As Allan and Darren commence with their next 50 episodes, they begin with the 2020 Lowy Poll. Allan in particular is interested in the rise in Australians saying they do not feel safe, and Darren wonders what impact this will have on public attitudes towards security policy. Meanwhile, Darren is interested whether the poll reflects the sentiments expressed in PM Morrison's "negative globalism" speech last year. 

Tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that represents the disputed border between India and China are next on the agenda. While both sides seem to want to deescalate tensions, the question is what the longer term impacts might be. Just as China's recent actions have affected domestic politics inside Australia, Darren wonders whether the deaths of Indian soldiers might push India firmly into the "balancing" column. Moreover, with New Delhi's decision to ban the China-based app Tik-Tok and a number of other Chinese apps, these consequences appear to be extending beyond the military domain.

Drama continues to define bilateral relations between Australia and China. Darren opts to focus this week on a recent report from state-owned tabloid the Global Times, which says the Chinese government had uncovered an Australian intelligence operation. These claims were supported by Chinese government spokesperson Zhao Lijian who made note that 'irrefutable evidence' of the operation existed. What might this mean for Australian nationals within China, and how can the Australian government protect its citizens? Darren looks to DFAT's 'smarttraveller' travel advice website for answers, and in doing so discovers a fresh update on Hong Kong, in light of the new national security law being imposed by Beijing. 

Finally, Darren gives Allan the opportunity to respond to his own appearance in the headlines of certain Australian tabloid newspapers in recent weeks, after he was invited to speak on China to the Labor Party shadow cabinet. While Allan has recovered fully from this brush with infamy, both he and Darren worry about what these events say about the health of Australia's political institutions. 

We thank incoming AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing, and bid farewell to Maddie Gordon with many thanks. Thanks as always to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music. 

Relevant Links

Lowy Poll 2020:

Darren Lim, "A pivot to globalism, but grievances lurk", Lowy Interpreter, 24 June:

Mohamed Younis, "Americans Want More, Not Less, Immigration for First Time", Gallup, 1 July:

Fan Lingzhi and Yang Sheng, "Australia wages espionage offensive against China: source", Global Times, 29 June:

Stephen Dziedzic, "China steps up attacks on Australia, says spying allegations just 'the tip of the iceberg'", ABC News, 30 June:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,, travel advice for China:

And travel advice for Hong Kong:

"Andrew Hastie and 'Wolverines' are 'crossing a line': Former DFAT head" (Dennis Richardson's defence of Allan on Sky News), 24 June:

Penny Wong, transcript of interview with Patricia Karvelas (ABC Afternoon Briefing), 25 June 2020:

China Matters website:

Bob Dylan's 'I Contain Multitudes' discussed on the ABC's The Music Show with Robert Adamson

Letterkenny pilot opening scene:

On the occasion of the podcast’s 50th episode, Allan and Darren are thrilled to welcome Australia’s most senior diplomat and foreign policy official, Frances Adamson, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the first woman to hold this appointment. The interview was conducted on Wednesday 17 June 2020.

Immediately prior to her appointment as Secretary in August 2016, Frances was International Adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. From 2011 to 2015, she was Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, also the first woman appointed to this role.

Previously, Frances served in the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong in the late 1980s during the early years of China's reform and opening. From 2001 to 2005, she was seconded as Representative to the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei. She was also posted twice in London, including as Deputy High Commissioner.

She was Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and then the Minister for Defence from 2009 to 2010.

The conversation begins with Allan asking about how Frances, and the Department, have been dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, and Darren wonders whether the pandemic is upending the traditional practices of diplomacy. The discussion moves to the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper – in the time since, has Frances been more surprised by the pace of change, or its direction?

Foreign policy elites have arguably been repudiated by recent political developments, such as Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory. Allan asks Frances for her views on the political forces behind these events, and what the foreign policy establishment in Australia can learn.

