Articles by " Graeme Dobell"

The Sydney siege and the first 100 days of the ISIL campaign

For the first 100 days of the air campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, most Australians were barely aware their country had entered a new Middle East war. Then a deadly siege in Sydney made that faraway conflict close and personal.

In the evening after police stormed the Sydney cafe and three people died, an audience of 80 gathered at ASPI for the launch of a report on the initial 100 days of what will be a long campaign. The maps in the report and the interactive map of coalition airstrikes offer what good graphics often achieve—to tell you things more directly than many words.

Constant reporting makes the point that for propaganda purposes and, increasingly, as a statement of pride ISIL is throwing troops into the battle around Kobane, on Syria’s border with Turkey. The experts dismiss Kobane’s strategic value. But ISIL keeps feeding in the cannon fodder. So the coalition keeps bombing them. The graphic expression of what that means is on page 33 of the report—the biggest red blob on the map, representing 282 airstrikes around Kobane. The Kobane figure is markedly bigger than the series of blobs for strikes in Iraq. The overall total of strikes in Iraq is certainly greater than in Syria, but the concentration of air attacks on Kobane is a vivid strand of the campaign. Read more

Just as striking is the map on page 17 showing the state of the contest for territory in November. The black dots representing ISIL-controlled territory show attack zones funnelling into Baghdad. And getting close to Baghdad; ISIL can squeeze and pressure, if not take.

The video of the ASPI launch starts with presentations by Daniel Nichola and Patricia Dias on the maps and data, followed by a panel I chaired with Peter Jennings, Tobias Feakin and Mark Thomson. The panel started with the siege and Peter’s argument that even if the gunman was crazy, he was still a terrorist and this was a terrorist act.

Then discussion moved to propaganda and the policy implications. Toby’s paper reports one striking pro-ISIL image, a photo of three bullets, each with a different top: ‘A bullet. A pen. A thumb drive…There is a different form of jihad’. On the evidence of that image, propaganda is as central as recruits and cash in reaching for the caliphate.

This war has Australians fighting on both sides. Australian jihadists are dying in Syria and Iraq as fast as they arrive, to be replaced by more Australian volunteers: 20 dead, about 70 serving fighters, and the passports of nearly 100 Australians cancelled because they were suspected of wanting to go to join the war.

The panel entered fascinating debating territory—and the audience voted—on two questions I posed, based on pieces by the Australian strategist, David Kilcullen and the ANU’s Professor Amin Saikal. The Kilcullen proposition is that 2014 saw the collapse of Western counterterrorism strategy as we have known it since 2001:

After 13 years, thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, we’re worse off today than before 9/11, with a stronger, more motivated, more dangerous enemy than ever.

The audience divided equally in the vote on whether we’re worse off today, with plenty of abstentions.

The Saikal thought is that the rise of ISIL amounts to a ‘geopolitical tsunami’. And that tsunami is one element in even bigger shifts:

From Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria and as far as Palestine and Libya, the region is experiencing long-term structural instability and insecurity. It is in the throes of major geopolitical and power shifts, the likes of which not seen since the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the British–French colonial realms nearly a century ago. The old correlation of forces in support of maintaining the status quo, especially following the Iranian Revolution more than 35 years ago, has been altering. A set of new alignments and realignments along multiple overlapping and contesting regional fault lines, including sectarian divisions and geopolitical rivalries at different levels, has come to redefine the region and possibly change its traditional political and territorial contours.

Using this, the question posed was whether Australia should volunteer for a military role in a war between Sunni and Shia, in a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Two thirds of the audience voted for Australia to continue to seek a role in the Middle East conflict.

Please sample the video as you savour the paper.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Video (c) ASPI 2014.

The Oz taxi test in the South Pacific

Fiji Pacific Harbour taxi.

To see how deeply Australia reaches into the South Pacific, try the taxi test.

Hop into a taxi anywhere in the Islands and negotiate to pay the fare in Australian dollars.

My random survey over three decades finds it’s an easy negotiation anywhere in Melanesia and much of Polynesia, especially Tonga and Samoa.

The Oz dollar fails the taxi test in Cook Islands, where the cabs can’t see beyond New Zealand. Interestingly though, Oz currency is often acceptable in New Zealand cabs. The Kiwi cabbie, of course, lives by standard Kiwi rules about exploiting gormless Australians, so usually wants to do the exchange rate at one-for-one; robbery more outrageous than the banditry at airport currency kiosks. Read more

In Melanesia, the taxi man can be relied on to know the going exchange rate to the second decimal. Allowing for commission, tip and rounding up for the whole note, it tends to be a fair exchange. Plus, it breaks the conversation ice. And interviewing taxi experts on current issues of politics, diplomacy and gossip is a standard rule of the travelling hack’s handbook (foreign correspondent chapter). In the Islands, the coconut wireless tells amazing stories—and the most amazing thing is how often they’re true.

My taxi research methodology is slapdash. The survey began merely because I was usually in a hurry, the banks always seemed to be closed, and the exchange rate offered by pubs is as extortionate as airports. After a while, though, it became part of the fun of the Pacific. The findings are offered as fact-based on another hack handbook rule: one incident is an anecdote, two constitute a trend, three similar events are hard statistical evidence. You can see the fellow feeling for the coconut wireless.

Turn now to the places where the Oz dollar doesn’t amount to fair exchange for a fare. In Micronesia, the greenback rules—only the US dollar will do. And several times over the years, attempts to do the deal in New Caledonia got a non, variously bemused, amused or straight contempt delivered with that hauteur the French are so good at.

To give the full French flavour, in several senses, I was in Noumea covering a visit by Australia’s Foreign Minister in the early 90s when it was announced with a flourish that the import duty imposed on Australian cheeses would be lifted. A cheerful French official advised this was because the relationship was improving after a bad period, plus Gareth Evans was a delightful man, despite his dreadful French (see my account here of Gareth trying to tell a joke in French) and New Caledonia was opening to its neighbours. Off the record, the French official concluded, lifting the duty wasn’t evidence that Australian cheese had actually improved.

With all that as prelude, I report an interesting finding—Noumea has changed sides on the taxi test. The Oz dollar is now as acceptable as the Euro and the French Pacific franc. And—zut alors!—the shops around the port are displaying prices in Oz dollars as well.

