Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:41 | SYDNEY

Australia in the World

Putting the 'R' back in RAMSI

It’s not often tiny Niue makes comments to the media in a field usually occupied by Australians. Courtesy of its role as host of the Pacific Islands Forum meeting this year, Niue is part of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Standing Committee on the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon

Rules for foreign investment? No need to panic

In an editorial a couple of days ago, the Financial Times gave a fairly lukewarm reception to Treasurer Wayne Swan’s new set of principles that are to be considered in determining whether proposed investments by foreign governments are consistent with Australia's national interest. One of

Our two cents (of aid) for China

As Rowan Callick observes in The Australian, we are not giving aid to China to solve its development problems. He is upfront when he states ‘the average income (in China) has doubled in just four years – not of course anything to do with aid’. Australia’s bilateral aid to China is worth

Learning from New Zealand

Recent statements by Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan suggest the Rudd Government is moving closer to the introduction of a labour mobility program that would allow Pacific Islanders to

Strategy first, then 'kit'

The just-released terms of reference for the Government's new air power inquiry look discouragingly conventional. It will engage in just the kind of horse-race form guide comparisons of aircraft — which plane goes faster? which carries more missiles? — that leads to the spectacle we saw

The value of remittances

My colleague Michael Fullilove’s new Lowy Institute Paper, World wide webs: Diasporas and the international system, discusses the positive development impact of global remittances, which now dwarf official development assistance, and recommends reform to reduce remittance fees and costs. AusAID

Does Obama really speak Bahasa?

Uberblogger Andrew Sullivan has been soliciting global reactions to the US presidential primaries, and on the weekend he published a letter from an Australian reader, who said this: Keep in mind that Australia is also very much a part of Asia. The woman who sits next to me is Indonesian

Kokoda: A question of sovereignty

Three weeks before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is due to visit Papua New Guinea, his government is being tested on its attitude to the sovereignty of our nearest neighbour. Controversy over the proposed establishment of a copper mine by Australian mining company Frontier Resources on a section of

Our Timor troops have a well-defined role

Guest blogger:  Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury (pictured), Associate Head of the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University. Thanks to Hugh White for his considered response to my earlier post. Because Prime Minister Rudd was not precise about the role of

Email of the day: Timor empathy

More reader reaction to Hugh White's views on the latest deployment to East Timor:  I actually find it painful to criticise White, because I so often agree with the arguments and lines of logic that he generates. I don't doubt his logic. I just doubt his capacity for empathy.

The PM himself is unsure what the extra troops are for

Interesting contributions by Erin and Damien, but they do not quite address my concerns. Erin argues that if we are going to send forces, then the particular troops chosen and the police are the right ones to send. Well, I’m not quite sure I agree with that: whether a company of light infantry

Email of the day: What the Timor reinforcements are for

Erin Maulday responds to Hugh White's criticism of the Rudd Government's decision to deploy additional troops and police to Timor: Rudd’s response is cautious and appropriate. The troops that have deployed are likely to be Army’s Ready Company Group (RCG), a 150-odd force

Rudd has got it right on Timor

Guest blogger:  Associate Professor Damien Kingsbury (pictured), Associate Head of the School of International and Political Studies at Deakin University. Hugh White asks how we are to judge Australia sending more troops and police to East Timor. The answer is, as a quick and necessary

Rudd first crisis: A clumsy response

How are we to judge the Rudd Government’s swift decision to send more troops and police to East Timor following the attacks on Jose Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao?  I’m inclined to be a bit sceptical. It looks to me as if the government decided that it needed to do something to show concern,

Grattan confused on Rudd Timor response

Strange column from Canberra press gallery stalwart Michelle Grattan today. The thrust of the piece is that Prime Minister Rudd's first reaction to the latest Timor crisis — to send in more troops and police — is only a gesture and may not even help very much. She even quotes Hugh White

The limits of the Howard Doctrine

Australia’s lead role in the United Nations Mission in East Timor in 1999 is seen by many as the start of the so-called 'Howard Doctrine', in which Australia commits itself to being the provider of first resort of regional security in the Pacific. Concerns about the nexus between state

