Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, right, and the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, at a recent meeting on the sidelines of an international summit in Singapore.CreditCreditMick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

A wealthy country that should be well placed to prosper as global power shifts toward Asia, Australia is stumbling into a crisis of relevance in the region.

The old Australian posture as an affluent outlier in Asia with the stature to do as it pleases — a country that could switch from being a regional bully on refugee policy to being a neighbor’s best friend without being punished for its double standard — is no longer viable.

This is a crisis largely of our own making. A decade of political self-indulgence at home risks leaving us without a credible voice in Asia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Security forces, including ships from the US Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy, patrol around P&O Cruises ship Pacific Explorer, which hosted part of the APEC summit in Port Moresby. Photo: Getty Images.

It was the diplomatic equivalent of a food fight. At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, held last week in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the United States and China traded barely-veiled barbs and their growing rivalry prevented agreement on a final communique for the first time since the organization’s founding nearly 30 years ago.

Many equate these results with failure. But the forum accurately reflects the region’s evolving geostrategic dynamics. Importantly, the gathering provided a platform on which those dynamics could unfold peaceably, if contentiously – which is exactly what APEC should be doing. And, also true to APEC’s intent, it allowed for the advancement of the interests of smaller players while they tried to navigate the dilemma of great power competition.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sits in a chair before Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, in September.CreditCreditMick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock

One of the most quoted lines about Australia goes as follows: “Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”

These words, published in 1964 by the Australian journalist and intellectual Donald Horne in his seminal book “The Lucky Country,” still ring true more than five decades later. Even more so in the current moment, as Australia has grown from a lucky country to perhaps the luckiest.…  Seguir leyendo »

Moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv ‘sends a message to hardliners in Israel that they can continue on their ruinous course of a Greater Israel with a majority Arab population denied a vote’. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

We don’t settle on an Israel policy to please our Asian neighbours. No one should even hint we should. Shifting the embassy is wrong in principle.

It takes off the negotiating table the status of Jerusalem, which we always said needed to be settled by the two parties. It undercuts the promise of the Oslo accords and any number of UN resolutions. It positions Australia with Guatemala as the only nation to follow Donald Trump.

It sends a message to the Palestinians of the West Bank that there is no hope. It sends a message to hardliners in Israel that they can continue on their ruinous course of a Greater Israel with a majority Arab population denied a vote.…  Seguir leyendo »

Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, whose stance on the Israel embassy is escalating into drawing room farce. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

In June of this year, party members at the Liberal party’s annual federal council voted in favour of moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, endorsing Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East policy.

The push to follow Trump had bubbled up from the party’s conservative base and from the youth wing. The June vote was a totemic gesture in line with the resting (or perhaps restive) disposition of the faction that likes to control the play in the Liberal party of 2018.

The then foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, was quick to rule out changing Australia’s long-held policy. She understood “the sentiment behind this resolution” but she was clear the embassy relocation would not be happening.…  Seguir leyendo »

In 1985, the Australian entrepreneur Paul Ramsay took a tour of Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. So impressed was he with the luxurious “white castle” mansion and its grounds that he decided to buy it right there and then. In Mr. Ramsay’s hands, the property became a popular tourist attraction and resort. The resort’s website continues to revel in Nottoway’s antebellum glory days, while neglecting to make any mention of the slave labor from which it was built.

A similar desire to whitewash the past informs the institution that Paul Ramsay has left Australians as his legacy: the Ramsay Center for Western Civilization in Sydney.…  Seguir leyendo »

Flags outside the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru in September. Photo: Getty Images.

The countries of Oceania have wildly different economies – Papua New Guinea (PNG) exported close to $4 billion in oil and gas in 2016, while in Tonga, the biggest commodity export was $11.6 million worth of agricultural products. But what they have in common is a history of communal landownership, an emphasis on social capital (as opposed to financial capital), and cash-strapped governments.

In many cases, the first two combine to supplement the shortfalls of the last. There may not be government-funded welfare, but someone in the extended family likely has access to land where they can grow food, or will share their fish catch, or will do a church fundraiser to help with school fees.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia's central bank, in Sydney. Stagnant wages and a decline in union membership have contributed to income inequality.CreditCreditJason Reed/Reuters

Ten years ago, when the world economy suffered its most severe slump since the Great Depression, Australia was the only advanced country to avoid a recession.