The reason for the shift is the giant cruise ships that now ply the South Pacific, sailing from the Oz east coast. In season, a dozen of these behemoths call in port each month, disgorging thousands of passengers, the great majority of them Australians. The extraordinary growth of cruises in the South Pacific in the last decade underlines an old lesson—relatively small shifts by Australia can have big impacts in the Islands. This is a new industry with a lot of history.

Australians heading to board their liner in Sydney, berthed by The Rocks near the old Sailors Home and the Maritime building, will speed by the Burns Philp building in Bridge Street, standing in testament to the great South Pacific shipping company that started off sailing tourists to PNG in 1884.

Going out into the South Pacific, Australians are surprised to find the Islands know us a lot better than we know them. Indeed, they remember our history in the region better than we do. Just ask the older caldoche cohort in Noumea whose vision of perfidious Oz recalls the Australian Navy turning up in the harbour early in World War II to ensure New Caledonia stayed true, no matter what happened in Vichy France.

The simple moral is that Australia matters in the South Pacific. And sometimes we have impacts without even realising that we’ve hit. Almost any taxi driver can tell you that tale, for only a small commission.

Graeme Dobell is ASPI’s journalist fellow. Edited image courtesy of Flickr user emmett anderson.

Pacific future politics

Inadvertently, Fiji has done Australia a favour in the diplomatic duel over what the South Pacific future should look like. Granted, you have to work hard to find positives in the arid argument that has reverberated around the region for eight years. The silver lining is that the contest Fiji has launched with the status-quo power, Australia, isn’t going to ebb away. It might be politer, but the debate lives. The destructive phase has finished. Time for some creation. That’s good for the Islands—and can be good for Australia. Canberra is going to have to pay attention and think new thoughts.

The status-quo power needs to work harder for its top-dog status, to deliver what the Islands need. Fiji will make it difficult for Australia to lapse into another period of comfortable South Pacific amnesia—set policy to cruise control and turn to Asia. Read more

Fiji has injected politics into the Pacific. Politics is ever messy, and Fiji has delivered a lot of mess. Pity about the coup, the destruction of the Fiji polity, the desecration of key Fiji institutions and the derailing of much that regionalism should be delivering. As mentioned, you have to look hard to find the positives, but this is the look-on-the-bright-side moment. Canberra and Suva have agreed to talk Pacific politics.

Even if Suva’s Pacific arguments are flawed, Australia can’t rest on its usual status-quo assets—aid, the magnetic and nourishing effects of the huge Oz economy, the central role of the Forum and the traditional conservatism of Island leaders. New times invite new moves.

The South Pacific has no shortage of technocrats and regional institutions. Big changes and visionary leaps, however, don’t get served up by technocrats, no matter how they title the vision papers. Big politics needs politicians willing to grapple with political necessity. Fiji has delivered the necessity. The detente between Suva and Canberra opens the game. Australia and its status-quo partner New Zealand must respond.

This series of columns has covered the political dynamic in the shift from duel to dance unfolding in the ‘new era of partnership and prosperity’ proclaimed by Fiji and Australia; the conversation Fiji and Australia have launched on regional architecture; and Australia’s rethinking of economic possibilities in the Pacific after five fruitless years of PACER Plus negotiations.

PACER is the ultimate battle of the technocrats. The previous column pleaded for politicians to redefine the terms and scale of regional integration—to mix some real politics into the trade. Consider the political as well as economic aspirations in that PACER title: Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations. The key is the CER part, reflecting 30 years of Closer Economic Relations between Australia and New Zealand.

Despite the layers loaded on CER by the econocrats and technocrats, CER was a political agreement between Australia and New Zealand as much as an economic deal. In the same way, the free-trade deals Australia has secured this year with South Korea, Japan and China are expressions of political agreement crowning the myriad and minutely-detailed give-and-take of trade talks (endless trench warfare waged at a table).

CER has delivered so much for Australia and New Zealand it takes an effort of imagination to recall that long ago it was a tough tussle in the trenches, with a big potential to fail or fall short. What would have happened to Australia–New Zealand relations if the politicians had wimped out and given in to sectional interests and parochial partisanship?

As the CER talks swerved toward failure, a senior Australian diplomat Rob Laurie sent a submission to the Foreign Minister in October, 1982, considering what a fiasco would do to the future. Read Laurie’s key thought, substituting the South Pacific for New Zealand:

We would nevertheless be concerned about the wider implications for relations with New Zealand if the CER process were to collapse. Without a new agreement the trading relationship would become complex and disputatious. Many New Zealanders (including the Government) would seek to blame Australia for their economic difficulties and for the failure of the CER effort. A New Zealand feeling that Australia had pressed for too much could in turn and in time have negative consequences for co-operation in other important areas such as ANZUS and the South Pacific.

When New Zealand crashed out of ANZUS a few years later, the economic linkages of CER were important ballast. Such history informs the argument that Australia and New Zealand must not allow PACER Plus to stagnate or collapse. Time for a political push—even a dash of vision—on what regionalism and economic integration can deliver for the South Pacific.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user Marina del Castell.

Rethinking Australia’s economic role in the Pacific

BuffetAustralia’s remaking its relationship with Fiji and promising a rethink of South Pacific regionalism. But there’s another even bigger topic on the regional renewal menu—Australia’s economic role in the South Pacific.

Having ticked off Free Trade Agreements with Japan, South Korea and China, the Abbott government can turn its attention to the Islands and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. Begun in 2009, PACER is argued dry. The one thing the Islands want from Australia and New Zealand—labour mobility—is the one thing Australia and New Zealand won’t give. Stalemate.

Time to do a deal. Time for a multi-course buffet, not a one-size-suits-all banquet; smaller dishes and more courses, so each Pacific state can move at its own pace. The Abbott government proclaims its supreme attachment to economic diplomacy. Applying the flexibility and commitment needed to get deals with Northeast Asia to what’s on offer in the South Pacific could change the game.

Read more

First, consider what the game is in the Islands. Too often in Canberra the old formula still applies: that Pacific policy is essentially aid policy with a bit of diplomacy sprinkled on top and a defence guarantee held in reserve. That’s the policy strait-jacket that has often confined Canberra since its departure from PNG in 1975.