Timor blog linkage

So far I've found just two blogs with on-the-ground coverage of events in Dili. Dili-gence is the blog the ABC drew on for its radio coverage this morning, and contains a dramatic eyewitness description of the attempt on Ramos Horta's life. Xanana Republic also looks promising. Please send

Airfield plus concrete does not equal protection

The recent suggestion by Airpower Australia’s Carlo Kopp that Australia needs to harden its Northern airbases is truly risible, not least because of the threat assessment issue that Sam Roggeveen described. And while Sam’s observation that concrete is relatively cheap is accurate, it is also

The logic of Chalmers

You may be familiar with a charming little e-newsletter called Inside Canberra, penned by Rob Chalmers? In his latest installment, not available online, Chalmers makes some rather cutting remarks about what he calls 'the logic of Roggeveen'. I have some reservations about Chalmers'

Constraining China is counterproductive

Both Sam’s characteristically pithy post yesterday, and Raoul Heinrich’s nicely-judged contribution to the debate, do much to clarify what is really at stake here. Sam asks whether I can imagine circumstances in which the rise of China would make our US alliance less central to Australia’s

Do we need to harden our military airfields?

'Threat', goes the common formulation, 'is the sum of capability and intent'. Defence strategists will often add that since it is impossible to really know a potential adversary's intentions (and these could change in an instant anyway), we need to plan against their

Email of the day: Giving China an inch

Reader Raoul Heinrichs enters the 'rising China' debate:  Hugh White presents a strong case for accommodating, rather than resisting, China’s rising power. Certainly, the risks of acute strategic competition between the US and China would clearly be inimical to Australian

India need not worry too much about our China 'tilt'

‘The Australian decision to tilt openly towards Beijing will have inevitable consequences in New Delhi,’ warn the paranoid and nameless sources of this article in today’s Times of India. They were referring to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments this week that Australia ‘would not

Facing the hard choices on China

Given the moderate and sober tone of Hugh White’s latest post (and, indeed, of everything he writes), it’s easy to overlook the potential radicalism of his position. This is not necessarily a criticism, but as Hugh said in an earlier post, Australian policy has ‘drifted’ into a more pro-

Responding to China growing power

Well, Sam gets to the heart of the issue in his response to my post.  He raises two questions: how serious is China’s maritime military challenge to the US, and what can we do about it? [more] On the first question Sam says that China is a long way from building the kind of ocean-going

China: How accommodating should we be?

Hugh White starts his response to my post on China's naval expansion by describing China's rise much more starkly than I did, saying 'it poses the biggest challenge to Western maritime domination of the Western Pacific since the rise of the Imperial Japanese Navy a century ago.'

Learning to live with a stronger China

As Sam Roggeveen correctly points in his fascinating post, the PLA Navy’s use of Australian technology to develop a new class of small missile-firing warships raises a lot of intriguing issues and questions.  Here are three that come to mind. First up, it tells us something about the way

Email of the day: China naval threat

Christopher Skinner writes in response to The Interpreter’s China scoop of last Friday (I disagree with Christopher, and my response follows): Firstly, export of materials and information of so-called dual-use, non-military/civilian catamaran ferries that might be reused for military

More on China navy

My aim in talking about AMD's dealings with the Chinese navy (and for readers who have just discovered The Interpreter via the ABC's coverage of this issue: first welcome, and second, the blog post Leigh Sales reported on in her story is just below this one) has been to provoke two

An indigenous element

In an opinion piece in The Australian, Lowy Institute Executive Director Allan Gyngell argues the case for incorporating elements of indigenous culture in to Australia's official welcomes for foreign dignitaries. The Australian, 31 January 2007, p. 12

Australia role in China naval expansion

On 4 December an obscure American naval technology trade journal called Signal published an article on a new generation of missile-armed catamarans (the Type 022; pictured) being built for China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN). The article was all about the tactical

Fitzgibbon has a point

Sam Roggeveen might well find Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s comments about Generation Y’s alleged case of collective attention-deficit disorder to be a bit too grandfatherly for his liking. But Mr Fitzgibbon has a point. New approaches are needed to ensure that defence forces in developed

Joel Fitzgibbon impersonates your grandfather

Sorry if it's starting to look like 'Bash Joel Fitzgibbon Week' here at The Interpreter, but he just makes it so easy: 'We must become more creative on the recruitment front,' he says. 'Talking to generation Y in their language through the mediums they rely upon

Are we making another tilt at a Security Council seat?