While double-digit unemployment ravaged many nations, Australia’s jobless rate stayed below 6 percent. The hit to our housing was minimal, and the impact on the Australian stock market was temporary. It took until 2013 for the United States to return to pre-Great Recession living standards, but Australia bounced back by 2010.

Today, though, this country’s so-called miracle economy isn’t looking so miraculous. While major economies like those of Germany and the United States have unemployment rates below 4 percent, Australia’s has been stuck around 5 and a half percent, higher than the average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of mostly wealthy nations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia has had 7 prime ministers in just 11 years

In late August, Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull to become Australia’s 30th prime minister. After much infighting, Morrison became the leader of the conservative urban Liberal Party — which rules in coalition with the conservative rural National Party.

Australia has had seven prime ministers in just the past 11 years. The three previous prime ministerial changes immediately preceding an election effectively boosted the government’s popularity. This recent prime ministerial swap instead made the government more unpopular.

This was a foreseeable outcome. So why would a party take this route?

In most multiparty parliamentary democracies, the choice of prime minister is often the result of compromise between a few parties — that’s how it works in most European countries, for instance.…  Seguir leyendo »

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young at an Australian Greens news conference at Parliament House in February.CreditCreditMichael Masters/Getty Images

Slut shaming — that is, turning women’s sexuality into a weapon that can be used against them — may be a new term, but it is an ancient practice in Australia.

The first ship to arrive here after the First Fleet, which brought our earliest settlers, was the Lady Juliana, in 1790, which carried female convicts and is to this day referred to as a “floating brothel.”

As recorded by the historian Sian Rees, the passage of these women — many of them former London prostitutes who had been banished to the colonies as penance — exemplified the true burden of slut shaming: its permanence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia Wants to Take Government Surveillance to the Next Level

A state’s capacity to spy on its citizens has grown exponentially in recent years as new technology has meant more aspects of our lives can be observed, recorded and analyzed than ever before. At the same time, much to the frustration of intelligence agencies around the world, so has the ability to keep digital information secret, thanks to encryption.

That’s why the main intelligence agencies of the Anglophone world are now hoping that Australia will lead the charge in developing ways to get decrypt information at will, and to tap into data that was previously kept secret. A proposed law, the draft of which was released last month by the cybersecurity minister, is an aggressive step in that direction.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull leaves a press briefing at Parliament House in Canberra on 23 August. Photo: Getty Images.

Malcolm Turnbull’s ouster as Australian prime minister had long been a matter of when, not if.

And, in what has become the new normal in Australian politics, his departure marks the fourth Australian prime minister in a row given the boot by their own party colleagues prior to completion of a full term: Kevin Rudd (in 2010), Julia Gillard (2013), Tony Abbott (2015), and now Turnbull. Few will be surprised if the current incumbent, Scott Morrison, is similarly dismissed before too long.

This political turmoil – reflective of deep internal divisions within the Liberal and Labor parties and the slim, fractious parliamentary majorities they have been able to muster once in power – has had a serious impact on Australia’s international presence and leadership.…  Seguir leyendo »

This 2016 photo shows dead coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Researchers think global warming causes heat-induced bleaching. (Greg Torda/ARC Center of Excellence/AP)

In Australia, Scott Morrison was sworn in as prime minister (PM) on Friday night, after an internal party revolt that led to the downfall of Malcolm Turnbull, who had been PM since September 2015. Conservative backbenchers within Turnbull’s own right-leaning Liberal party rejected his proposal to address climate change through an emissions-reduction target, and challenged his leadership.

Why is climate such a politically explosive issue in Australia? Depending on whose count, this is the third or seventh time that an Australian prime minister has been brought down by climate issues.

Australia is quite vulnerable to climate change, but complicated domestic politics have prevented the country from addressing the problem.…  Seguir leyendo »

Malcolm Turnbull, left, was replaced as prime minister this week by Scott Morrison, right.CreditCreditLukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock

Another Australian leader has been brought down by his own party, bringing the total number of prime ministers since 2010 to six, one short of the record of seven between 1901 and 1909, in the first decade of federation.

