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22 July 2020

Morrison kneecaps DFAT

On 1 July, Scott Morrison unveiled a new defence strategy for Australia. The government’s A$270 billion plan and its intention to develop a more offensive military force have proved contentious, but there was little to disagree with in its justification for the strategy: increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific region are heightening the risk of …

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15 July 2020

Spy vs Spy

On 23 August 2018, the Turnbull government released a media statement that revealed Canberra would not allow Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei to participate in Australia’s 5G mobile network. It mentioned …

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8 July 2020

Morrison’s defence fantasy

Military strategy is the art of deciding how to use armed force to achieve strategic objectives. It is not one of Australia’s strengths. The federal government spends tens of billions annually on submarines, major warships and fighter aircraft that are only useful in major wars, and it pays little attention to how it would use them in a conflict.

That’s …

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1 July 2020

The Pacific bubble

Last Friday, Xi Jinping wrote a letter to congratulate Taneti Maamau on his re-election as president of Kiribati. Xi, whose letter celebrated the new-found warmth between the two countries, had good reason to be pleased. Last year, Maamau cut ties with Taiwan, switching Kiribati’s allegiance to China. In January, he travelled to Beijing to meet …

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24 June 2020

Morrison’s cyber games

At 8.43 a.m. last Friday, Scott Morrison’s office announced that the prime minister would be giving a press conference at Parliament House in seventeen minutes. This was unexpected, as Morrison was due to travel that morning to the seat of Eden-Monaro, to support the Liberal candidate in the upcoming by-election. At 9 a.m., Morrison appeared before …

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17 June 2020

It’s not another Cold War (yet)

On Tuesday, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne criticised China and Russia for spreading disinformation and using the COVID-19 pandemic to “undermine liberal democracy to promote their own, more authoritarian models”. This criticism followed Scott Morrison’s attack on China last week, in which he condemned Chinese economic “coercion” …

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10 June 2020

Modi and ScoMo bond over China

Since early May, the armies of China and India have engaged in regular clashes, resulting in the deployment of thousands of troops to their disputed border in the Himalayas. Neither side wants a full-scale escalation – the conflict has involved fistfights and rock-throwing, not shooting – but the standoff is a reminder of the fractious relationship …

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3 June 2020

In a bind over Hong Kong

Last Thursday, China introduced a new national security law for Hong Kong – its most serious violation of the “one country, two systems” principle since Britain handed over the territory in 1997. In 2003, similar laws were proposed but mass protests prompted Hong Kong’s chief executive to drop the bill. This time, the law was not proposed …

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27 May 2020

Trump pushes Australia towards Europe

Since the election of Donald Trump, the United States has made two far-reaching changes to its foreign policy: it has officially labelled China a rival, and it has abandoned support for international agencies and rule-making. Both positions have hardened since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the White House released a report detailing …

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20 May 2020

COVID-19: Canberra’s China blunder

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization resolved to hold an inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia led the initial call for an inquiry, and the strong support for it from the WHO’s decision-making body should have been a victory for Australian diplomacy. Instead, the resolution was ultimately drafted by the European Union, which, unlike …

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