The SMH's weekend headline would suggest so, but Stephen Smith's quotes are less definitive: '...Australia does, from time to time, have aspirations to be a temporary member of the Security Council and it has been a while since we were in that membership.' The minister and the

Super Hornet: Are we ditching already?

Is it me, or is Joel Fitzgibbon's language on the wisdom of purchasing Super Hornets getting stronger?: 'There have been very real concerns in the past that we have had ad hoc decisions in force structure and capability terms that have not been justified on the basis of strategic guidance

NSG policy will reveal Rudd true nuclear colours

Guest blogger: Henry Sokolski (pictured), Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy in the US Department of Defense from 1989 to 1993 and now executive director of The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Henry has written a longer post on this subject for the Far Eastern Economic Review's

Soeharto, 1921-2008

The death of former Indonesian president Soeharto will trigger another round of debate about his contribution. Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, whose country was a major beneficiary in the decades of stability after Sukarno’s 'konfrontasi', acknowledged the overwhelmingly positive balance to

Cultural exports target the elites

Alison Carroll's rejoinder to my admittedly slightly petulant comments on cultural exports funding (see here and here) tends to make my point for me. She cites two recent well-attended Australian art exhibitions partly funded by DFAT and the Australia Council, one held in Japan and the other

Aid recipients dispensing aid

The abundance of goodwill coming out of the current travels of new Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua to Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand is excellent news for people like me interested in seeing stronger diplomatic ties in the region. Reports of Sikua’s visit to PNG had an

Australia needs more cultural exports funding, not less

Guest blogger: Alison Carroll (pictured) is the Director of Asialink Arts and the recipient of the 2006 Australia Council emeritus medal for her contribution to Australia Asia arts collaboration.  Sam Roggeveen's comments (also here. Ed) on cultural programs overseas need some response

Pacific Islands: A fresh start

I argue in today’s Australian Financial Review that Australia needs to accept its Pacific regional identity and treat its Pacific Island neighbours as sovereign states. Australia has for too long treated Pacific Island governments as aid clients and not invested in developing sound institutional

Is the counter-terrorism-industrial complex in retreat?

The Sydney Morning Herald had some welcome news on the weekend: the Rudd Government, as part of its shake-up of national security policy, will 'consider putting more resources into building relationships with vulnerable local communities rather than solely pumping more funds into

Defence and DFAT funding compared

My recent post criticising cuts to the DFAT budget has drawn fire. This reader agrees with my comments about the negative impact of reducing Australia’s diplomatic resources, but strongly objects to my asides that this is happening at a time when ‘Defence is being looked after nicely’ and

Friday funny: Aircraft carriers

If you thought the Australian aircraft carrier debate died with the scrapping of HMAS Melbourne in 1982, you haven't seen the design for the Navy's recently-ordered amphibious ships.  That ramp you see at the front of the flight-deck is known as a 'ski-jump', and is designed for

DFAT: Plus ca change

In foreign affairs, as in all things, some change is good and some is bad. One change that Australia's new government has made this week has been to chop tens of millions of dollars and 19 overseas positions from DFAT's capacity to pursue Australian objectives. Not only is this an unwelcome

Afghanistan: What your bright idea?

Deakin University academic Scott Burchill, a man of the left, may not thank me for this observation, but his latest op-ed for The Age sounds positively Burkean: Interventions inevitably produce many unexpected consequences and insoluble problems, including terrorism, insurgency and

Labor foreign policy: A confession of sorts

I'm one of the colleagues Michael refers to in his last post as being in the 'minimal change' camp when it comes to the foreign policies of the new government. I saw some reason to question this position even in December (a post which sparked further discussion here and here), and I

Labor foreign policy: Change is our friend

Soon after the federal election last November, I heard whispers from Canberra (and, indeed, arguments from respected colleagues) that the change of government would not result in a change of foreign policy. I took issue with this view in an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald. For most of the

A nuclear weapons-free world: Australia can lead

Almost exactly a year after their first op-ed, 'A World Free of Nuclear Weapons', appeared in the Wall street Journal, former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, former Senator Sam Nunn and other leading security experts have