Zooming out, and noting that the international system is in a state of disequilibrium at the moment, Darren asks Frances to describe how she hopes the order will settle over the next few decades. Referring to Foreign Minister’s Marise Payne’s speech the previous evening, Allan asks Frances for more detail about the audit of Australia’s participation in multilateral organisations that was recently completed. Darren asks specifically about the role of “middle powers” – should they specialise given their resources are limited?

The conversation moves to China. With so much material out there, what’s a good entry point for Australians seeking to learn about China, and make sense of the daily barrage of media coverage? What does it mean for both sides to “work harder” to manage the relationship? And Darren asks about the state of debate inside China – are there still live debates about the big questions of international affairs within the Chinese system, and has China made up its mind about Australia?

In the final part of the podcast, Darren asks about the balance between generalists and specialists in Australia’s diplomatic corps, and about effective models of work/life balance that Frances has seen in her career.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music. On this milestone episode, we also extend our heartfelt thanks to all our past interns. Without their help we could never have come this far. Thank you to Stephanie Rowell, Mani Bovell, Charlie Henshall, James Hayne, Isabel Hancock and XC Chong.

Relevant links

Biography of Ms Frances Adamson:

IPAA Podcast, “Getting Australians Home – The unfolding story: Frances Adamson.

Marise Payne, “Australia and the world in the time of COVID-19”, Speech at the National Security College, ANU, 16 June 2020:

Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China: 

Richard McGregor, The Party:

ANU Centre on China in the World, The China Story Yearbook:

China Matters:

After a month away from the news, this episode Allan and Darren try to catch up. They begin with tragedy and turmoil in the United States. What do the protests and racial tensions—and Trump’s efforts to handle them—say about the US? Are there any implications for Australia? Turning next to recent events in Australian foreign policy, we now have a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with India—is this significant? And what should PM Morrison do about President Trump’s invitation to the (delayed) G-7 summit in September?

Next, while noting the story is not over, Darren asks Allan for what lessons he draws from the Australian government’s call for an independent inquiry into the early handling of Covid-19, and everything followed, culminating in the World Health Assembly resolution in mid-May. Hong Kong is next on the agenda, with a focus on the logic behind Australia’s decision to issue two joint statements criticising Beijing's recent moves, rather than going it alone, as New Zealand did.

Finally, geoeconomic issues are very much back in Australian news, with proposed new foreign investment review powers for the government, a travel warning issued for Australia by the Chinese government, and reporting that the Five Eyes grouping is considering a coordinated strategic economic response to the Covid-19 crisis. What do Allan and Darren make of all this?

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing, XC Chong for research support, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Ezra Klein show podcast:

Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Republic of India and Australia, 4 June 2020:

World Health Organization, “Covid-19 Response”, 73rd World Health Assembly, Agenda Item 3, 18 May 2020:

Editorial Board, “The Coronavirus Inquiry”, Wall Street Journal, 19 May 2020:

Chen Qingqing and Liu Xin, “Australia gets ‘slap to the face’ as global community welcomes China-sponsored resolution on COVID-19”, Global Times, 19 May 2020:

Stephen Dziedzic, “Australia started a fight with China over an investigation into COVID-19 — did it go too hard?” ABC News, 20 May 2020:

Joint statement on Hong Kong national security legislation, 23 May 2020:

Joint statement on Hong Kong, 28 May 2020:

The Little Red Podcast (Facebook page):

David Crowe, “Foreign deals set to face tougher security checks”, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 2020:

Max Koslowski, “Almost 400 anti-China attacks since pandemic began”, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 2020:

Simon Benson, “Five Eyes focus on economic pact”, The Australian, 8 June 2020:

National Security Podcast, Foreign Investment and national security with Jeff Wilson, 10 June 2020:

Wind of Change podcast:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me:

Sarah Cooper’s twitter feed:

Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the public and the crisis of authority (Goodreads page):

Allan and Darren welcome Harinder Sidhu to the podcast to discuss India and Australia-India relations. A Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Harinder recently returned from a posting as the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi. Before she went to India, Harinder headed the multilateral division of DFAT while Australia was on the UN Security Council. Prior to that, she spent time in the Department of Climate Change, the Office of National Assessments, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She’s also previously had postings in Damascus and Moscow.

