Behaviour, the pandemic, and climate change

The behavioural changes necessary to bring about the transition to a zero carbon economy will be far-reaching, bearing on what people eat, how they work, how they travel, the recreations they pursue, and where they live. Will governments be able to rely on the go-to tools of public policy – rational choice theory and more recently behavioural economics, with its so-called ‘nudge’ techniques, to bring about the necessary changes?

Read more

Once was a hegemon: Australia and the decline of the US

Australia’s Indo-Pacific obsession hides a radical global geopolitical shift, and denies the reality that US hegemony has passed a tipping point. Increasingly, the decisive great power actor(s) in any situation will be context specific, with delineation of spheres of influence and shifting balance of power arrangements requiring Australia to be nimble, smart, and independent.

Read more

Warriors, war and Mike Pezzullo’s ANZAC Day message

What are the ‘drums of war’ that senior Australian public servant, Michael Pezzullo, can hear? His words have been understood as echoing anti-China warmongering found among some commentators and hinting strongly at the current hysteria around Taiwan. So how did the Australian government deal with a senior public servant stepping into the political limelight in this way?

Read more

Democracy militant: strategic autonomy and Europe’s lessons for Australia

The Europeans won’t join with the like-minded allies massing behind America’s banner of democracy militant. While they will add theirs to other voices standing up for human rights, international laws and norms, and multilateralism, the EU won’t follow Biden’s clarion call into an all out multi-spectrum confrontation with China. Is there a lesson here for Australia?

Read more

Biden embraces science and facts, but falls short on climate action

President Biden’s recognition of climate change, and determination to shift science to the centre of climate policy is important, and welcome. But a program that “achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the US on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050” will not be enough. Adaptation to a 3.0°C temperature rise this century must now be a focus for governments.

Read more

Taiwan: a ‘wicked’ strategic problem for Australia

For Australia, the question of Taiwan remains a ‘wicked’ strategic problem. The Taiwanese have over time established strong claims for their autonomy. The US has a huge investment in Taiwan’s security, while not denying it is part of China. And defence of Taiwan could see the island devastated, the ANZUS alliance become irrelevant, and Australia’s security lost. Why would Australia go to war over Taiwan?

Read more

The curious case of the ‘United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific’

On 12 January 2021, the then US National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, released a declassified document titled the United States Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific. The document was declassified for release on 5 January 2021, thirty years before this was due, in the last days of the outgoing Trump Administration. What should an Australian analyst make of this document?

Read more

An American theocracy: the advance of Christian nationalism

Ironically, Christian nationalist opposition to religious liberty has plagued American democracy since before the Revolution, and a strong authoritarian strain still runs through American religious thinking. The Trump Administration provided disturbing evidence of how Christian nationalists have penetrated key political institutions, with eclipse of constitutional liberal democracy by a competing virtual theocracy as their aim.

Read more

Is Trump’s 1776 Commission Report an extremist manifesto?

Trump’s 1776 Commission Report, released on 18 January 2021, puts forward ideas that are designed to give shape and logic to the notions of extremists. It is a dangerous document that provides the façade of a coherent political philosophy to hide, and to disguise, the rising illiberalism in America. The final conclusion is chilling, comparing the contemporary situation in America with previous crises that were resolved by violence and insurrection.

Read more

What should Australia want from a Biden National Security Strategy?

If President Biden produces a National Security Strategy in 2021, Australia should hope for a major shift away from that of President Trump. But not an uncritical return to the 2015 version of President Obama. If stability and a workable international system are the outcomes the Biden Administration seeks, then three deeply interwoven issues need to be given serious attention: leadership, democracy, and sovereignty.

Read more

Preparing for a 3°C warmer future: the ideological shift and institutions Australia will need

Collective emission reduction efforts of nations will not avoid 3 degrees centigrade global warming by the end of the century. Therefore, national adaptation actions will need to prepare for the worse than expected scale and impact of climate change. Earlier ideological assumptions about governments will have to give way to policies that are interventionist and systemic.

Read more

China-Australia decoupling? ASPI float a hydrogen balloon

It will become increasingly the case that if Australia doesn’t address the demands of the next economy, its prosperity, and therefore its security, will decline. In this context the development of an Australian clean steel industry using green hydrogen, proposed by ASPI’s Michael Shoebridge, looks enticing. But is it feasible of itself, let alone as part of decoupling from China’s economy? Or is it a distraction from the real economic and security issues facing Australia?

Read more