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27 March 2019

Is China cutting Australia out?

Earlier this year, customs officers at five harbours in northern China suddenly blocked the passage of Australian coal. Yet they waved through shipments from other countries such as Russia and Indonesia. The block later spread to other Chinese ports, apparently to allow Chinese officials to conduct “radioactivity tests”. Australian coal typically …

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20 March 2019

Australia’s muffled voice

Since the devastating attack in Christchurch, there has been much discussion about the spread of xenophobic and anti-Muslim views in Australian media and politics. But this concern should also apply to the nation’s foreign affairs, where successive Australian leaders have put a distorted sense of diplomacy and realpolitik above principles and integrity.

In …

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13 March 2019

Australia’s ISIS expats

In Syria, the last holdout of Islamic State is finally being overrun. The so-called caliphate, once the size of Britain, attracted supporters from around the world, including from Australia, but has now been reduced to a small enclave on the Iraqi border. Those remaining – including some of the movement’s most vehement adherents – are surrendering, …

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6 March 2019

Trade deal hype

Almost nine years ago, then prime minister Julia Gillard visited Jakarta and announced that talks had started on a free trade deal that would transform ties with Indonesia. On Monday, the agreement was signed. Scott Morrison did not attend the ceremony in Jakarta, perhaps wary of reminding Indonesians of his proposal last year to move the Australian …

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27 February 2019

The Hanoi summit

Today in Hanoi, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will start their second summit on North Korea’s nuclear program. This follows last year’s meeting in Singapore, which was described by Trump as a war-averting triumph but was actually an embarrassing failure: Trump granted Kim international legitimacy and, going off-script, suspended US military exercises …

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20 February 2019

Hackers target Australia

Several years ago, an American security firm allegedly accessed the computers used by China’s military hacking unit, which operates out of a nondescript twelve-storey building near one of Shanghai’s main airports. This enabled American intelligence to piece together a day in the life of a People’s Liberation Army hacker. According to The …

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13 February 2019

Why foreign aid?

Earlier this week, a grazier affected by the recent floods in Queensland pleaded for support, asserting that the government should assist Australians rather than spend money on foreign aid. This is a familiar refrain, and it was soon echoed in national headlines. But it perpetuates a series of common misperceptions about aid: that it is wasteful, …

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6 February 2019

Lessons from Afghanistan

Australia’s longest war is coming to an end.

For eighteen years, Australian troops have operated in Afghanistan in a deployment that has been backed and extended by six prime ministers. Tens of thousands of people have died, including forty-one Australian soldiers. Now, the United States and the Taliban are negotiating a peace deal that …

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30 January 2019

The Indo-Pacific pivot

Political divisions in Washington have left the nation paralysed, yet the warring parties have found a subject upon which they can agree: China.

Last month, Republicans and Democrats in Congress backed a law that committed the US to expanding its military and diplomatic activities in the Indo-Pacific region. Donald Trump signed the bill – …

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23 January 2019

Morrison’s Pacific scorecard

Scott Morrison’s three-day visit to Vanuatu and Fiji marked – surprisingly – the first time in history that an Australian prime minister has made a bilateral visit to either of these maritime neighbours. 

Traditionally, Australia has been more focused on cultivating relations with powers that are greater than it, and has often neglected, …

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