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Australia wins seat on United Nations Security Council: what next?

In the early hours of this morning (local time), Australia received 140 votes from United Nations General Assembly members to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for its 2013–14 term. The result has been welcomed by both the Government and the Opposition. Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, has described the win as a tribute to Australia’s global standing: ‘it’s the world saying, we see Australia as a good country, a fine global citizen’, he said, thanking Pacific, African and Caribbean nations in particular for their support. The 15-member UNSC is the principal organ under the UN Charter responsible for maintaining international peace and security. It is ... Read more...

Myanmar update

 Events in Myanmar continue to move fast. This brief update highlights some of the key developments over the last few months. It follows the recent visit to Australia by the Speaker of Myanmar’s lower house and the historic visits to the United States by President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.Political developmentsthe prospect of a ‘second wave’ of reforms was bolstered by the 27 August re-shuffle of Myanmar’s Cabinet, which included the promotion of several reform-minded Ministers and the departure or demotion of well-known conservatives, including the resignation of Vice-President U Tin Aung Oo.meanwhile, the ongoing debate over constitutional reform was highlighted by the 6 Septemb... Read more...

The South China Sea disputes: some practical thinking from Australia

    Growing hostility between China and the Philippines, the failure of ASEAN Foreign Ministers to agree on a joint statement at their July meeting in Phnom Penh, and anti-China protests on the streets of Hanoi have re-focused international attention on long-standing maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea over the last several months. While issues like North Korea’s nuclear program and the China–Taiwan dispute have tended to dominate discussions of regional security over the last decade, one prominent Australian foreign policy analyst has argued recently that ‘it is in the South China Sea that the components of Asia’s changing power dynamics are most concent... Read more...

2012 APEC meeting in Russia: a success for Australia

The 2012 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit was held on 8–9 September in Vladivostok, the Russian Far East. Russia hosted 21 member countries at the summit and in various side events throughout 2012, which attracted over 10 000 visitors in total. The preparation costs for 2012 APEC were estimated to be A$21 billion. By comparison, the Australian Government spent just over $300 million hosting the 2007 APEC summit in Sydney, of which over $170 million was invested in enhanced security.APEC economies account for 44 per cent of world trade and 56 per cent of global economic output ($39 trillion in 2011), and comprise a total of 2.7 billion people. Major areas under 2012 AP... Read more...

43rd Pacific Islands Forum in Cook Islands: Australian contributions welcomed

The annual 43rd Pacific Islands Forum took place in Cook Islands from 27 to 31 August 2012, bringing together 16 Heads of Government, including Australia, and observing international institutions. This was also the first regional leaders’ meeting discussing implications for the Pacific Island states of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.Cook Islands, the host nation, declared at the opening of the forum that it intends to create the world’s largest marine protection area—a move which was welcomed by international environmental organisations. Eight new treaties were also signed by seven Forum island countries (FICs), settling several overlapping areas of national ... Read more...

Expert panel member provides insight into Asian Century White Paper

Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale, a member of the advisory panel helping put together the Government’s much anticipated White Paper on ‘Australia in the Asian Century’, delivered a presentation on the White Paper at the Parliamentary Library on 16 August.  A full recording of Professor Drysdale’s lecture can be found here.Professor Drysdale reinforced the enormous speed and scale of change in Asia, the major role (even on conservative estimates) that Asia would continue to play in the global economy, and its fundamental importance in shaping Australia’s future growth trajectory in the decades to come.Among Professor Drysdale’s remarks was his view that, even before its release, the White Pa... Read more...

Australia and the Arab-Israeli conflict: from ‘choosing the least of a number of evils’ to ‘strong backers of a two-state solution’

Since the early days of Israel’s creation, the Australian Government’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict has been of much public and political interest. The Parliamentary Library has just published two comprehensive Background Notes, Australia and the Middle East conflict: a history of key Government statements (1947–2007) and The Rudd and Gillard Governments and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: November 2007–May 2012, which outline the evolution of Australia’s position on the dispute and proposed solutions by exploring public statements made by each Australian Government over the past 65 years.On 10 May 1948, Prime Minister Ben Chifley, commenting on Australia’s support for the UN pl... Read more...

SBY’s visit – the bigger picture

At the second Indonesia-Australia Leaders’ Meeting in Darwin on 3 July, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono re-affirmed the two countries’ ‘comprehensive strategic partnership, based on a mutual commitment to each other’s progress, prosperity and security’. The Joint Statement agreed by the two leaders highlights cooperation across a range of issues, including regional institutional architecture, trade, defence and maritime cooperation, policing, development assistance, and people-to-people links.Despite the language of ‘partnership’, much of the public commentary in Australia concerning Indonesia remains focused on specific irritants (people smuggling, live c... Read more...

Burma's economy—the long road ahead

Following the Parliamentary by-elections in April, much of the commentary has now shifted focus from domestic political reforms and international responses to Burma’s economy and the challenge of achieving sustainable and inclusive growth. A brief discussion of these issues is important in the wake of the Australian Government’s decision to ‘normalise’ the bilateral economic relationship and last week’s visit to Burma by the Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr. During this visit, Senator Carr announced that Australia would suspend all remaining financial and travel restrictions against the Burmese Government. He also canvassed the potential for increased trade an... Read more...

The expulsion of Syrian diplomats

Image source: Voice of America On 29 May 2012 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr, announced that the highest ranking Syrian diplomat in Australia, Chargé d'Affaires Jawdat Ali, was being expelled from the country in response to recent atrocities in Syria. Ali and one other Syrian diplomat were given 72 hours to leave Australia. There has been no Syrian Ambassador to Australia since Tammam Sulaiman left Australia in October 2010. It has been suggested that the Australian Government has been delaying the processing of the credentials of the prospective new Ambassador, Mohammed Khaddou... Read more...

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