Tuesday 21 May 2019 | 21:22 | SYDNEY
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Australia’s presidential politics

Watch enough sport in Australia and the so-called “Americanisation” of culture is readily apparent. In Australian rules football, where contract arrangements increasingly follow the example of US sports, commentators often slip from referring to resting players on the bench or the pine to being

Australia’s election: what the hell just happened?

Not everyone who was hoping for a Labor victory took the loss well. But if, as the sore losers claimed, the unexpected return of the centre-right Morrison Government shows that Australians are racist, greedy, mean-spirited and stupid, then it must have come over the electorate rather quickly.

Charting 50 years of turning tides in Australian politics

Australians will choose a new national government on 18 May in the context of two underlying trends: a record number of independents already now in office across the country and a political cycle that points to a Labor victory. The below chart of elected members of parliament across the

Trafficking in old anxieties

Are the boats back? Once again a reliable fear of “uncontrolled” immigration has been invoked in an Australian federal election. This time current Prime Minister Scott Morrison has framed “border control” as a question of “congestion-busting” in major cities – and instead of the usual

Adapting to climate change: the priority for Australia

Adaptation to climate change was for a long time considered as an abstract issue for the future, something that would need to be worked out later by someone else. Adaptation, in short, is a process of preparing to live with a changing climate where most of our definitions of typical weather and

Visa tussles: here come the Irish again

The Irish campaign to gain access to the E-3 visa in the United States has roared back to life.  Currently, Australia is the only country with access to the 10,500 E-3 visa slots. Yet Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who led a delegation of US legislators on a visit to

ISIS: the generational problem

The fate of perhaps as many as 70 children born to Australian mothers and caught up in the Iraq-Syria conflict has been the focus of Australian media attention. There are calls for them to be repatriated on the grounds that they should not be tarred with the same brush as their parents. An episode

The cost of terror: two tales of country life

One country town, two people. One of them a hero who added to the legacy of the uncomplicated stoicism and selflessness that Australians popularly associate with “the bush”, and the other someone who betrayed it. Last week two people from the small Riverland town of Loxton in South Australia (

Economic diplomacy: trade and infrastructure battles in Asia

Each way bet Australian businesses are simultaneously becoming more dependent on China and traditional Anglo markets just when the country’s foreign policy thrust is to diversify links to major emerging nations such as India and Indonesia. This at a time a new survey of business attitudes to

Australia’s PNG gateway: far north Queensland

Just a few kilometres separate Papua New Guinea and Australia at their closest point. But when it comes to migration procedures, people on both sides of the Torres Strait can sometimes feel like the countries may as well be on separate planets. Visas remain a constant obstacle to building a

Who bears responsibility for the Children of ISIS?

The death of UK teenager Shamima Begum’s newborn son and the recent video of an Australian woman in Syria calling to be returned home with her sick infant daughter has brought the issue of ISIS minors and the role of the home government in safeguarding these citizens to the forefront. By

Responding to China’s not-so-secret influence campaign

Sam Roggeveen wrote recently on the need for the government to be more forthcoming about its security assessments on China, specifically, allegations of influence and interference activities conducted within Australia. The trigger was Andrew Robb’s interview for the ABC, in which the ex-

India: never quite in focus

Last month, Financial Times columnist Edward Luce asked, what would it take for India to get America’s attention? His question was rather aptly answered a couple of weeks later with a spot of brinkmanship in Kashmir (Pulwama terrorist attack: Modi under pressure), meaning India hit the

Economic diplomacy: trade and traps in ASEAN

Middle aged spread Southeast Asian countries are about to become the primary focus of Australia’s public diplomacy this year as the “Australia now” program stretches its budget from the usual single country approach to all ten countries of the ASEAN group. This stepped-up

Australia and Indonesia trade: deal (not quite) done

The signing on 4 March of the Indonesia Australia–Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) has been hailed as a major bilateral trade agreement and a diplomatic breakthrough given recent tensions between Canberra and Jakarta. However, now the negotiations are concluded, there may

How open should Australia be about the China challenge?

Former trade minister Andrew Robb made news yesterday when he criticised former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy, Barnaby Joyce, for the “toxic” state of Australia’s relations with China. It’s just the latest skirmish in a heated and occasionally quite hostile debate in

Canberra’s Pacific pivot is bereft of vision

A refreshing wave of Pacific-mania is sweeping Canberra. There’s new postings, a new Office of the Pacific, a high profile visit from the prime minister to the region, and two major announcements on Pacific infrastructure: the creation of the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for

An Australian model for the renewable-energy transition

Australia is experiencing a remarkable renewable energy transition. The pipeline for new wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity systems is 6-7 Gigawatts (GW) per year for the period 2019-21. This equates to 250 Watts per person per year compared with about 50 Watts per person per year for the

Matthew Flinders, national pride and dinner diplomacy

On 25 January, archaeologists announced that the body of Matthew Flinders, who had completed the first circumnavigation of Australia in 1803, had been found under London’s Euston station. The discovery excited Australian interest more than it perhaps otherwise would. Three days earlier, Prime

The long tail of the al-Araibi case

With Hakeem al-Araibi now landed in Australia, returned from Thailand, what seems like a totally unnecessary crisis looks to be over. After some 11 weeks of excruciating limbo, and with numerous heroic efforts here in Australia and elsewhere to free the refugee footballer, now vindicated, it

Doctors help the moral case for border security

On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill supporting the transfer of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for urgent medical care. The bill, initially put forward by independent MP Kerryn Phelps in late 2018, provides expanded capacities that allow two doctors

Film review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Jackson achieves magnificently his professed goal of making a film about the human experience of the war. The commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War were so regular that by 2018 a degree of commemoration fatigue seemed to have set in. Was there anything more than could be said

Blocking asylum, by sea and air

The case of Saudi teen Rahaf Al-Qunun dramatically demonstrates the difficulties many refugees face when attempting to escape the risk of harm at home and find safety elsewhere – whether they travel by leaky boat, or through international airports surrounded by business travellers and holiday-

What is the F-35 for, exactly?

The Royal Australian Air Force announced last week that it has commenced flight operations with the first two of its new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. When the first full squadron of F-35s is operational in 2020, the Air Force will have made a substantial capability leap, particularly in “data

Australia’s new Pacific Czar

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now established an Office of the Pacific, a measure foreshadowed in 2018 as part of Australia’s Pacific “step up”. Ewen McDonald, formerly High Commissioner in Wellington and a Deputy Secretary in DFAT, has been appointed head of the Office.

Australia articulates its Indian Ocean priorities

At the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship geopolitical conference held last week in New Delhi, Australia’s high-level presence was noticeable. Foreign Minister Marise Payne led the delegation from Canberra and was accompanied by Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell. Campbell’s

Aid mergers: no unscrambling the egg

Britain’s former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has called for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to be rolled into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). This would be a monumental mistake for a country looking for relevance in a post-Brexit world. Over the past two

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