Thursday 21 Mar 2019 | 06:40 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Global Issues

If 5G takes a little longer in Australia, all the better

The fifth generation of cellular network technology promises much higher performance in terms of data throughput, speed, and lower latency. This will unlock a regime of new digital technologies that have been developing on the sidelines for some time. Scholars contributing to the neuroscience in

An orthodox economic take on climate change shocks

In a debate as politically fractious as climate change, it is useful to have credible voices joining the fray. On Tuesday night, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) waded into the waters with a speech by Deputy Governor Guy Debelle. It has immediately been seen as an urgent call to action. More

An Australian model for the renewable-energy transition

Australia is experiencing a remarkable renewable energy transition. The pipeline for new wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity systems is 6-7 Gigawatts (GW) per year for the period 2019-21. This equates to 250 Watts per person per year compared with about 50 Watts per person per year for the

A certain boredom? Taking stock of democracy in 2019

Even in a world “characterised by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy”, a renowned political theorist once wrote, people will nevertheless “struggle against that peace and prosperity”. Despite relative contentment with the general state of affairs, “a certain boredom” will drive

The new Middle Eastern space race

The launch of the first Israeli mission to the Moon is a milestone for lunar exploration and for private spaceflight.   Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/Cd8nGQwrhd — SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 22, 2019   The Bereshet spacecraft is a small lander, carrying a few instruments and some

Mark Zuckerberg and the revolt of the public

I joined Facebook in 2010. As if by magic, the lives of ‘friends’ lost in time and space materialised on my laptop, so I could partake of their everyday moods, their exotic vacations, their children’s sporting events. This triumph of intimacy over distance accounted for Facebook’s

Doctors help the moral case for border security

On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill supporting the transfer of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to Australia for urgent medical care. The bill, initially put forward by independent MP Kerryn Phelps in late 2018, provides expanded capacities that allow two doctors

Indonesia’s role in multilateral development banks

After Jim Yong Kim resigned last month, President Donald Trump indicated he intends to nominate senior US Treasury official David Malpass to lead the World Bank. Under an unofficial agreement, the World Bank President always comes from the United States. Although the multilateral development

Blocking asylum, by sea and air

The case of Saudi teen Rahaf Al-Qunun dramatically demonstrates the difficulties many refugees face when attempting to escape the risk of harm at home and find safety elsewhere – whether they travel by leaky boat, or through international airports surrounded by business travellers and holiday-

Facebook’s first 15 years and lessons for diplomacy

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, marking 15 years since he hatched the social network in his Harvard dorm, claims Facebook has the potential to be “profoundly positive” for years. Certainly, Facebook has changed diplomacy by changing the way people connect and communicate. But, despite

Cue the crickets: conspiracies and headaches in Havana

A recording of an alleged “sonic attack” on US diplomats in Cuba has been analysed by scientists and found to be … crickets.  Rumours of a mysterious attack on staff at the US embassy in Havana first surfaced in 2016 after diplomats reported hearing loud, piercing noises at night and

Cracks in walls and Trump’s border with Mexico

The political cracks are widening in Washington, as US President Donald Trump struggles to fulfill his 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a wall at the US southern border and have Mexico pay for it. Distancing himself from the original promise, with customary chicanery, Trump announced

How to save one million lives, and then millions more

“Climate change is the greatest health challenge of the 21st century”. Such is the conclusion of the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released last month to coincide with the COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland. The report makes clear that immediate action on

Best of The Interpreter 2018: Our top 10

These are the articles that were most popular among our readers in 2018. 10. Turkey must be thinking of the Bomb, by Wayne McLean There are strong incentives for a nuclear pathway given Turkey’s vulnerabilities and strategic position. Turkey has historically eschewed a nuclear program because

Dimly lit renewable energy initiatives for the Pacific

Renewable energy is high on the development agenda for the Pacific. The Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map showed that donors and Pacific Island Countries are making a concerted effort to implement ambitious renewable energy goals. For example, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu aim to

Xi and Trump at G20: A tariff truce

This truce is by no means the end of trade tensions between China and the US. Over what was undoubtedly a delicious dinner last Saturday night on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to extend the deadline for the

International justice: tackling impunity in Asia

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, high ranking officials of the Pol Pot regime, have been sentenced to life imprisonment twice over for their role in the genocide of the Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese minorities during the Khmer Rouge era. The landmark judgment delivered this month by the

Asia’s space sale

A Chinese rover on the Moon. An Indian satellite at Mars. A Japanese commander of the International Space Station. An imminent launch of a Chinese lander to the far side of the Moon. Future Chinese plans for robot missions to Mars and Indian plans for Venus. Spaceflight across Asia has advanced

Beijing’s online gaming clampdown

Last month, Tencent Chairman and Chief Executive Pony Ma (马化腾) sent out an open letter, announcing a major strategic shift in direction for one of Asia’s most valuable technology firms. “We believe that the first stage of the mobile internet, the consumer internet, is drawing to a close

Chipping away at trust in democracy

With a series of state elections due and the federal election looming, there are important lessons that Australia needs to learn from the tone of US politics. In particular, there is a responsibility for Australia’s political leaders to act in ways that ensure, and do not undermine, the integrity

Why boycotting palm oil achieves nothing

In a bid to promote its palm oil-free products for the looming Christmas consumption frenzy, British supermarket chain Iceland recently sought to repurpose a moving Greenpeace campaign ad. The Disney-like cartoon shows a baby orangutan in a British child’s bedroom, disturbed by chocolate and

Disinformation campaigns and US elections

A New York Times article this month revealed a new tactic in the US war against election disinformation. US election officials had notified Russians suspected of involvement in online disinformation campaigns in the lead up to the mid-term elections that they were “on notice”, and that their

Is the TPP worth it?

