The new Labor government has begun its term with a whirlwind of activity for Australia in the World. Allan and Darren begin their analysis with the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where Defence Minister Richard Marles gave his first major speech and met with his Chinese counterpart. Next comes Prime Minister Albanese’s visit to Indonesia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s visits to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, and the episode finishes with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s controversial disclosures regarding AUKUS negotiations, and news of a financial settlement over the aborted French submarine deal.

We thank Annabel Howard for audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Richard Marles, “Address: IISS 19th Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore”, 11 June 2022:

Richard Marles, “Press conference, IISS Asia Security Summit, Singapore” 12 June 2022:

Remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (As Delivered), 11 June 2022:

“China will fight to the very end to stop Taiwan independence: Defence minister | Shangri-La Dialogue”, General Wei Fenghe speech at Shangri-La Dialogue (video), 12 June 2022:

Anthony Albanese, “Address to Hasanuddin University”, 7 June 2022:

Penny Wong, “Speech to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat”, Suva, 26 May 2022:

Peter Dutton, “Labor must not torpedo crucial submarine plan”, The Australian, 8 June 2022:

With Australia's federal election results (mostly) known and a new Prime Minister and Foreign Minister sworn in, Allan and Darren examine the meaning of the election and what lies ahead for Australia in the world. As they first discussed in 2019 (episode 19), it is the practice of all government departments to prepare an “incoming government brief”: a document presented to the new (or returning) minister for each department, for the purpose of providing a descriptive overview of what the department does, and highlighting the most important issues facing that particular portfolio as the new term commences. Allan and Darren offer their own thoughts on these matters in this episode. 

However, the election result itself is significant in its own right, so before discussing the path ahead for the new Labor government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the specific challenges facing Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Allan and Darren offer their own analysis of the result - both those factors specific to Australia but also what it might mean in a broader comparative context. 

We thank Dominique Yap for helping out with audio editing today, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Transcript, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, "Quad Leaders’ Summit; Australia’s relationship with China; Solomon Islands; Russia; Taiwan; AUKUS; climate change", Tokyo, 24 May 2022: 

The Jezabels, Ten Year Anniversary Tour: 

The Girl from the North Country: 

With Australia’s federal election to be held this Saturday, Allan and Darren conduct a quick discussion of the role foreign policy has played over the past month during the campaign, and what we can learn regardless of who will form government. Then, to finish, eyebrows are raised in response to reporting detailing secret conversations between very senior Australian and US national security officials regarding AUKUS and the US' need for bipartisan support for the deal within Australia.  

We thank Annabel Howard for research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Kishor Napier-Raman, “An oddly civil election debate, before Dutton finds a warship-shaped dead cat”, Crikey, 13 May 2022:

Little Red Podcast, “Kevin Rudd: Is War With China Inevitable?”, 28 April 2022:

Nick Bisley, Robyn Eckersley, Shahar Hameiri, Jessica Kirk, George Lawson & Benjamin Zala (2022) For a progressive realism: Australian foreign policy in the 21st century, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 76:2, 138-160:

Asia-Pacific Development Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue:

Peter Hartcher, “Radioactive: Inside the top-secret AUKUS subs deal”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May 2022:  

Peter Hartcher, “Biden demanded bipartisan support before signing AUKUS. Labor was not told for months”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May 2022:  

Peter Hartcher,  “AUKUS fallout: double-dealing and deception came at a diplomatic cost”, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2022:

Linda Jaivin, The shortest history of China, Black Inc:

Yun Jiang, Rethinking China (video), 8 May 2022:

Ezra Klein Show, "What does the ‘post-liberal right’ actually want?", Interview with Patrick Deneen, 13 May 2022:

Pekingology podcast, “Foreign and Security Policymaking in Xi Jinping’s China”, Interview with Suisheng Zhao, 6 May 2022:

Foreign policy has been thrust to the forefront of the Australian election campaign, with the announcement this week that Solomon Islands and China have officially signed a security agreement. Allan and Darren talk through the background, logic, politics and implications of the deal. Their core focus is on Solomon Islands itself – the interests of the government in entering this agreement and the risks, what Australia has done and could in future do to protect its own interests, and what the pact might mean for the region’s security into the future.