The problem with having aid as our main policy instrument is that it cops all the blame as well as carrying all the promise: if the Islands are failing, Australian policy is failing and, ergo, so is aid.

The whole-of-government mantra chanted in Canberra for more than a decade in discussing the South Pacific is a repudiation of the formulation that aid is the start and finish of Pacific policy. True, aid still speaks loudly—because Australia provides half the international assistance that goes to the Islands. But all those dollars don’t guarantee Australia leadership, nor Island followership.

What would a trade deal look like? First, Australia and New Zealand need to shift their thinking to match what they’ve promised. Here’s DFAT’s description of the intent:

Australia’s approach to the PACER Plus negotiations is different to that taken in traditional free trade agreement negotiations. Australia’s primary objective is to promote the economic development of Forum Island Countries through greater regional trade and economic integration.

Time for Canberra and Wellington to prove this isn’t a search for a ‘traditional’ deal. Time to get smart about integration. Time to demonstrate our primary aim is to help the Islands. When God creates trade negotiators, he gives them a high boredom threshold, strong wills and even stronger bladders—but large helpings of vision or imagination tend to be optional.

The Islands already have a form of duty-free and quota-free access to Australia through the 1981 South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA). What’s left to negotiate? Goods and services can move freely, it’s now about people—and economic integration.

If PACER Plus is going to deliver new opportunities to the Islands then it must tackle the taboo of labour mobility. The enormity of that issue explains the sluggish PACER process—the same way the Pacific seasonal worker scheme had such a slow birth in Australia compared to New Zealand.

The fresh start with Fiji offers a chance to think anew about the region, because that fight marginalised so much else. The clue to what PACER Plus should be is in the name: it’s based on the Oz-Kiwi creation, Closer Economic Relations (CER), which marked its 30th anniversary last year. It’s one of the cleanest FTAs in the world, but after 30 years there’s still more to do. See the joint review by the two Productivity Commissions based on either side of the Tasman ditch.

Australia and New Zealand should take the detailed and effective CER built over decades—a long and pragmatic history—and translate it into a set-course meal of many courses. Present that new design to the Islands as a series of courses to be embraced over a long period, as each nation is ready. Each Island can move through the courses—the economic commitments—at its own pace. You’d expect a Samoa or Fiji to get through the stages much quicker than the smaller states or Papua New Guinea.

CER offers a host of buffet headings beyond tariff and quantitative restrictions (which were eliminated by Australia and New Zealand in 1990, five years ahead of schedule). The Oz-Kiwi march towards a single economic market takes you through a trade-negotiator dreamscape—single aviation market, rules of origin, single economic market, banking supervision, quarantine, and a host of integration tasks both achieved and yet to be tackled.

The politics of that prescription lie in that word ‘integration’. Make no mistake, this is an intensely political idea about the workings of a Pacific Community led by Australia and New Zealand. The reluctance of the Kiwis to embrace every aspect of integration—such as adopting the Oz dollar—shows what a difficult discussion this will be for the Islands. And at the top of the mountain—say three decades away—the prize of labour mobility.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user lhongchou’s photography.

Australia, Fiji and Pacific regionalism

Mechanics and carFiji’s declared starting point for talking to Australia about the future of Pacific regionalism is that Australia should leave the Pacific Islands Forum. Australia’s undeclared position—made clear by its actions—is that the Forum is more important than Fiji, but of course Canberra would rather have both.

Such are the tensions to be expected between the South Pacific’s chief status quo power, Australia, and its active and agitated revisionist power, Fiji. As previously noted, Australia and Fiji have set out to shift from duel to dance. The duel will still influence the dance. And in a bizarre way, the scars of the duel might actually aid the discussion Suva and Canberra have pledged to lead on regional architecture.

In the clash between status quo thesis and revisionist antithesis, any true synthesis would be a fascinating if unlikely result. Suva and Canberra may not expect any agreement on regional architecture, but the effort can go in interesting directions. Australia and Fiji have been hacking at each other so hard for so long, it’ll be hard for them just to go back to old diplomatic bromides. Read more

Still, regionalism lifts the eyes beyond all that bilateral bitterness. The stoush with Suva has stymied much that could or should have happened in the South Pacific over the past eight years. Getting back to ‘normal’ between Suva and Canberra allows the South Pacific to consider what a ‘new normal’ might look like.

The to-and-fro over Fiji returning to the Forum on the condition that Australia leave is an example of the need to tolerate occasional dissonance between Suva’s words and deeds. Staying focused means letting the odd bit of overheated oratory fly by. The fuss and finesse of Fiji-back-in only if Oz-backs-out is instructive.

When Fiji got its letter from the Pacific Islands Forum announcing that Fiji’s suspension from the PIF had been lifted, Suva responded by reportedly setting some conditions on its return. The Fiji Sun, quoted the Foreign Minister, Inoke Kubuabola, as saying: ‘Fiji is not going back to PIF till some changes and reforms are made in the organisation; for example, Australia and New Zealand to move out of PIF.’

Six days later, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, arrived in Suva and issued a joint statement with Fiji’s Foreign Minister—yes, Inoke Kubuabola—announcing ‘a new era of partnership and prosperity.’ Bishop spoke to the ABC’s Dominique Schwartz, to tackle the suggestion that Fiji would refuse to rejoin a PIF that had Oz and Kiwi membership:

Bishop: We talked not only about the Pacific Islands Forum, but other architecture in the region and we’ve agreed to continue to discuss how we can ensure that it best meets the needs of the region in the 21st Century.

Schwartz: Did the Foreign Minister say that he would like to see Australia and New Zealand either leave the Forum or take a backseat before Fiji would consider rejoining?

Bishop: No, he certainly didn’t say that and indicated that that was not his view. He wants to work with Australia and New Zealand.

Schwartz: I only ask because the Foreign Minister has been quoted as voicing those concerns in the past.

Bishop: Well he certainly didn’t voice them today.

The cover for Fiji is the agreement between the two foreign ministers to lead a discussion on ‘regional architecture to ensure it remains relevant to political, economic and social needs’. That’s a useful chat Suva and Canberra can have with the rest of the Forum, other big players like China, the US and the EU, and the plethora of other new partners from distant parts (Russia, UAE, Kuwait, Germany, Spain Israel, Turkey, Cuba….)

