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5 June 2019

Morrison’s China silence

On Monday morning, Sydney residents woke to discover that three Chinese warships had entered Sydney Harbour. The ships, carrying 730 officers and sailors, docked at the Garden Island Naval Precinct for a four-day stopover. Canberra did not announce the visit, leading to anxious and curious news headlines, followed by Scott Morrison’s attempt to …

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29 May 2019

Scott of the Pacific

On Sunday, Scott Morrison will make his first overseas trip since the election – to the Solomon Islands, a nation of 600,000 people that has not been visited by an Australian prime minister since Kevin Rudd went there in early 2008. Back then, Rudd was seeking to fulfil a campaign promise to rekindle regional ties, after attacking John Howard for …

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22 May 2019

Morrison’s great China uncertainty

One of the curiosities of the Australian election was that foreign affairs received so little attention, despite it playing a vital part in Scott Morrison’s victory. Throughout the campaign, Morrison took every opportunity to highlight the rising tensions and escalating trade war between the United States and China. But he didn’t raise this …

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15 May 2019

Duterte’s new dynasty

Given the attention devoted in Australia to rising Chinese and Indian immigration, there is considerably little appreciation of the fact that the Philippines is now the fifth largest source of new settlers here. This century, the expanding local Filipino community has quietly overtaken the more prominent and established Italian, Greek and Vietnamese …

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8 May 2019

Asia’s residual royals

It has been a right royal year thus far for hereditary monarchs, those vestiges from a different time who still reign in modern Asia’s new power constellation of populists, capitalists and bureaucrats. In one single day last week we saw Thailand’s new King Maha Vajiralongkorn turn his flight attendant consort into his queen just prior to his …

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1 May 2019

One road, many questions

Even after last week’s intricately choreographed second global forum of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – to which Australia’s relationship remains unsettled – many questions are still unanswered. How is a project badged “BRI”? How might companies join the Chinese consortia that finance and build BRI infrastructure? With countries …

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24 April 2019

How Joko won

Last August, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, with hours left to register a running mate for this year’s election, faced a terrible choice.

He had to decide between his preferred candidate – a former chief judge – and Ma’ruf Amin, a powerful Islamic cleric who has fuelled the nation’s growing intolerance of minorities. Ma’ruf …

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17 April 2019

The election and foreign affairs

Last year, Bill Shorten promised that if he were elected, Australian foreign policy will “speak with a clear Australian accent”. He insisted he would assert Australian values, and would be confident, independent and ambitious. So, it will be interesting to see how – when it is inevitably raised during this election campaign – he handles …

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10 April 2019

India’s jumbo elections

Voting starts tomorrow in India, the world’s largest democracy. It is a hefty process that involves 900 million voters, eleven million electoral officials and 800,000 polling stations. Voting will occur on seven nominated days over the next six weeks, with the results due on 23 May.

Indian elections are an incredible feat. They reflect a …

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3 April 2019

The budget’s pitiful response

Tucked away inside last night’s budget papers was a surprisingly candid – and slightly alarming – note that revealed the extent of the government’s concerns about Australia’s global outlook. The note appeared on page thirteen of the budget statement for the foreign affairs and trade portfolio. It began by stating that the 2017 Foreign Policy …

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