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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Connectivity, competition and contention: is ASEAN up to the challenge?

With Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull preparing to host the upcoming Australia–ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Special Summit on 17–18 March in Sydney, the Parliamentary Library has published a new research paper by one of Australia’s foremost experts on ASEAN, Dr Frank Frost. Dr Frost’s paper provides a comprehensive overview of Australia–ASEAN engagement, with a focus on developments since the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of relations in 2014. Read more...

Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper: what role for the Parliament?

The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, launched by the Government on 23 November, places a strong emphasis on the role of values and institutions in shaping Australia’s international outlook and interests. It states:  Read more...

Authoritarianism ascendant: Cambodia’s politics and Australia’s dilemmas

The recent decisions by the government of Cambodia to arrest opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason  charges, force the closure of a major English-language daily (as well as over a dozen radio outlets), expel a US funded pro-democracy group, and place new strictures on political parties do not bode well for the country’s already frail democracy. Many analysts, civil society groups and human rights activists view these decisions as portents of a further move toward one-party rule under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) government ahead of national elections scheduled for 2018. For its part, the CPP has&nb... Read more...

Turkey: from bad to worse

The Turkish Government’s ongoing response to the 15 July coup will almost certainly exacerbate, rather than address, the significant problems it has been facing in recent years. Turkey’s Kurdish issue, the threat from Islamic State, Syrian refugees and its increasingly polarised society are key challenges for Turkey, as are its tumultuous foreign relationships. And these challenges will only be compounded by the inevitable divisions within the military following the failed coup and Erdoğan’s now-widespread efforts to purge the country of any opposition.  Read more...

How might a Trump presidency affect Australia?

The US Republican Party is poised to nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for the November 2016 presidential election. Trump has no previous experience of governing, no record of military service and has evinced little interest in policy details. He has, however, suggested that Muslims should be prohibited from entering America, that Japan and South Korea should consider developing nuclear weapons, and praised authoritarian leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. These compliments have been reciprocated, illustrating that Trump is no ordinary candidate. Given its close strategic relationship with America, it is timely to assess what a Trump presidency might mean for Australia. Read more...

A smaller ‘Indo-Pacific’: more detail on Australia’s 2015–16 aid cuts

In the wake of further reductions to Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) programs in the 2016–17 Budget, recent government responses to Questions on Notice (QoN) from Senate Additional Estimates hearings reveal more about where previous cuts have been applied. Read more...

Less Bangkok, more Geneva? Security cooperation, human rights and Australia–Thailand relations

In the same week that Australia co-hosted regional peacekeeping exercises with the Thai military, which seized power in a May 2014 coup, it also raised concerns at a United Nations (UN) review about the worsening human rights situation in Thailand. This comes at a time when Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is alleging that a Thai woman has committed royal defamation, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in jail under the country’s strict lèse majesté law, by failing to reprimand her son for a Facebook message he sent her. In December 2015, a Thai man was charged for allegedly insulting the King’s dog. Read more...

2016—a big year for Laos

This year will be an important year for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR).  Laos is among Asia’s smallest and poorest nations, but is also one of the world’s fastest growing economies.  In January, the communist Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), from which the country’s secretive ruling elite is drawn, completed its tenth party congress and chose Mr Bounnhang Vorachit, 78, as its new leader.   Read more...

Israeli election 2015: six stand-outs

Following a typically lively 14-week campaign, Israelis went to the polls on 17 March. Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly remain in that post, most probably forming a right-wing/religious coalition.  Read more...

‘Diplomatic terrorism’: Palestinian statehood, the United Nations, and Australia’s voting record

The issue of Palestinian statehood is once again before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority submitted an application for full UN membership. Needing UNSC approval for such a bid, the application was eventually withdrawn or not fully pursued, under the public threat of a US veto. Now, with a new application possible, a look back at Australia’s voting record on this issue provides some hints as to how Australia might vote if an application for Palestinian United Nations membership is made before 31 December. Read more...

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