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

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The world’s youngest nation falters: keeping the peace in South Sudan

Two and a half years after gaining independence from Sudan, the newly formed nation of South Sudan has erupted into violence that could potentially lead to civil war. Tensions among the ethnic Nuer and Dinka groups have recently escalated and there have been reports of widespread violence and killing across the country. Ongoing political disputes are at the root of the current unrest. Media reports indicate the former Vice President, Riek Machar (an ethnic Nuer who was dismissed in July 2013), attempted a coup against President Salva Kiir (an ethnic Dinka) and has allegedly taken control of key parts of the country. Read more...

Australia's first G20 sherpa meeting

Australia is the G20 host in 2014 (a process that started earlier this month on 1 December). Its first meeting as host will be held on Thursday and Friday this week (12-13 December). Senior officials (sherpas) from G20 nations will meet in Sydney, beginning a process that will culminate in the leaders’ summit next November.The Group of Twenty (G20) is ‘the premier forum for international economic cooperation and decision making’, with representatives from 19 member countries and the European Union. The G20 calendar has multiple events, and many non-government organisations (amongst them international institutions and regulatory bodies, businesses, and civil society groups) will be providing ... Read more...

Aung San Suu Kyi and Australia’s new relationship with Myanmar

The Australian Government has confirmed that Aung San Suu Kyi will visit Australia from 27 November to 2 December. This will be Suu Kyi’s first visit to Australia and follows her visits to the US, the UK, Europe, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand over the last eighteen months.Traditionally, Western images of Suu Kyi have portrayed her as a lone heroine fighting tyrannical army generals. As Myanmar experts like Andrew Selth have argued, with her release from house arrest in late 2010 and the far-reaching reforms that are taking place in Myanmar, Suu Kyi now inhabits a much more complex set of roles in contemporary Myanmar politics.First, Suu Kyi is the leader of a political party, the National L... Read more...

Segregated, stateless and at sea: Myanmar, the Rohingyas and Australia

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, will travel to Myanmar this week where he has stated he will raise the recent sectarian violence in Rakhine state, including the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority, with the President and the Foreign Minister. He has previously flagged that he may seek to personally visit Rakhine to assess the situation as part of this trip. Following two major outbreaks of violence in June and October 2012 which killed 192 people, the situation in Rakhine has been described as one that has descended into ‘a Burmese form of apartheid’ in which ‘Rohingyas are corralled into squalid, semi-permanent internal-refugee camps’. More recent episodes o... Read more...

The African Union’s Golden Jubilee: reflections on Australia’s relationship with Africa

On 25 May 2013 (Africa Day), the African Union celebrated its 50th anniversary. Originally established in 1963 as The Organization of African Unity with 30 states, it now has 54 members. In 2010, Australia signed a memorandum of understanding with the AU’s Secretariat, the African Union Commission, and this year’s Golden Jubilee provides an opportunity to reflect on Australia’s diversifying relationship with Africa.The African continent continues to face significant human security challenges, to which Australia has contributed in excess of $0.5 billion in aid annually since 2010–11. African nations (such as Ethiopia and Mozambique) are among the fastest growing in the world, with a combined... Read more...

A snapshot of Southeast Asia in 2013

This year promises to be another big year in Southeast Asia, that part of Australia’s region where our economic and security interests are most actively engaged.Both Malaysia and Cambodia will conduct national elections in 2013. In the case of Malaysia, where the election must be called by April, the upcoming poll has been characterised as the most competitive in the country’s history. This is despite ongoing concerns on the part of opposition parties and democracy activists about possible vote-rigging by the country’s governing coalition, the Barisan Nasional. Cambodia’s elections, scheduled for July, take place against the backdrop of rapid economic development, continued pursuit of closer... Read more...

Delisting the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK)

Two months ago, on 28 September 2012, the US Secretary of State formally removedthe Iranian group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MeK), from the US Government’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and delisted it as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, in recognition of the group’s renunciation of violence. This is a significant milestone for the MeK which was first designated as an FTO by the US Government in 1997 and whose repeated attempts since then to be delisted have failed a number of times. The delisting follows similar rulings in the UK in 2008 and the EU in 2009. While Australia has never proscribed the MeK as a terrorist organisation, in December 2001 the Australian Governm... Read more...

Mongolia at a crossroads: opportunities for enhanced engagement?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Mongolia. On 13 November 2012, the Australian National University hosted (in collaboration with partner institutions) the inaugural Mongolia Update conference. It followed the official visit to Australia by Lieutenant General Tserendejidiin Byambajav, Chief of the General Staff of Mongolian Armed Forces on 8–10 November 2012 as part of the 15th Annual Chiefs of Defence Conference in Sydney.Background Mongolia is currently at a crossroads in its economic development. Australia’s relationship with Mongolia, a resource-rich transition economy that has experienced a mining boom in recent years, is expanding. World... Read more...

China’s new leadership—personalities, process, politics, priorities

China’s eighteenth National Communist Party Congress has concluded with the unveiling of its new leadership team, the Politburo Standing Committee.  This is the fourth leadership transition since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949 and marks the shift to China’s ‘fifth generation’ of political leaders.  The transition takes place as China continues its ascendancy as a regional and global power and at the same time as the CCP is attempting to manage a range of social, economic, and political challenges.The personalitiesAt a press conference in Beijing on 15 November, following the week-long Party Congress, China’s new leadership was unveiled to its people and the world.  ... Read more...

Australia in the Asian Century: regional security and foreign policy dimensions

On 28 October, the Prime Minister released the Government’s ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ White Paper.  The Parliamentary Library has released several publications examining different aspects of the White Paper and the reactions to it:  Australia in the Asian Century: aiming for the ‘top ten’Australia in the Asian Century: improving university rankingsAustralia in the Asian Century: Asian studies in schools This piece discusses the regional security and foreign policy dimensions of the White Paper (chapters eight and nine).  Regional security Whilst acknowledging serious challenges, the White Paper adopts a largely optimistic view of the region’s geo-political future.  It is a future in ... Read more...

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