The conversation begins with India itself. What is the spectrum of views inside India regarding the role it should be playing in the world? How much does India’s domestic political system—both its strengths and continuing challenges—influence its behaviour on the international stage? What is India’s "pitch" for international leadership, and what would be the characteristics of an Indian "model" of international order? And does Covid-19 change the answers to these questions?

Turning to Australia’s relationship with India, while successive Australian governments have tended to “discover” India only for the relationship to recede, why might the foundations for a stronger and more durable partnership now be in place? What’s the Indian view of the bilateral relationship? What role does the Indian diaspora in Australia play, and what about Australians who are in India?

Finally, what was Harinder’s own experience as High Commissioner as a woman of Indian heritage? And Darren finishes with a very on-brand question for the podcast, asking for Harinder's views on the need to integrate economics and security into policymaking.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Harinder Sidhu, “Celebrating the ties that bind”, Speech at Hawker Ball, the opening of the Asia Society Australia Centre, Melbourne, 3 October 2019:

University of Sydney, “Meet Australia’s High Commissioner to India”, 20 November 2019:

Australian PM Scott Morrison’s Message for Raisina Dialogue 2020, 14 January 2020:

Allan and Darren welcome Dr Heather Smith PSM to the podcast. Until January 2020, Heather was Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which followed serving as Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts. Before that she was a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (including serving as G20 Sherpa in 2014 when Australia held the G20 Presidency) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as a Deputy Director General in the Office of National Assessments. She has also held senior jobs in Treasury, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Australian National University.

The interview begins with the G20, which has not performed well during the Covid-19 crisis. Is it salvageable, and what concrete things should Australia be advocating for? What else can Australia do to help our regional partners during this unprecedented crisis?

Darren shifts the conversation to industrial policy—the topic of Heather’s economics PhD thesis! How does she understand advocacy across the West for a more active state, and how is Australia positioned? Notwithstanding the vulnerabilities exposed by Covid-19, is resilience in our supply chains even realistic? And how does she view the expanding concept of national security, especially as it applies to critical technologies?

The conversation turns to the rise of populism—to what extent is economic grievance the major driver, and does Covid-19 offer a chance to “reset” public policy in its aftermath?

Allan then asks Heather, who holds a PhD in economics, what she as an economist is most likely to get wrong when observing and analysing the world? And as a non-economist, what is the thing she’s most likely to miss?

Finally, Heather, Allan and Darren all take turns in answering the question: what do you expect to be different in Australia’s world after Covid-19?

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Heather Smith, “Doing policy differently”, Keynote Address, Institute of Public Administration Australia, 22 March 2018:

Heather Smith and Allan Gyngell, “Technology will unite the post-virus world order”, Australian Financial Review, 23 April 2020:


This week Allan and Darren devote the entire episode to a wild and very tense few weeks in the bilateral relationship between Australia and China. These events kicked off with Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s call for an inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and snowballed from there, in particular with an interview conducted by China’s ambassador to Australia, duelling press releases from the Chinese embassy and DFAT, and interventions from mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.  

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing, XC Chong for research support, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

ABC article covering FM Payne’s call for an inquiry:

SBS report on PM Morrison’s first comments:

Sydney Morning Herald report on PM Morrison talking to UN, Germany, France:

Peter Hartcher column in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Embassy of PRC in Australia, transcript of Ambassador Cheng’s interview with AFR:

Report on the response from Marise Payne and Penny Wong:  

Darren’s analysis (co-authored with Victor Ferguson) on the ABC website covering the ambassador’s interview:  

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s ABC interview transcript:

Embassy of PRC in Australia, response to media question regarding the Adamson phone call:  

DFAT response:  

Article covering Kerry Stokes:

Albert Hirschman, National Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade (1945):

Money Heist (Netflix):

Dustin O’Halloran (composer of “Arrival”), Wikipedia page:

Ramin Djawadi (composer of “Light of the Seven”), Podcast interview on Song Exploder:

Covid-19 remains central to the news this week. Allan and Darren begin with President Trump’s decision to freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, and assess the validity his criticisms. Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has proposed an inquiry, but is there even an alternative? And does this case tell us anything new about great power rivalry and the future of the international order?