Australia loves the Forum. Fiji has its fresh creation, the Pacific Islands Development Forum (no Oz or Kiwi) and has continuing hopes for the Melanesian Spearhead Group (no Oz or Kiwi). So, lots of interesting stuff exists to inform this discussion. The South Pacific trails only ASEAN in its devotion to analysing its own regionalism.

Over at Devpolicy, Matthew Dornan and Tess Newton Cain put the boot into the absurdity of Australia and Fiji foisting another review—‘neither warranted nor appropriate’—on the rest of the South Pacific. They offer a good list of the myriad of recent reviews of regional architecture. To that list, I’d add the thoughts of Richard Herr and Anthony Bergin on the erosion of Oz soft power, the loss of Oz influence over regionalism, and the failings of the Pacific Plan.

On the problems of the Pacific and the shortfalls in the Pacific Plan as ‘master strategy’, see the most significant recent review, led by PNG’s Mekere Morauta, calling for more robust Pacific politics and ‘a bigger, better, deeper process of regionalism’. No problem getting Suva and Canberra to agree on the need to be robust. And following Morauta, this new regionalist effort is dripping with politics.

A Suva that can talk to Canberra rather than rail against the regional bully might be surprised at how ready the status quo power is to express dissatisfaction with what the status quo is delivering. Australia shares plenty of the region’s frustrations and it’s ready to yarn about anything, from tinkering to a total engine overhaul. But Oz isn’t going to leave the garage.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user astrid westvang.

The delights of summitry

G20 Leaders' PhotoOn the evidence of APEC, the East Asia Summit and the G20, anyone who decries summitry as a waste of time, talent and money either has a narrow view of the world or is extremely hard to please. To take just one of the players—but what a player—Xi Jinping in the space of a week has deeply delighted Oz and deeply shocked the Abbott government.

The delight was the consummation of a free trade deal a decade in the making. The shock was a climate change agreement with the US in which Canberra was surprised by Xi and blindsided by Obama. What more can you ask from summitry? Thrills, spills, twists and dramatic plot shifts—and this column isn’t even going near Putin.

The successive summits hosted by China, ASEAN and Australia produced a blizzard of images and ideas, driven by power, policy and personality. Tracking power is about the trend lines and how the narratives are sold. Read more

The intense burst of summitry offers all sorts of stories. Come on a quick dance through some bits that matter to Oz. This tour is a communiqué-free frolic. Not to dismiss the formalities—merely that power flows from summitry in lots of ways:

  • The G2 delivers. Obama and Xi changed the terms of one of the great arguments of our time. The Republican Congress hates it, but an incoming Republican president will grab a G2 that can work. And if it’s President Hillary….
  • Visions of Asia’s future have been offered to the Australian Parliament, in the addresses by Japan’s leader in July and this week by China and India. Add the Brisbane speech by the US President and Australia has a front-row seat for big picture explanations and exhortations. Obama’s rebalance recommitment stands beside Xi’s ‘big guy’ imagery. China’s President noted that many people ‘naturally wonder how the big guy will move and act and be concerned that the big guy may push them around, stand in their way, or even take up their place.’ As I heard this, the association that came to mind was the diatribe China’s Foreign Minister directed at ASEAN in Hanoi in 2010: ‘China is a big country. And you are all small countries.’ Xi, wasn’t making threats, but offering an image of peace and prosperity—or a big piece of prosperity. The big guy has a big taste for what Oz is selling.
  • The Free Trade Agreement signed by China and Australia disappointed some Oz farmers (rice, wheat, sugar and cotton) but in other areas delivered more than even optimists had hoped for. The out-of-the-quarry-and-into-services sentiment was expressed by the Australian Services Roundtable’s Ian Birks, who calls it a sensationally good deal: ‘It’s so far beyond what anyone expected that it looks to me to be more than just a trade deal with Australia but a statement by the Chinese government to the world.’ China’s statement to the world ups the ante in the competing Asian trade negotiations/narratives/visions—one led by the US (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the other centred on China (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). What the big guy has given Oz bilaterally is the basis for a multilateral banquet in the RCEP. The alternative to the TPP just got a big boost from the big guy.
  • On the sidelines of the G20, Australia, Japan and the US had their first trilateral leaders’ meeting since Sydney’s 2007 APEC. Tony Abbott had a chat with the big ‘A’ ally and the small ‘a’ ally. Almost as noteworthy was Abbott’s special meeting in Myanmar with the 10 leaders of ASEAN, marking the 40 years of Australia’s dialogue partnership with ASEAN. The big guy was the phantom at both feasts.
  • Modi Magic: Here comes India. The magic Modi delivered at the G20 was the settlement with the US—a food stockpile peace clause—giving a breath of life to the World Trade Organisation, the Doha round and the multilateral system. The summit demand for ‘announceables’ can produce real announcements. And while leaders come for the multilateral, they stay to do bilateral business. Australia tries to talk the talk about India as a major foreign policy priority. But Modi’s mere presence in Canberra—the first visit by an Indian PM in decades—injects a lot of India into Australia’s India policy.

Finally, two observations that can go in either the personality or policy categories. First, salute Andrew Robb as the standout can-do minister of the Abbott government. Australia’s Trade Minister performed as promised. In 12 months, he completed bilateral negotiations with South Korea, Japan and China—the three nations that take more than half of Australia’s exports. This column mocked the announcement of that deadline to achieve the three deals as a naive new government skipping into a minefield. Andrew Robb delivered; this columnist eats crow.

The other observation is that China is drilling down into Australia so deeply it has developed a Tasmania policy. Yes, after thrilling Canberra, Xi Jinping headed to the Apple Isle. The big guy gets around.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Twitter user TonyAbbottMHR.

Australia and Fiji go from duel to dance

Q: How do porcupines make love?

A: Carefully.

The joke sets up the Australia’s ‘new era of partnership and prosperity’ with Fiji. The goal is to avoid being impaled on the points while pursuing the pleasure. Fiji and Australia already have a lot of wounds to ignore as they embrace, carefully shifting from duel to dance. The dance will have elements of the old duel, with less overt slash and stab. But after eight years of nothing but duel, it’s back to ‘normal’ to explore what’s possible. Forget past pain to seek future gain. The new era of harmony, though, will be reached porcupine-fashion.