We thank Annabel Howard for research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.  

Relevant links

Bill Birtles, Stephen Dziedzic and Evan Wasuka, “China and Solomon Islands sign security pact, Beijing says it is 'not directed at any third party' amid Pacific influence fears”, ABC News, 20 April 2022:

Marise Payne and Zed Seselja, “Statement on Solomon Islands”, 25 March 2022:

Joanne Wallis and Czeslaw Tubilewicz, “Saying China ‘bought’ a military base in the Solomons is simplistic and shows how little Australia understands power in the Pacific”, The Conversation, 25 March 2022:

Prime Minister - Transcript - Press Conference - Tonsley, SA, 20 April 2022:

China Solomon Islands Security Agreement and Blue Pacific InSecurities (Youtube video), 21 April 2022:

David Crowe and Eryk Bagshaw, “China could have Solomon Islands military base within four weeks”, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2022:

Sam and Lawrence Freedman, “Comment is Freed” newsletter:

Bruno Macaes, “A war of world-building”, The City Journal, 3 April 2022:

Both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese delivered pre-election foreign policy speeches this month, and this episode analyses them together.

Relevant links

“An address by PM Scott Morrison”, Lowy Institute, 7 March 2022:

Scott Morrison, “Virtual address, AFR Business Summit”, 7 March 2022:

“An address by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese”, Lowy Institute, 10 March 2022:

Graeme Wood, “Absolute power”, The Atlantic, 3 March 2022:

“American Utopia” (trailer):

David Byrne, “One fine day” (live), Spotify:

With the world watching in shock at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Allan and Darren describe how the crisis, and in particular the world’s response, are (and are not) causing them to reconsider their priors about how politics and international affairs works. Allan describes how impressed he has been with Europe’s response, while Darren is completely surprised at the speed and magnitude of the economic and financial sanctions imposed on Russia, in particular its central bank. Meanwhile, Allan reflects on the contingency of the Biden presidency, wondering how things would have been different had Donald Trump been president and what that says about the variability of the United States as a factor in world politics. Darren considers the responses of regional powers such as China, India and the ASEAN countries. Finally, they discuss early implications for Australia.

Relevant links

Anne Applebaum, “The impossible suddenly became possible”, The Atlantic, 2 March 2022:

China Talk (podcast), “The new old cold war with Tooze and Klein”, 1 March 2022:

Adam Tooze, “Chartbook #89 Russia’s financial meltdown and the global dollar system”, 28 February 2022:

Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye (1987) “Power and interdependence revisited”, International Organization 41(4): 725-753.

Patrick McKenzie, “Moving money internationally”, Bits about money (newsletter), 2 March 2022:

Paul Kelly, “Morrison’s Mission: A Lowy Institute Paper”, Penguin Specials, February 2022:

The Ezra Klein Show, “Can the West stop Russia by strangling its economy (with Adam Tooze), 1 March 2022:

Australia will have a federal election in a few months, but Allan and Darren are sceptical that substantive foreign policy debates will feature during the campaign. Accordingly, this episode they decide to have their own debate to try to help listeners think through some of the important issues that will (probably) be ignored. They consider four central questions that will shape the future of Australia in the world, and try to offer their best arguments for and against each proposition.

The questions are:

  1. Assuming a fixed funding envelope containing defence and foreign policy, Australia should shift resources and attention from the defence portfolio into foreign affairs.
  2. Australia needs a “reset” in its relations with Beijing and Canberra should be the one to initiate concessions. The specific proposal is that the Australian government adopt a policy of not commenting on China-specific human rights issues – Xinjiang, Tibet, and other domestic repressions.
  3. AUKUS, a scaled up 5 Eyes, and the Quad form the fundamentals of a new Australian architecture for engaging the world, and should be given priority over multilateralism.
  4. Assuming a fixed funding envelope, foreign policy resources should be shifted away from the South Pacific and into Southeast Asia.

Most importantly, Allan and Darren do not necessarily offer their own views on the individual questions, but the best argument each can muster, whether it coincides with their opinions or not. Moreover, they deliberately swap sides across the questions and probably contradict themselves in the process. So, please, no quoting us out of context!

