President Joe Biden announces the US will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, joined virtually by Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo by Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The growing diplomatic drama surrounding the announcement of the new Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) risks concealing rather than highlighting what the deal reveals about profound changes in the global strategic context. Several elements stand out.

First, Australia’s decision to break off the $66 billion contract it signed with France in 2016 to purchase a new fleet of diesel electric submarines underscores the heightened level of concern in Canberra about China’s growing naval capabilities.

Despite all the industrial, legal, and diplomatic disruption, the Australian government has decided only the stealthy nuclear-powered submarines developed by Britain with US support can provide the genuine naval capability it needs long-term.…  Seguir leyendo »

HMS Astute nuclear submarine, equipped with cruise missiles and torpedoes, has more firepower than any previous British attack submarine. Photo by BAE Systems via Getty Images.

Technology and cyber threats

Dr Beyza Unal

The announcement mentions developing joint capabilities and information and technology sharing across the UK, US, and Australia and picks up on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and quantum communications.

As part of this defence agreement, the UK, US, and Australia are aiming to protect the undersea fibre optic cables that provide part of the military and civilian communication for the West. Both Russia and China possess cyber and submarine technology. They could tap into these cables, allowing for eavesdropping and collecting data through cyber means. It is a matter of national and of NATO Alliance’s security to protect undersea cables.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Queensland-New South Wales border sign in Australia on Sept. 2. (Jono Searle/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“State against state, mate against mate” is the slogan of State of Origin, an annual rugby league tournament held between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. As the slogan suggests, the matches are fiercely contested, but the banter between the states’ political leaders is traditionally light-hearted.

After all, we’re all Australians.

Well, that was up to the arrival of covid-19. The past 18 months have reinvigorated the tribalism of Australian politics. Even the “footy” league series quickly became mired in unpleasantness, as the two state premiers argued over pandemic border restrictions.

As covid-19 continues to rise in Australia, so has parochialism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does YouTube, that great repository of cat videos and plumbing tips, have more exacting standards of journalism than Australia’s official media regulator?

That was the conclusion some have drawn after YouTube introduced a temporary ban on Sky News Australia — the channel controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

While YouTube declined to identify the at-fault programs, the platform deleted a series of Sky News videos promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as treatments for covid-19.

YouTube’s speedy action has been contrasted to the approach of Australia’s broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The authority is tasked with enforcing broadcast standards, but critics say its powers are limited and often not enforced.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison removes his mask before speaking at a conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on July 2. (Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Most people know someone who did well in life when young, only to fail later. Beguiled by their early success, they took their foot off the accelerator, believing that fate would always be kind.

Welcome to the story of Australia. The country has enjoyed great success in the battle against covid-19, but now finds itself falling victim to complacency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison deserves some of the blame. Back in March, he declared that the vaccine roll-out was “not a race.” Four months later, it seems clear that he was wrong.

With fewer than 6 percent of the population fully vaccinated, Australia is now dead last among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to the latest calculations by the website Our World in Data.…  Seguir leyendo »

An aerial view of coral bleaching taking place along the Great Barrier Reef on Australia's northwestern coast. (ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

Score one for the Tasmanian devils.

Or rather, score seven — since that’s the number of the squirmy little marsupials that conservationists discovered inside the pouch of a mother devil last week, making them the first of their kind to be born in the wild in mainland Australia in more than 3,000 years.

The accomplishment — the result of a decade of work to “rewild” parts of the continent’s ecosystem — is certainly worth celebrating. But I hesitate.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel a rush of excitement watching videos of the toothy little carnivores skulking about their ancestral habitat. Yet news such as this always comes with a heavy dose of sadness.…  Seguir leyendo »

Teela Reid and her grandmother. (Teela Reid)

Australia has earned a lot of misplaced praise for its response since covid-19 hit our shores. The real success story is how First Nations prioritized people over politics to pull through the pandemic.

Australia is a sacred place that belongs to more than 250 sovereign First Nations. In February 2020, before the Australian government had grasped the gravity of the pandemic, the response from Indigenous communities was swift and the message was clear: Keep our Elders safe!