The embrace is cautious because the two nations have duelled for so long. Even as swords lower, the duel defines the starting point. The embrace of ‘normal’ is an attempt to think beyond the scars, yet the underlying reality of the duel persists. Much can be changed, and for the better. The new normal offers chances and the re-opening of channels that have been shut by both sides. Read more

The dance beyond the duel is about rebuilding the relationship. The dialogue—and any understanding—matters for the South Pacific, not least for the discussion Suva and Canberra are to lead on the regional architecture. The regionalism conversation between the status quo and the revisionist power will be fascinating, whatever fruit it bears.

Having spent two years waiting for an entry visa from Fiji, Australia’s High Commissioner, Margaret Twomey, finally gets to dance. The wait says something about the diverse weapons deployed in the duel—from mind games to multilateral minuets. Australia announced in December, 2012, that Twomey would go to Suva, restoring diplomatic relations to the highest level.

Despite giving formal agrément to Twomey’s appointment, Fiji’s regime refused to let her fill the post, to punish Australia for lack of respect. As with the quick peace-prosperity-and-partnership visit to Suva by the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, Twomey’s short flight from Oz to Fiji means the end of a long road; no Damascene conversions by either side, but with all sanctions lifted a new journey waits.

Twomey knows Fiji well from her previous time as Deputy High Commissioner during the 2000 coup, when Frank Bainimarama began the long march to his New Order. Having created his version of Suharto’s Golkar Party, Bainimarama rules as elected Prime Minister. Australia has accepted, as formally as it needs to, Frank’s New Order (and I’ve stopped calling him Supremo).

With democracy restored by his own hand, Bainimarama can’t get too paranoid if Australian diplomats talk to all levels of Fijian society. In the Supremo era, diplomatic activity by the Oz High Commission in the hills above Suva (Australia’s finest embassy building in the South Pacific) was seen as plotting to overthrow the New Order. Tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions followed. Furious Frank Funks are still likely, but ‘normal’ surely means all parts of Fijian society can enjoy their normal rights.

Australia had a lot of experience dealing with Suharto’s New Order and can apply those lessons. One obvious rule is to watch what the leader says, but attach real weight to what he does. Canberra is attempting a dialogue directed at actions and outcomes, while knowing there’s a good chance of gaps between declarations and deeds. Canberra is used to kicks from Suva (see Furious Frank Funks); they won’t hurt much if good things are also happening.

Another set of rules concern power and the courtiers. The role of Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is already worth a book. Aiyaz has wrapped himself so closely around the throne it’s hard to say where the ruler ends and the Attorney-General starts. When Fiji’s Parliament sits, one form of spectator sport is to track whether Aiyaz is scribbling more notes of advice and instruction to the Prime Minister or the Speaker.

Restoring military relations will offer a useful space clear of Aiyaz and close to Frank. The New Order handbook says military-to-military is a vital regime window that helps set the relationship temperature. Having enjoyed the dubious delights of military education and training in China, Fiji’s officer corps is apparently looking forward to the professional and personal pleasures of the Australian Defence Force. At the ADF Weston Creek college, Sitiveni Rabuka and Bainimarama are both on the class honour roll—for achieving staff rank, not successful coups.

In an unusual twist to New Order habits, Australia may be more comfortable re-engaging Fiji’s military than Fiji’s police. That’s because the police answer to Aiyaz. The new dance with Suva has lots of complicated steps.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Edited image courtesy of Flickr user Dru.

Getting to yes for China’s Infrastructure Bank

Yes - ¥€$Australia, South Korea and Indonesia used their status to play coy on joining China’s new development bank. Canberra, Seoul and Jakarta felt they could stand back and await further blandishment while 20 Asian nations joined China to sign up for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on October 24. But all the usual summitry scripts suggest the movement from coy ‘perhaps’ to ‘oh, yes’ starts today at Beijing’s APEC summit.

Indonesia is hinting it’ll be the first of the reluctant three to agree. It’d be quite a snub not to, given that President Xi Jinping announced the AIIB’s creation at Indonesia’s APEC talkfest last year. Getting to yes is a great way for Jokowi to start off with Xi.

The summit script says that Xi can then start to conjure personal chemistry to woo Australia’s PM and Korea’s President. Working together, Canberra and Seoul have demanded clarity and concessions from Beijing on governance, spending decisions, board structure and voting rights. Read more

Expect China to give ground to turn the coy two into converts (leaving Japan and the US as the two saying no). It’s a big ask, though, for Beijing to agree to less than half the voting rights in its own bank; an Asia asking China to play responsible stakeholder can’t quibble when Beijing stakes $50 billion. Stakeholder, indeed.

The theatrics and summit tempo call for Australia to be close to yes when Xi comes to address Federal Parliament on November 17, following Brisbane’s G20 summit. The Canberra script reads: stakeholder sunshine everywhere.

The danger is that Australia won’t get enough substance from China. Or that Beijing will get South Korea through the door alone. If Canberra goes from coyness to coldness, it’ll stand on no with Tokyo and Washington. AIIB membership means putting billions into the pot. Yet ultimately it’s not the money that’s the real judgment call. The judgment is over what sort of stakeholder Australia can be.

If Australia refuses to join China’s bank, it’ll ignore the John Howard precedent, fail the Howard test, and offer dangerous proof of Dr Mahathir’s fundamental prejudice. Precedent and prejudice in a moment.

First, see one of Oz’s geo-economic gurus and great APECer, Peter Drysdale, who calls the AIIB a ‘strategic choice point’ when Canberra shouldn’t be following Washington’s ‘negative’ and ‘churlish’ lead. On the geopolitics, see another great APECer, Paul Keating, who thinks ‘The government’s decision to decline founding membership of the Chinese-proposed Asian infrastructure bank is the worst policy decision the government has taken since assuming office’. The worst! Given the budget problems that afflicted the Abbott government in its first year, that certainly says something about the AIIB stakes.