Darren is curious to explore the concept of “mask diplomacy”, a term used to describe deliveries of equipment and supplies by China to other countries stricken by the coronavirus. How should we think about this form of statecraft, and how novel is it, really?

In the final segment, Darren asks Allan to explain what’s behind a change in DFAT’s organisation chart, with many new senior positions being created as part of the whole-of-government response to Covid-19. Allan describes some of the many things the department is doing, and also weighs in on a (small) controversy regarding the recall of Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing, XC Chong for research support, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Jeff Mason and Steve Holland, “Trump halts World Health Organization funding amid coronavirus pandemic”, Reuters, 15 April:

Brett Worthington, “Marise Payne calls for global inquiry into China's handling of the coronavirus outbreak”, ABC News, 19 April:

Geoff Raby, “Why the bell must toll for WHO chief Tedros”, Australian Financial Review, 17 April:

Alexander Downer, “China must be held to account for unleashing a global catastrophe”, Australian Financial Review, 19 April:

Allan Gyngell, “Australia in a post-Covid-19 world”, East Asia Forum, 29 March:

Ilyana Kuziemko and Eric Werker, “How Much Is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations”, Journal of Political Economy 114(5) (2006), pp. 905-930:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Organisation Chart, April 2020:

Amanda Hodge, “Coronavirus: Canberra ‘condescending’ over withdrawal of ambassador to Indonesia”, The Australian, 16 April:

Peter Edwards, “Law, Politics and Intelligence: A life of Robert Hope”, NewSouth: 

Knives Out (film):

This week Allan and Darren try to step back from Covid-19, and have a long-planned conversation about the United States: its domestic politics, its role in the world, and the state of the alliance relationship with Australia. Allan begins by asking Darren for his assessment of what’s happening inside the US right now, amid an upcoming presidential election, the challenge of the coronavirus, and of course the non-stop news cycle that is the Trump presidency. How much will Covid-19 affect the presidential campaign? The two discuss the bipartisan hardening of attitudes towards China, the near-complete absence of US leadership during the Covid-19 crisis, and how much of the damage to Washington’s global reputation might be washed away if Trump loses in November.

Turning to the alliance, Allan draws upon his recent book—Fear of Abandonment—to provide background and context to the bilateral relationship from Australia’s perspective. Darren wonders whether the alliance matters much as a formal treaty, or whether the shared interests and values of the two nations are sufficient both to sustain cooperation, and draw them together in a crisis. Next, Allan analyses Lowy poll data showing that Australians trust the United States less, but still seem to agree that we need the alliance. Looking ahead, what will the likely frictions be between Canberra and Washington, and should Australia constantly be looking to do “more” to enhance the relationship? Thinking about the practice of Australian foreign policy, is managing the alliance relationship different to managing relations with China? And finally, do we know enough now to make an assessment of the future capability and resolve of the United States to be active in our region, as Hugh White’s recent book argues we must?