This particular coup came with a Machiavellian twist. The fallen prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, thwarted his conservative rival Peter Dutton on Friday by transferring his support to another candidate, Scott Morrison, who was then elected prime minister by 45 votes to 40. It left the government divided between its hard-right and moderate factions, and the public bewildered by the weeklong conservative tantrum.…  Seguir leyendo »

Would My Family Pass an ‘Australian Values Test’

When I was growing up, there were times when my corner of Sydney did not feel all that Australian.

As newly arrived immigrants, my family got our start sharing the house of a Korean minister in Campsie, a working-class suburb with a large immigrant population. My parents set up their businesses in Eastwood and Chatswood, and served a predominantly Asian client base. On weekends, we shared the table with Korean friends and sang Korean hymns at church.

This was a fact that I, with a teenager’s allergy to outsiderness, resented. I measured our successful integration as migrants by our proximity and resemblance to the majority of Australians — and by this measure, we were failing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Advocates for refugees who are languishing in camps demand that the asylum-seekers are resettled in Australia.CreditSaeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As Australia faces the global virus of xenophobia, the country’s early history provides a warning of the social and economic costs of isolation.

Australia was one of the richest settlements on earth when it was a British colony with open borders in the 19th century. But it retreated when it became an independent nation in 1901, and it endured almost half a century of economic stagnation before it opened its doors again to mass immigration after World War II.

The leaders of the main political parties continue to support an expansive immigration program and profess to abhor racism. But this cherished bipartisanship is in danger of fracturing.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The prediction is that in two decades, half of all car trips in Melbourne at peak times will be congested, up from a third now.’ Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

I’m a citizen of Melbourne. That’s all. Not an economist, nor a politician, a property developer, a demographer. Just a resident with an affection for the city, with all its flaws and idiosyncrasies.

As a citizen, nobody has been able to explain to me clearly why Melbourne, and Australia for that matter, should be absorbing so many new people every year, at a rate far higher than the OECD average, faster than other developed nations, with no feasible plan to cope with it.

The epicentre of what former New South Wales premier Bob Carr calls Australia’s “weird experiment” is Melbourne, my town.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Australian Nationals party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, center, looks down while sitting in parliament in Canberra, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Joyce quit as party leader and deputy prime minister over a sexual harassment allegation. Credit Rod McGuirk/Associated Press

Australian politics these days feels like a story in People magazine. Political journalism, indeed Parliament itself, has been reduced to a forum for rumors about sex.

It all began in February with the sensational news that Barnaby Joyce, then deputy prime minister, had been having an affair with an aide, who is now pregnant. Eventually Mr. Joyce resigned from his leadership post and retreated to the backbench. But the government’s response to the scandal ensured it would linger on.

Having initially insisted that Mr. Joyce’s predicament was a private matter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull swiftly changed his view and introduced a formal ban on sex between ministers and their staff.…  Seguir leyendo »

La nación de los canguros

El canguro rojo (el mayor de todas las especies de canguro) es el animal nacional de Australia. Hay canguros en el escudo de armas del país, en las monedas, en los uniformes deportivos y en los aviones de la aerolínea australiana más popular. Si salgo de excursión y veo a estos magníficos animales a los saltos por el campo australiano, no puedo dejar de sentir que estoy en un país único, provisto de una flora y fauna distintiva. Pero como demuestra un documental reciente internacionalmente aclamado para el que me entrevistaron, “El canguro: una historia de amor-odio”, la relación de Australia con los canguros tiene un costado mucho más oscuro.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Sydney, thousands of banned firearms were collected in 1997 as part of the Australian government’s buyback program after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, in which 35 people died when a gunman went on a shooting rampage. Credit David Gray/Reuters

The rampage at a high school in Parkland, Fla., has prompted calls for an Australian-style response, as have previous massacres in the United States. Australia introduced a comprehensive gun control regime after a massacre in Tasmania 22 years ago, and mass shootings here dropped to zero. Some experts regard it as the most effective gun control system in the world.

But the Australian model won’t work in the United States. Here’s why: We Australians have a profoundly different relationship with weapons. Americans love guns. We’re scared of them.

This difference explains why a conservative prime minister was able to confiscate some 650,000 privately owned firearms and ban semiautomatic weapons without a single reported act of violence.…  Seguir leyendo »