In the next few weeks, the Prime Minister has the chance to snatch back that founding membership prize. Consider what Howard and Mahathir tell Abbott about the choice. The views of the former Malaysian leader trade at a huge discount in Canberra. Dr M was the Blizzard of Oz, raining on our Asia aspirations. That’s why it’s damning that the Abbott government could do something that proves so neatly Mahathir’s big prejudice.

Mahathir’s primary view was that on big, crunch issues Australia would always choose the US over Asia; when push came to shove, Oz was always willing to be Yanked. Saying no to the AIIB looks like a disastrous case of the Yanks. Mahathir and Keating would be in rare agreement.

Anything that proves Mahathir’s fundamental prejudice is bad for Oz, although calling Dr M in evidence doesn’t win many arguments around here. That’s why this column is leaning on John Howard who does get plenty of current reverence.

The Howard precedent is the way his government rejected the Washington consensus and US policy positions during the Asian financial meltdown of 1997-98. Australia joined Japan as the only individual countries to give special financial help to Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. Howard argues that the psychological value of this Oz action was more important than the cash. And he takes pride in the way Australia attacked both the US government and the IMF over ‘harsh’ medicine prescribed by the Washington consensus, especially that applied to Indonesia.

The Howard precedent says Washington doesn’t always get the workings of Asian finance right, and Australia walks its own path. Add to that Howard’s dry, realist line about an ever-more powerful Beijing being entitled to its ‘prerogatives’. The Howard test is the one he proclaimed hundreds of times—Australia had the smarts and the ability to work both sides, to achieve the strongest and most productive of relationships with Washington and Beijing.

If the Abbott government fails the AIIB test, it fails the Howard test.​

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user Alexandre Dulaunoy.

Australia as US satrap

Deputy SheriffThe former diplomatic mandarins of Oz think Australia is so committed to the US alliance it has mislaid its primary focus on Asia. A leading light of the ex-mandarins, John McCarthy, says Asia sees Australia as a US satrap, stating: ‘We have lost our way on Asia.’

The lament comes from a man who served as ambassador to Vietnam, Mexico, Thailand, the United States, Indonesia, Japan and India—a mandarin’s mandarin.

McCarthy says Australia’s decision not to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank illustrates the satrap image problem. The National Security Committee of Cabinet ruled against membership of China’s Asian bank on ‘strategic grounds’, after strong lobbying from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. Read more

McCarthy’s says it’s a ‘no brainer’ that Canberra should have rejected Washington’s pressure and agreed to join Beijing’s bank. His warning is not a call to step back from the alliance, to pick silly fights with Washington or to introduce false shades of difference in the alliance. Instead, it’s a plea for Australia to re-commit to its interests in Asia in ways that take it beyond the role of rusted-on US henchman.

As national president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, McCarthy told the Institute’s national conference in Canberra:

Asia is changing. If we are not seen as speaking for ourselves on security issues, people will not listen. They will see us—possibly, unhappily correctly—as an American satrap. An American satrap does not speak independently and any views we might have will simply be discounted.

The diplomatic mandarin class lined up to back McCarthy in questions and comments after his speech. Geoff Miller, 40 years a diplomat and former head of the Office of National Assessments: ‘We have to think for ourselves’. Miles Kupa, former DFAT deputy secretary, diagnoses a failure of the Oz ‘political class’. Richard Broinowski, former ambassador to Vietnam, South Korea and head of Radio Australia, says China’s going to force Australia to confront ‘more difficult choices’.

John McCarthy argues that 20 years ago the defining feature of Australian foreign policy was its focus on Asia. Australia saw itself as an Asian player and was accepted as such by Asia:

If you were asked today what is the defining feature of Australian foreign policy, my strong sense is the response you would get from leading interlocutors almost anywhere in the world is the proximity or the closeness of the US alliance…And it wouldn’t matter whether you talked to people in Europe or Northeast Asia or Southeast Asia. And that, I think, marks a very, very major sea change in the way we are now looking at the world as compared with the way we looked at the world 20 years ago.

McCarthy listed the rebuttals his satrap sally will get from serving diplomats and both sides of Oz politics:

  • the strength of trade relationships in Asia
  • bilateral trade agreements in Asia
  • work on the East Asia Summit and Australia’s continuing role in APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum
  • the number of two-way ministerial visits with Asia

(That final point, says McCarthy ‘is always used as a yardstick for the quality of the relationship with little reference often being made to the content of those visits’.)

McCarthy says the official and political response would be: ‘How can you be worried? Look at what we have done.’ But his observation, reinforced by talking to other Australian diplomats who spent years in Asia, is that for all the activity, Australia has lost sight of Asia as the fundamental and defining policy goal.

He sees that the intellectual understanding of the importance of Asia continues, but believes there’s not the energy and emotional commitment to that policy. America is easier and more comfortable for a country that belongs to an Anglo, Western tradition with a politics totally different to Asia:

It is far, far easier for a member of the Australian political class to go to Washington to be flattered by a people who are an enormously significant people, but with a capacity for flattering smaller nations which is really quite astonishing.

Australian political style—clash and smash and abuse—generates all sorts of misunderstandings in Asia. The Gillard government’s Asia Century White Paper, McCarthy says, was seen by Oz business and many parts of the community as a genuine effort to rejuvenate Australian thinking, yet it fell victim to Canberra habits:

There was a lot of political ducks and drakes going on. Eighteen ministers in the former government took credit for parts of it. By the time the politicians finished playing around with it, it bore no resemblance to what it was supposed to be. And, of course, the Opposition damned it with faint praise because it wasn’t theirs.

The Gillard government created the Asia Century White Paper but gave it no money; the Coalition ignored the policy because it didn’t own it. Politics isn’t the reason Australia refused to join China’s new Asia bank. Instead, the decision demonstrates Australia’s inability to look beyond the strategic terms of the alliance to serve its abiding Asian interests.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user Dave Conner.

Julia on attack and defence

Then Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Julia Gillard MP launching the Defence White Paper at No. 34 Squadron, Fairbairn.Julia Gillard writes that she inherited ‘unrealistic’ defence settings from Kevin Rudd and hints faintly that she bequeathed the same to the Abbott government. Just as Gillard needed a new defence policy because of Kevin Rudd, she needed a new Asia policy because of The Kevin. Gillard had to replace Rudd’s unaffordable and faltering Defence White Paper, while her Asia Century White Paper gave her a chunk of foreign policy without Rudd’s finger-prints all over it.