Our First Nations’ Elders are the heartbeat of our Ancestors. They are the cornerstone of our kinship circles. Elders connect us to our past, ground us in the present and empower us into the future.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign warns people at a beach in Sydney on Dec. 19. (Mark Baker/AP)

Last week, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, singled out Australia’s response to the covid-19 pandemic as an example of success. “They really do get the cases almost to nothing,” he said. “We’ve never had that in the United States.”

Indeed, local transmission in Australia is limited to the occasional, isolated case. There are just 43 people in hospital. With 909 total deaths since the pandemic began, the rate of death per 100,000 in Australia stands at 3.6, compared with 163 in the United States and 188 in Britain.

Australia is hardly a perfect country.…  Seguir leyendo »

Facebook and Google have negotiated with the Australian government about a new law that will require tech companies to compensate news sites for their content. Credit Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Last week Facebook carried out what may have been the single largest content takedown in its history. Any content that looked vaguely like news, even if it very much was not, disappeared from the platform in Australia. The company was demonstrating its opposition to a law now passed by the Australian Parliament that could require technology companies to compensate news organizations for their content.

The action was a high-stakes tactic designed to improve Facebook’s bargaining position with Australian lawmakers, and it worked: The company quickly negotiated amendments to the legislation and has now committed to restoring news sharing to the site.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Facebook app icon on a smartphone in Sydney on Thursday. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

People and governments everywhere have wondered whether the world has allowed American tech giants to become too powerful and too central to the way our societies work. What would happen if they suddenly chose to use that enormous power to win an argument with a democratically elected government?

Well, this week it happened. Facebook, angry about proposed legislation that would force it to pay media companies for the content shared on its site, wiped clean Facebook pages around Australia. The country’s 17 million users woke on Thursday morning to find they could no longer post links to any news items — either local or international.…  Seguir leyendo »

A New-Media Showdown in Australia

In the face-off this week between the news media and social media in Australia, I think I am on Rupert Murdoch’s side for once. Unless I am on Mark Zuckerberg’s.

It is an awful choice. Do I root for the wizened media titan who controls News Corp and his longtime efforts to wrest power from the tech giants that have made mincemeat of the journalism economy?

Or do I stand with the King of Facebook and the bedrock internet principle that sharing hyperlinks should be free and open, even though Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation has become the prime distributor of lies and hate speech, threatening to swamp us all?…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign announcing a state government lockdown due to covid-19 is seen at Scarborough Beach in Perth, Australia, on Monday. (Richard Wainwright/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Government officials from Western Australia announced on Sunday that millions of people in the southwest part of our state would plunge into a strict, five-day lockdown after the first case of community transmission in 10 months was detected in a hotel quarantine security guard. The guard had unfortunately contracted the new strain of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.

It may seem strange to act so aggressively for a single case, but we Australians complied. There were no complaints of infringing on freedoms. No marches against masks. My city of Perth came to a standstill. The roads were quiet, and our beaches were deserted.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s nearly two weeks since Australian defence force chief Angus Campbell released the Brereton report, alleging war crimes perpetrated by Australians in Afghanistan. Two immensely difficult and challenging weeks not just for the ADF but for Afghan-Australians.

The US-led “war on terror” and intervention in Afghanistan has been ongoing for nearly two decades now, and follows the Soviet invasion in 1979. In almost 40 years of conflict, the people who have suffered the most are Afghans.

Beyond any doubt, the Brereton report has added to that suffering. For us Afghans and Afghan-Australians, it has reawakened old traumas, stirred up our grief for the land of our ancestors and, although these atrocities were committed by just a few, it has shaken our faith in Australian values, fairness, honour and truth-telling.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s now official, and much as we have been prepared for it from well-informed media reports, the news is shocking: the report by Justice Paul Brereton reveals that there is credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killings of 39 people, perpetrated by 25 Australian special forces soldiers, predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment.

Those alleged to have been unlawfully killed were all people under control – in lay terms, prisoners, farmers and other civilians.