The questions are framed in terms of concrete policy agendas where there could, in principle at least, be coherent and substantive disagreement. The questions avoid “more” propositions that posit “we need to do more” or “we need to spend more” since, by themselves, such propositions do not acknowledge the trade-offs. The questions also concern issues that relate as much as possible to the foreign and defence policy realms, and are not intimately linked with domestic issues that would unavoidably shape the debate. This means two major omissions – climate change and border protection.

Once the ‘formal’ debate is over, Allan and Darren conclude by discussing the underlying themes that tie the questions together and which likely shape one’s perspective on Australia in the world.

We bid farewell to Mitchell McIntosh and give our most heartfelt thanks for his contributions to making the podcast a success. We welcome Annabel Howard, and thank her for her help this week. Thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

James Wise, “The Costs of Discounted Diplomacy” ASPI Strategic Insights Report #168, February 2022:

Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue, Australia and Southeast
Asia: Shaping a Shared Future (Canberra 2022):

Ian Bremmer, “The Technopolar Moment: How Digital Powers Will Reshape the Global Order”, Foreign Affairs, November/ December 2021:

January 30, 2022

Ep. 91: Ukraine

Allan and Darren venture far outside their comfort zones this week to give some thoughts on the escalating crisis between Russia, Ukraine and NATO. This is an interesting and important issue because it brings together so many of the central questions in international relations. These include: the use of military coercion and other forms of deterrence; the behaviour of great powers, the role of diplomacy and signalling; the links between strategic and economic interests; the politics of the transatlantic relationship; the role of alliances; and the practical meaning of norms like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘self-determination’.

While not all of these can be covered in depth in a single episode, they all inform Allan and Darren as they offer initial opinions of the strategic context and stakes involved. These events are important to Australia because of their potential impact on the international order and, in particular, America’s role in it. Along the way, the discussion covers the specific phenomenon of “spheres of influence”, the geoeconomic dimensions, and whether there is any scope at all for for multilateral organisations to contribute. The episode finishes by looking at how the Australian government has responded and thinking about what Beijing’s perspective might be.  

Relevant links

Adam Tooze, “Putin’s challenge to western hegemony – the 2022 edition”, Chartbook newsletter #68, 12 January 2022:

Ross Douthat, “How to retreat from Ukraine”, New York Times, 22 January 2022:

Francis Fukuyama, “Why Ukraine matters”, American Purpose, 24 January 2022:

Rob Lee, “Moscow’s compellence strategy”, Foreign Policy Research Institute, 18 January 2022:

Greg Earl, “Bitcoin vs the IMF, and other great expectations”, Lowy Interpreter, 27 January 2022:

Plain English podcast, “The Biggest Losers of the Streaming Wars: ESPN, Movie Theatres, Peacock, and More”, 18 January 2022:


(Other interesting readings, in chronological order)

Tyler Cowen, “What Will Putin Do Next? Game Theory Offers Some Clues”, Bloomberg, 19 January 2022:

“What would a Ukraine conflict look like” Rachman Review Podcast, 20 January 2022:

Edward Fishman and Chris Miller, “The Russia Sanctions That Could Actually Stop Putin”, Politico, 21 January 2022:

Noah Smith, “Why is Ukraine such an economic failure”, Noahpinion newsletter, 23 January 2022:

Fiona Hill, “Putin Has the U.S. Right Where He Wants It”, New York Times, 24 January 2022:

Michael Kofman, “Putin’s wager in Russia’s standoff with the west”, War on the Rocks, 24 January 2022:

Daniel Drezner, “On deterring Russia”, Washington Post, 26 January 2022:

Center for Defense Strategies, “How likely is large-scale war in Ukraine?”, The Kyiv Independent, 29 January 2022:

Kyle Wilson, “Putin’s NATO power play stirs disquiet among Russia’s security elite”, ASPI Strategist, 29 January 2022:

For their first episode in 2022, Allan and Darren look back over the past 12 months, starting with the international landscape and then focusing on Australia. First up, what big lesson did 2021 teach them? Interestingly, both focus on the United States in their answers--but how much is domestic dysfunction in the US actually affecting Biden’s foreign policy? Second, did the world’s experience with COVID-19 over the past year affect any of the major trends in international affairs? While at the end of 2020 there seemed to be a clear dividing line between ‘competent’ and ‘incompetent’ government responses, that distinction appears far less clear a year later. Third, what other notable trends emerged or crystallised across the year? For Allan, signs of a reversal of the long period called “the great convergence” are quite concerning, while for Darren the big picture structural trends are mostly unchanged. 