The TPP, the biggest and most controversial trade deal in recent decades, has just passed the Senate in Australia with bipartisan support. Despite its speedy confirmation, the TPP warranted more serious scrutiny than it was afforded. While for its proponents, the TPP is a “gold standard” “

Australian energy diplomacy

Successive federal governments have declared Australia to be an “energy superpower”. The 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper is the most recent example, highlighting the size of Australia’s exports of coal and liquefied natural gas. Yet Australian foreign policy has often overlooked energy

Daylight robbery: cyber escapades of North Korea

When a gang robs a bank, it’s a crime. When a nation launches an attack on another state’s territory, it’s an act of war. But what is it when a nation state robs another state’s banks, without ever setting foot on their soil? While political leaders and policymakers are increasingly aware

Japan’s complicated relationship with coal power

At first glance, it appears a sea change is underway in how Japanese banks and financial firms treat fossil fuels. According to a comprehensive study released by 350.org in September – Energy Finance in Japan 2018 – Japanese financial institutions underwrote over US$80 billion in loans for

China: how big tech is learning to love the party

In mid-September, rumours swirled that Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications firm, would be acquired by an unnamed Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE), effectively nationalising the company, which operates in 170 countries. The rumours were substantial enough to warrant a

Decoding the bombshell story for China

It is near impossible to find any mention of the Chinese chip hacking story in Bloomberg Businessweek that does not use the words “bombshell” or “explosive” to describe the piece. These descriptions have become cliché. But the cliché is fitting because even if the story unravels amid

End the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war

Gender advocates cheered around the world last week, despite events in Washington and elsewhere putting a dampener on hope for gender equality. Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege were announced as the joint winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence

A slap in the face for diverse diplomacy

The US appointed its first openly gay ambassador in 1999. President Bill Clinton gave James Hormel a recess appointment as US Ambassador to Luxembourg after two years of a blocked Senate campaign. Since then, an additional six openly gay male ambassadors have been appointed by the US, including

The other Rohingya crisis

As the world’s eyes are focused on the unfolding Rohingya refugee crisis Bangladesh, to the east in India another danger may be brewing for the Rohingya Muslim community. Over the past year since the latest wave of state-backed violence and displacement began in northern Myanmar, almost a

Trump to take on Iran at UN Security Council table

As it happens, the United States holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council during the annual diplomatic gabfest at the UN General Assembly. Traditionally, that means the president of the US can choose to chair a Security Council meeting if he or she desires to spotlight a

Explaining green and blue growth

A new report co-authored by Lord Nicholas Stern made headlines earlier this month with the projection that efforts to transition to a low carbon economy within the next 15 years could add $26 trillion to the global economy. The report is underpinned by the concept of “green growth”, an

China’s tech bubble

In the four decades that have followed China’s initial stage of post-Mao “Reform and Opening Up”, the world has learned to expect great things from the Middle Kingdom’s centrally-planned economy. It has established itself as the low-end “factory of the world” and orchestrated an

Kofi Annan: great expectations

It says much about the UN Secretary-General that the two men widely regarded as the greatest to hold the office went in with the lowest expectations. Dag Hammarskjöld was an unknown Swedish civil servant who found out he was a candidate for the position when he received the telegram offering it

Rights for people forced out by climate change

Imagine living on a low–lying atoll island in the Pacific and having just survived a severe cyclone. Your island is in ruins and you have lost everything. Humanitarian help is insufficient, your children need urgent medical care, but hospitals are not functioning, and your only hope is to join

Kofi Annan: a leader with compassion

Those concerned with global peace and justice are grieving the death of Kofi Annan. Annan was elected UN Secretary-General in 1996 after a vigorously contested election campaign. Boutros Boutros-Ghali from Egypt had been denied a second term by US opposition in the Security Council. There was

Electric vehicles and industrial policy 

A dramatic shift is underway in the global automotive market. Electric vehicles (EVs), once viewed as toys, are gaining momentum. There are now more than 4 million electric vehicles on the road globally, up from only 100,000 a few years ago, and 2018 EV sales alone are on track to exceed 1.6

Drones, clones, and camera phones

Public surveillance has proven to be of great value for a host of public-order interests, from traffic management in large cities to provision of vital intelligence and evidence in criminal activities. The extent of surveillance in a jurisdiction tends to reflect the values of the government

BRICS and mortar

As far as international groupings go, BRICS was always considered head-scratchingly strange: a disparate group of nations with very little to link them, whether it be geographical size, language, or form of governance. What Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the late entrant South

Pages