The West is slowly losing the contest for pre-eminence in the emerging international order. Brexit is just one manifestation of the crisis of confidence enveloping liberal democracies beset by a rising tide of dissent, self-doubt, identity politics and a loss of trust in the foundational institutions of the post-World War II order. Read more
The latest volley of North Korean ballistic missiles, one of which flew over northern Japan, has pushed tensions on the Korean peninsula to a perilous tipping point where war is no longer unimaginable. The real prospect of a military conflict between nuclear-armed North Korea and the US and its allies underscores the recent deterioration in Australia’s security environment. It raises the question of whether our foreign policy is calibrated for the challenges ahead in a world that is becoming a far more dangerous and volatile place.
With exquisite political timing, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un effectively gatecrashed this week’s G20 summit and US Independence Day celebrations by test-firing his country’s first genuinely intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
We have become so used to Kim’s provocative missile diplomacy and the impotency of the international response it’s easy to dismiss this latest missile test as likely to elicit nothing more than the customary ineffectual hand-wringing.
But this time it’s different.
The rejection of the extradition treaty with China by an unusually diverse coalition spanning the political spectrum should be a reality check for proponents of closer ties with a country that shares few of our core values. Read more
Australia’s forthcoming foreign affairs white paper needs to factor in the potential threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missiles to our northernmost cities and to embrace stronger ties with the US and Japan, analysts say. Read more
Defence experts and industry figures say it makes sense for Christopher Pyne to take on a new senior defence industry role in cabinet but warn against Mr Pyne’s using the job to favour his home state of South Australia. Read more
The Greens’ aspiration to become a mainstream political party was underlined last week by leader Richard Di Natale’s foray into defence and foreign policy, an area which is unfamiliar terrain for a party that began life as an environmental protest movement.
The sympathetic Left predictably applauded Di Natale’s sentiments but offered little in the way of supporting arguments for his speech to the Lowy Institute, which challenged many of the established tenets of Australian defence and foreign policy. The Right also failed to seriously engage with Di Natale’s arguments. The Daily Telegraph dismissed his speech as the ramblings of the ‘‘loony Greens’’.
A little remarked consequence of the fact Australia is part of an interconnected world — no longer isolated by geography or tyrannised by distance — is the quantum surge in people and goods crossing our borders.
During the past decade, there has been a 60 per cent rise in international passenger movements and 34 per cent in the number of travel visas issued. Imported sea cargo has increased by 50 per cent and air cargo a staggering 450 per cent, from 6.1 million consignments in 2005-06 to 33.6 million in 2014-15.
The Turnbull government has boldly proclaimed that the new defence white paper “is the most rigorous and comprehensive in Australia’s history”. This is not just rhetoric. The white paper articulates a viable strategy for the Australian Defence Force that is potentially transformational and should ensure the ADF is properly equipped to deter and defeat the multiplying defence and security challenges confronting the nation.
What sets this white paper apart is the muscularity of the envisaged defence force, which bears all the hallmarks of Tony Abbott’s persona and hard-nosed approach to defence and national security.
Hugh White’s considered response to the questions I posed in our recent exchange in the Lowy Interpreter on the fundamentals of Australian defense strategy prods me to elaborate on my previous arguments as well as to make some counterpoints. Read more