Importantly, Brereton found that none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the “heat of battle”, none were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken, and every person spoken to by the inquiry thoroughly understood the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement under which they operated.…  Seguir leyendo »

The author, Behrouz Boochani, in 2016 while at Australia’s Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea, where he was held for six years. Credit Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

Growing up in a Kurdish family in the Ilam Province of Iran, I never expected my life to be affected by Australia’s history of white supremacy and settler colonialism. I had little awareness of Australia, a faraway country founded as a penal colony, and built on the massacres of its Indigenous people and on European migration. It was to be decades before I would hear about the White Australia policy, an official state immigration policy, in effect between 1901 and 1973, barring nonwhite people from immigrating to the country and intent on making Australia a white nation.

Yet the xenophobic legacy of the White Australia policy had a significant impact on the trajectory of my life and choked the lives of thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants who were held by Australia in offshore detention centers in its former colony Papua New Guinea and on the island of Nauru, a former protectorate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Refugee, artist and musician Farhad Bandesh has been held in immigration detention by Australia for seven years.

Years ago, during one of those hot Manus Island days, a few Australian guards entered the refugee prison camp. They snatched a broken guitar from the hands of a young musician and exited with an air of invincibility and sense of victory. The young man followed them for a whole 100m stretch in the prison and begged them to return his guitar. But every time he asked one of the officers they replied in absolute terms that he should forget about his guitar. In response to the question of why the guard was taking his guitar, he received the reply: “Having a musical instrument in prison is prohibited because you might hang yourself by using the strings.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Visitors at the Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto on the 75th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the second world war last month. Photograph: Dai Kurokawa/EPA

Seventy-five years after the end of the second world war in the Pacific, the human suffering of millions of combatants and civilians is easily overlooked in a binary focus on allied victory and Japanese surrender.

Three-quarters of a century later, Japanese humiliation still simmers in politics and among families of the surrendered or dead. On the other side, meanwhile, countless were the returned soldiers and their families who have long harboured seething hatred for the Japanese.

The Pacific war officially ended on 2 September 1945 when Japanese and American representatives signed documents formalising Japan’s unconditional surrender aboard USS Missouri.

Some 71,000 British and commonwealth soldiers, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war – among them 8,000 Australians – died in the Pacific.…  Seguir leyendo »

A kangaroo roots through charred ground in search of food on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in January. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

In the Australian bush southwest of Sydney, a wedge-tailed eagle is gliding over the paddocks. He’s on the hunt for prey. Watch a “wedgie” for long enough and you’ll see them suddenly swoop, dive-bombing toward the ground, before lifting aloft a rabbit, wallaby or small kangaroo.

There’s no sign of that today. Today, he circles, looping over hillsides filled with blackened trees. There’s no prey to find.

We’re on Tallygang Mountain Road, in an area called Wombeyan Caves. The bushfires swept through this part of Australia in early January, during a fire season which consumed more than 12.6 million hectares (about 50,000 square miles) of bush, mainly in the country’s eastern states.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘A free press is universally recognised as essential to the way any democracy should work – that’s why it is hard-wired into most democratic constitutions.’ Photograph: David Gray/AAP

For any law to be effective, there needs to be clarity. Most legislation is so mind-numbingly formal and technical because it is drafted to avoid any confusion about exactly what the law allows, what it forbids, who it applies to and the consequences of breaching it.

Yet, when it comes to the role of the media in Australia, legislated confusion abounds.

A free press is universally recognised as essential to the way any democracy should work – that’s why it is hard-wired into most democratic constitutions. The First Amendment to the US constitution protects press freedom there. The Human Rights Act does it in the United Kingdom.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on April 7. “Today is not about ideologies,” he has said. “We checked those at the door.” Credit Lukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock

Until four months ago few leaders seemed more influenced — even inspired — by President Trump’s worldview than Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison.

Mr. Morrison’s government was climate-denying, globalism-bashing and displayed an increasingly authoritarian bent. His rhetoric, even if it lacked the sriracha of Trumpetry, riffed on Trumpian themes.

And given a good crisis, Mr. Morrison’s administration seemed as determined as the White House to miss no opportunity to make matters worse — as it did with its grossly inept response to Australia’s summer of apocalyptic wild fires.

Having seen this almost impossibly low bar set for government action, many Australians have felt relief tinged with astonishment knowing that their country is today among the world’s most successful in dealing with the coronavirus epidemic.…  Seguir leyendo »