What was more important—the policy interests or the shadow of Kevin? Pointless question. Both sides of the equation were vital.

Remember Rule 1 of understanding Canberra: ‘It’s always personal‘. The personal shapes power and shifts policy; see Gillard’s grand swipe at Rudd and Bob Carr: ‘After the 2010 election, I never had a Foreign Minister I could rely on’.

Gillard’s book is useful on defence policy, if not as vivid in its verbal voltage as it is about Rudd’s ‘destabilisation’, ‘leaking’ and ‘treachery’. In such a spirit, turn to Julia’s demolition of the 2009 Defence White Paper. She makes familiar criticisms. But this is the Deputy Prime Minister who was present at the creation (of the mess). On the Rudd White Paper, Gillard writes: ‘The overblown nature of the prose had drawn an adverse reaction from the Chinese and the budget rule laid out in the White Paper for defence expenditure was unrealistic and almost immediately breached’. Read more

Gillard writes herself into a key moment of that overblown and unrealistic effort. The deputy PM filled in for Rudd as chair of the National Security Committee for a ‘pivotal’ meeting on reallocation of funds within Defence and new White Paper spending priorities: ‘When the meeting had to break into a series of side conversations in the corners of the Cabinet room, it was obvious that the process was unravelling and the final product would suffer as a result’. Memo to Tony Abbott: watch those side conversations in the Cabinet corners at crunch moments for next year’s White Paper.

Gillard disposes of her 2013 Defence White Paper in two paragraphs. She thinks it ‘set more modest and realistic ambitions’ and the document was ‘methodical and careful’. The muted pass mark rests on the admission: ‘Our government did not find the complete solutions’. Savour that negative nod as a moment when a politician hints that things possibly, perhaps, perchance, went less than perfectly.

Gillard gets all the headaches into one true, terse sentence: ‘Defence has historically faced massive cost, time and capability problems when undertaking major procurements’. Yep. Thus, next year, Australia will get its third Defence White Paper in six years. This is quite something for a country that had been getting by with one White Paper a decade. Are the problems bigger or the deciders smaller?

On the conflict she presided over, Gillard concludes that Australia was right to commit to its longest war but hard news looms: ‘In Afghanistan, I fear that we are to be disappointed again as democratic progress is stalled, even partially eroded, by poverty, governance incapacity, corruption, tribal politics and the predominance of the Taliban being reasserted in some areas’.

Gillard’s big shift on the alliance was the announcement during President Obama’s Canberra visit that the US Marines would train in northern Australia. Considering the policy in Cabinet, the big worries were ‘another nation’s soldiers training on our soil’ and ‘the concerns of the foreign policy establishment about the regional reaction’.

Offering a fine rendering of the mix of personality, power, politics and policy in any such choice, Gillard describes how she rejected a cautious, small-steps approach to the Marines to go all-the-way-with-Obama:

I came to this view not because it was going to be easy, indeed managing regional reaction, particularly China’s, had a high degree of difficulty. Rather I thought it was the right decision strategically for the future. It would meet an American need. It would facilitate joint training and exercises at a time beyond both our deployments to Afghanistan. It would show our preparedness to modernise the alliance between our nations. It would also send a self-confident message to our region that Australia was not succumbing to a dogma of false choices between valuing our alliance and our relationships in the region in which we live. I was also absolutely confident that the days of progressive Left protests against an American presence on Australian soil were behind us, and contemporary politics, including an America led by a Democrat, meant this initiative would be well received.

Julia was confident about handling the Oz Left and the Right of the Chinese Communist Party.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Department of Defence.

Gough’s remaking of foreign policy

Gough Whitlam 1973Gough Whitlam helped Australia think about finding its security in Asia, not to seek security from Asia.

Not least of Whitlam’s achievements was to make Australia colour-blind, in both word and deed. Harold Holt’s government, in 1966, started a quiet—almost covert—dismantling of the White Australia policy with camouflage language about ‘flexibility’. Whitlam’s government used trumpets and drums to kill the White Australia policy as loudly as possible. To the enduring chagrin of Liberals, Labor has claimed the policy honours, based on Whitlam’s characteristically emphatic and emotionally-charged embrace of non-discriminatory immigration.

As the Vietnam War edged to its bloody end, Whitlam’s thinking didn’t retreat from the region along with Australia’s troops. He wrote in his memoirs that ‘forward defence’ was based on the ‘xenophobic belief that Australia was best defended from Asia’. That ‘defended from Asia’ line reflected several layers of Oz nightmare. Read more

Whitlam’s dismantling of immigration xenophobia was mirrored in his language on defence:

We do not see Southeast Asia as a frontier where we might fight nameless Asian enemies as far to the north of our own shores as possible—in other people’s backyards.

In his policy speech for the 1972 election, Whitlam committed to diplomatic recognition of China, an end to military conscription and the maintenance of the alliance with the US as one of Australia’s ‘two great associations’ (the other was the Commonwealth). Whitlam made four foreign policy commitments ‘commensurate to our power and resources’:

  1. National security—the defence-of-Australia doctrine discussed in the previous post
  2. A secure, united and friendly Papua New Guinea—PNG became independent in 1975
  3. Closer relations with our nearest and largest neighbour, Indonesia
  4. Promoting peace and prosperity in our neighbourhood: ‘We should be the natural leaders of the South Pacific’.

Whitlam set a pattern for Australian commitment to the region and Australian support for regionalism that has been sustained by every subsequent government. No less an authority than John Howard nominates Whitlam as the foundational leader for the Great Asia Project that has united every leader since 1972.

Whitlam’s regionalist wins were minor (Australia as ASEAN’s first dialogue partner) compared to later achievements, especially the Hawke government’s creation of APEC and the Howard government’s seat at the East Asia Summit.

But the language and the orientation Hawke used and Howard utilised drew directly from Whitlam’s effort in his first days in office to create an Asia Pacific forum. That forum idea was quickly killed off by Indonesia, in an early demonstration of the veto ASEAN could wield over regional initiatives from Canberra.