The same questions are asked about Australia. Allan (cheekily?) describes 2021 as Australia’s response to a ‘fear of abandonment’, while Darren is interested in how the change in US administration affected foreign policy rhetoric from the Morrison government. Looking forward to 2022, both Allan and Darren offer both expectations and hopes for the coming year, internationally and for Australia. Both expect that 2022 will be a calmer and more stable year--how quickly might they be proven wrong?

On that cheerful note, a happy new year to all!

Relevant links

COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic by The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response, May 2021:

Anne Applebaum, “The kleptocrats next door”, The Atlantic, 8 December 2021:

Colin Kahl and Thomas Wright, Aftershocks: Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order (St Martin’s Press, 2021):

Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp, Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why It Matters (Harvard University Press, 2021):

In their final episode for 2021, Allan and Darren kick things off by discussing President Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”. Having debated the merits of democracy as a foreign policy organising principle in Episode 77, they now ask: was the actual summit a net positive, despite controversies prior to and during proceedings? It seems clear Beijing was displeased, but Allan and Darren partially disagree on whether a “competition of systems” is the right frame to understand these dynamics. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken rolled out the Biden administration’s much-anticipated Indo-Pacific Strategy – but was there much there?

Next up, PM Scott Morrison hosted South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, the first visit of a foreign leader to Australia since borders closed. Was this a significant visit, and was it more about geopolitics, or economics? How much scope is there for cooperation between Australia and South Korea?

Third, Australia does appear to be participating in a political boycott of the Beijing Olympics, but PM Morrison’s announcement of this decision was rather unorthodox. What’s going on, and can such boycotts be effective? Darren is interested in how the case of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is elevating public visibility of human rights issues, creating extra pressure on Beijing, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as the February games approach.

Finally, both the Olympic boycott and, prior to that, the momentous AUKUS decision were not announced to the public with speeches or formal statements. Is this a growing trend in the public articulation of Australian foreign policy? Does it matter?

Best wishes for the holiday season to all, we’ll be back in 2022!

Relevant links

US Department of State, “Summit for Democracy”:

“Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy is not all that democratic”, The Economist, 6 December 2021:

Humeyra Pamuk and Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, “The curious case of a map and a disappearing Taiwan minister at U.S. democracy summit”, Reuters, 13 December 2021:

Scott Morrison, “Virtual address: Summit for democracy”, 11 December 2021:

Jessica Brandt, tweet regarding Hamilton 2.0 dashboard data on Chinese mentions of democracy summit, 13 December 2021:

Mareike Ohlberg and Bonnie Glaser, “Why China Is Freaking Out Over Biden’s Democracy Summit”, Foreign Policy, 10 December 2021:

National Security Podcast, “How the Chinese Communist Party sees China’s place in the world”, 9 December 2021:

Xi Jinping, “What's the fundamental reason for China's growing strength? in Governance of China:

Lowy Institute Poll, “Democracy”:

Secretary Blinken’s Remarks on a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Fact Sheet, US Department of State, 13 December 2021:

PM Morrison and President Moon, Joint Press Conference transcript, 13 December 2021:

Stephen Dziedzic, “Is South Korean President Moon Jae-in's visit more about geopolitics or commerce?”, ABC News, 14 December 2021:

Scott Morrison, Press Conference, Penshurst NSW, 8 December 2021:

Li Yuan, “Its Human Rights Record in Question, China Turns to an Old Friend”, New York Times, 14 December 2021:

“Beijing Winter Olympics boycott is insignificant, says Macron”, BBC News, 9 December 2021:

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use it, Penguin:

Olivia Rodrigo, Good 4 U:

Sufjan Stevens, Once in Royal David’s City:

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