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing, XC Chong for research support, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Allan Gyngell, Fear of Abandonment: Australia in the World since 1942:

Joe Biden, “Why America must lead again: Rescuing U.S. foreign policy after Trump”, Foreign Affairs, January 2020:

Natasha Kassam, Lowy Institute Poll 2019: 

Charles Edel and John Lee, “The future of the US-Australia alliance in an era of great power competition”, United States Studies Centre, 13 June 2019:

Michael Green and Andrew Shearer, “Countering China’s militarization of the Indo-Pacific”, War on the Rocks, 23 April 2018:

Hugh White, How to defend Australia:

Ezra Klein Show, Interview with Evan Osnos:

Peter Hessler “The Peace Corps Breaks Ties with China’, The New Yorker, 9 March 2020:

Peter Hessler, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze:

Flow State (newsletter):

Covid-19 will have a profound long-term impact on the world, both within countries and internationally. In this episode, Allan and Darren make some guesses as to how the world will look different after this crisis has passed, and how Australia can position itself accordingly. They begin with the global balance of power: will China emerge as the big “winner”, or could the US rehabilitate its leadership credentials (in particular if Joe Biden wins the presidency in November)?

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in parliament this week that Australia would prove that liberal democracies can cope with a challenge liked Covid-19. Is there a battle of “narratives” between democratic and authoritarian systems? With borders closing and economies slowing dramatically, advocates of sovereignty must be pleased—how will the crisis feed into the trend towards a greater reassertion of sovereignty, the decoupling phenomenon, and the greater willingness of governments to intervene in markets? And what about the rules-based order which, aged in its mid-70s and with underlying health conditions, is in a high risk category to fall victim to the coronavirus?

Finally, Allan offers some thoughts about how the practice of diplomacy might change, and both he and Darren consider how the Australian government ought to be planning for a post Covid-19 world. 

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank new AIIA intern Maddie Gordon for her help with research and audio editing, XC Chong and Isabel Hancock for research support and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music. 

Relevant links

Scott Morrison, Ministerial Statement, 23 March 2020:

Hilary Mantel, The Mirror and the Light: 

Allan and Darren commence with an update on the novel coronavirus, now called Covid-19. How should we evaluate China’s handling of the outbreak? Given the struggles of some democratic systems—the United States in particular—is an authoritarian approach best for public health crises? Allan attended a recent speech by Labor parliamentarian Tim Watts on the health of Australia's democracy, and Watts' argument resonates here. Staying in Australia, the Morrison government has been on the front foot regarding Covid-19, getting out ahead of the World Health Organisation in declaring a pandemic—have we lost trust in the WHO, and what does the global response tell us about international cooperation more generally? 

The conversation turns to ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the first annual threat assessment delivered by Director-General Mike Burgess. How does Allan feel about ASIO “coming out of the shadows” like this and what are some of the drawbacks of establishing an annual statement? Is this a positive thing for Australia’s democracy? Should DFAT be looking to do something similar?

Finally, Prime Minister Morrison recently hosted the Indonesian President Joko Widodo and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for separate bilateral visits. Allan offers his thoughts on the state of both bilateral relationships while Darren asks: are Australia and Indonesia in a bit of a holding pattern right now, and does Allan have any advice for PM Ardern to get traction on the deportation issue, currently a major source of tension?   

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank outgoing AIIA intern Isabel Hancock for her help with research and audio editing, and XC Chong for research, and also welcome incoming AIIA intern Maddy Gordon. Thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music. 

Relevant links

Elizabeth Pisani, “The unpalatable lesson of coronavirus: dictatorships can be effective”, Prospect Magazine, 28 February 2020:

Australian Government, Biosecurity Act 2015:

Peter Hartcher, “How Australia defied global health authority on coronavirus”, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 February 2020:

Tim Watts, “Democracy and the authoritarian challenge”, Lowy Lecture Series, National Press Club, Canberra, 27 February 2020:

Lee Hsien Loong, “on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore”, 8 February 2020:

Mike Burgess, “Director-General’s Annual Threat Assessment”, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, 24 February 2020:

“Address by His Excellency Mr Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia”, 9 February 2020:

ABC News, “Tensions rise between Morrison and Ardern over deportation of criminals”, 28 February 2020:

Andy Greenburg , Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hacker:

Rory Medcalf, Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won’t Map the Future:

David Brooks, “The nuclear family was a mistake”, The Atlantic, March 2020:

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