Outlining his Asia forum idea in January, 1973, Whitlam said he didn’t want to change and enlarge ASEAN, but to create a broader regional association for Asia and the Pacific, to develop ‘a truly representative regional community’. That grouping should include all of ASEAN and, in line with ASEAN language, Whitlam said it would ‘insulate the region against ideological interference from the great powers’.

The following month, Whitlam flew to Jakarta ‘to demonstrate the political and economic interest that Australia would now take in the region’. Whitlam later remarked that Suharto was ‘frank’; indeed he was. Indonesia’s President said there weren’t enough common interests within Asia for Whitlam’s forum to be practicable. The Australian record quoted Suharto as doubting the ‘usefulness of a formal conference or organisation. This would only aggravate conflicting interests. ASEAN also needed to be consolidated beforehand’. Suharto said he wouldn’t want India as a member of an Asia Pacific grouping and there’d be questions about Chinese participation. We’ve all come a long way since then, and the journey has reflected Whitlam’s vision, not Suharto’s fears.

Whitlam’s final-and-forever embedding of a non-discriminatory immigration policy stands as a supreme achievement, domestically and internationally. It was as foundational in its meaning for Australian foreign policy as the opening to China, so well described by Ross Terrill.

Whitlam’s embrace of Indonesia was equally fundamental; Tony Abbott’s presence at the inauguration of Indonesia’s President testifies to the continuing strength of this policy strand. Ironically, Whitlam’s successful embrace of Suharto became his foreign policy nemesis—East Timor.

Whitlam put two points to Suharto in September, 1974. First, East Timor should become part of Indonesia. Second, incorporation ‘should happen in accordance with the properly expressed wishes of the people of Portuguese Timor’. As the head of Foreign Affairs, Alan Renouf, later wrote, Whitlam changed Australia’s position to a two-pronged policy when the two points were irreconcilable. Suharto embraced Whitlam’s first point and ignored the second. It took 25 years to undo the damage to Australia-Indonesia relations and the deadly costs for East Timor.

Whitlam’s East Timor blunder stemmed from his ambitions for Australia in Asia. The Timor stain touches the edge of the Whitlam toga, but it doesn’t gainsay that he was a big man who dreamed big dreams of Australia’s role in its own region. Gough Whitlam did much to launch Australia’s Great Asia Project and much that he dreamed has come to pass.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of Flickr user Carl Guderian.

Gough’s remaking of Defence policy

Phuoc Tuy Province, Vietnam. 10 October 1966. Gough Whitlam, then Deputy Leader of the Federal Opposition, has a laugh during a talk with Private Wayne Weldon of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.Gough Whitlam was a physical giant with an intellect to match. His flaws were pretty sizeable, too, and the pygmies who beset him were often from his own party. His self-mocking humour was immensely appealing, and could only be carried off by someone with giant status: ‘I’ve never said I’m immortal. I do believe in correct language. I’m eternal; I’m not immortal’.

The Strategist is the right place to appreciate the bigness of the man’s ambitions—and significant achievements in foreign and defence policy. This post will consider Defence.

During his three years in government, from 1972 to 1975, in the agony of the final days of the Vietnam War, Whitlam delivered Australia two immensely valuable strategic benefits that are still central today. He held on to the US alliance and he helped give birth to an understanding that Australia could defend itself. The two thoughts aren’t truly opposed and Whitlam’s achievement was to embrace them both in ways that made it possible for them to become the heart of Australian defence policy, strongly supported by both sides of politics. Read more

Whitlam’s coming to power was the moment when Australia could’ve turned away from the US alliance. In the dark days of Opposition, Jim Cairns went close to beating Whitlam in a close-run caucus leadership ballot. The vote was all about an acid question aimed at their giant leader—‘Whose party is it, his or ours?’ Luckily, Labor decided it was Whitlam’s party.

A Cairns leadership—or merely a post-Whitlam leadership—could’ve seen Labor go down the road David Lange took New Zealand. The bitterness and disillusion of Vietnam would’ve been the context and the cause would’ve been ALP opposition to US bases in Australia. Nixon’s intense displeasure at the critical comments about Vietnam coming from the new Australian government would’ve meant there was no mood of compromise in Washington.

Whitlam preserved the core structure of ANZUS and fought off the efforts of the ALP Left to close the US intelligence and communications bases. Hanging on to the alliance was an important call, and Whitlam made it. Part of the trick was the rhetoric about a new and more confident Australia that shifted beyond a subservient dependence on the US. After Nixon’s ‘Guam doctrine’ moment in 1969—allies would have ‘primary responsibility’ for their own defence—Australia had started to grapple with the implications of the demise of ‘forward defence’ in Southeast Asia and what a Defence-of-Australia policy might look like.

Under Whitlam, the Arthur Tange revolution was launched upon the Defence Department, amalgamating five departments and giving birth to the term ‘Australian Defence Force’. The conceptual changes that swept through Canberra meant that it was the Fraser government in 1976 that brought down an accurate rendering of the new defence policy Tange had created for Whitlam.

After the bitter political division over Vietnam, conscription and the alliance, the Whitlam Labor and Fraser Liberal governments enshrined a bipartisan defence consensus that has lasted more than 40 years. Australia could create an independent capability for its own defence and action in its own region that reinforced rather than weakened the US alliance.

To see Whitlam’s role in that achievement, see that first Australian Defence White Paper in 1976 (PDF) as a joint Whitlam-Fraser achievement, delivered by Fraser but built by Whitlam. At its core were Whitlam’s thoughts about the need for Australia’s ‘new role’ and the stress on the need for Australia to be self-reliant:

We no longer base our policy on the expectation that Australia’s Navy or Army or Air Force will be sent abroad as part of some other nation’s force, supported by it. We do not rule out an Australian contribution to operations elsewhere if the requirement arose … But we believe that any operations are much more likely to be in our own neighbourhood than in some distant or forward theatre, and that our Armed Services will be conducting joint operations together as the Australian Defence Force.

The battle over what those thoughts mean for the ADF still rages in Canberra, but Whitlam’s role in putting them at the heart of Australian policy (and quickly moving on from the trauma of Vietnam) is unarguable.

Graeme Dobell is the ASPI journalist fellow. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.