post on Australia and Japan, Sam dismisses Japan’s concerns with the new Rudd Government as Japan acting like a 'jilted lover'. While Kenichi Ohmae’s op-ed in the SMH today likely reaffirmed to Sam his view that Japan is being petulant, I think if you take a few more things

MP travel: Pay it forward

Putting aside the strict legalities of politicians accepting overseas travel from business interests, it is a bad look. The obvious solution seems to be to substantially increase the pay and allowances of MPs so that there is no appearance of them accepting potentially compromising favours from