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  • Author: Arzan Tarapore
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: More than a year has passed since Chinese troops began to occupy previously Indian-controlled territory on their disputed border in Ladakh. The crisis has cooled and settled into a stalemate. This report warns that it could escalate again, and flare into a conflict with region-wide implications. The report assesses the risk of conflict by analysing its likelihood and consequences. A possible war would be costly for both India and China. But a possible war could also risk stirring Indian distrust of its new partners, especially in the Quad – Australia, Japan, and the United States. The report outlines some conditions under which a war would disrupt or dampen those developing partnerships. The report concludes by offering a framework for policymakers to shape India’s expectations and the strategic environment before and during a possible war.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: China, India, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Rachael Falk, Anne-Louise Brown
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: As the Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the world, another less visible epidemic has occurred concurrently—a tsunami of cybercrime producing global losses totalling more than US$1 trillion. While cybercrime is huge in scale and diverse in form, there’s one type that presents a unique threat to businesses and governments the world over: ransomware. Some of the most spectacular ransomware attacks have occurred offshore, but Australia hasn’t been immune. Over the past 18 months, major logistics company Toll Holdings Ltd has been hit twice; Nine Entertainment was brought to its knees by an attack that left the company struggling to televise news bulletins and produce newspapers; multiple health and aged-care providers across the country have been hit; and global meat supplies were affected after the Australian and international operations of the world’s largest meat producer, JBS Foods, were brought to a standstill. It’s likely that other organisations have also been hit but have kept it out of the public spotlight. A current policy vacuum makes Australia an attractive market for these attacks, and ransomware is a problem that will only get worse unless a concerted and strategic domestic effort to thwart the attacks is developed. Developing a strategy now is essential. Not only are Australian organisations viewed as lucrative targets due to their often low cybersecurity posture, but they’re also seen as soft targets. The number of attacks will continue to grow unless urgent action is taken to reduce the incentives to target Australian companies and other entities.
  • Topic: Crime, National Security, Cybersecurity, Internet, Information Technology , Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: Robert Clark, Peter Jennings
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: More than at any time since World War II, science and technology (S&T) breakthroughs are dramatically redesigning the global security outlook. Australia’s university sector now has a vital role to play in strengthening Australia’s defence. In this paper, we propose establishing a formal partnership between the Defence Department, defence industry and Australian universities. There’s a significant opportunity to boost international defence S&T research cooperation with our Five-Eyes partners: the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. We outline how this can be done. Central to this partnership proposal is the need to restructure current arrangements for Defence funding of Australian universities via the creation of an Australian Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)— based on the highly successful American model, which the UK plans to emulate in 2022. In Australia, implementing these initiatives will contribute significantly to a vital restructuring of the university sector’s research funding model. An Australian DARPA, with robustly managed security, will enhance research ‘cut-through’ in the defence sector and the wider economy. We think it’s also vital that this work, underpinned by a DARPA-like culture of urgency and innovation and with potential to affect several portfolios beyond Defence, needs to be championed at the government level. In the modern Australian system of government, that means the Prime Minister needs to be directly involved. Urgent means urgent. At least for the first few years of its life, an Australian DARPA should, in our view, report through Defence to the Prime Minister and the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Partnerships, Research, Academia
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Tom Uren
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the myGov website was overwhelmed by a demand surge from citizens seeking to rapidly access digital services. In 2016, the online Census (eCensus) suffered a series of relatively small distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. While they didn’t overwhelm the platform, the attacks ultimately resulted in the eCensus being taken offline. What do these two examples have in common, and what lessons should we learn to ensure more robust digital government services? To answer those questions, this paper will examine five points: The nature of the DDoS attacks The CIA (confidentiality, integrity and availability) triad model for digital security How to predict demand How to respond to unpredictable demand The structure of reliable data systems
  • Topic: Government, National Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John Coyne, Teagan Westendorf
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: In this report, authors Dr John Coyne and Dr Teagan Westendorf seek to move Australia’s public policy discourse on the future of Darwin Port beyond a binary choice. In doing so, they consider the Harbour’s history, the nature of its strategic importance to Australia and our allies, and opportunities for its future development. The report explores four potential options for the future development of the Port and Harbour. Rather than providing a specific policy treatment on the current leasing arrangements, this work focuses on promoting policy discourse on a unifying vision for the future of Darwin Harbour. A key insight from this analysis is that this moment is an opportunity for the federal government to work with the Northern Territory Government to harness the existing plans for the Port’s future, including those proposed by Defence, the US and the NT Government, and embed those plans within the broader strategic vision for Australia moving forward. While each of these worthy plans undoubtedly has merit, the question is whether, by carefully harnessing them together, they could produce a greater economic and national security whole.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Infrastructure, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Daniel Ward
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Country agnosticism, under which Australia’s laws treat all foreign influence efforts in the same way, regardless of their source country, is the key failing of Australia’s statutory response to foreign governments’ influence activities. It has imposed sweeping, unnecessary regulatory costs. It has caused waste of taxpayer-funded enforcement resources. It has diverted those resources from the issues that really matter. And it has brought unnecessary legal complexity. Yet for all that, nobody believes that the laws are truly country agnostic. Not the Australian media, which routinely describe them as ‘aimed at’ China. Nor, presumably, the media’s audience. Nor, certainly, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which regards itself as the target, explicitly citing the laws as a key grievance. Perhaps the greatest cost of country agnosticism is that the current statutory framework isn’t as effective as it needs to be. Why? In adopting a country-agnostic stance, we blinded ourselves to the very factor that matters most in evaluating and responding to foreign influence—its source country. It’s time to remove the blindfold. We should recognise this basic truth: foreign influence transparency requirements must be more stringent in relation to some source countries than others.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Jacob Wallis, Ariel Bogle, Albert Zhang, Hillary Mansour, Tim Niven, Elena Yi-Ching, Jason Liu, Jonathan Corpus Ong, Ross Tapsell
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: It’s not just nation-states that interfere in elections and manipulate political discourse. A range of commercial services increasingly engage in such activities, operating in a shadow online influence-for-hire economy that spans from content farms through to high-end PR agencies. There’s growing evidence of states using commercial influence-for-hire networks. The Oxford Internet Institute found 48 instances of states working with influence-for-hire firms in 2019–20, an increase from 21 in 2017–18 and nine in 2016–17.1 There’s a distinction between legitimate, disclosed political campaigning and government advertising campaigns, on the one hand, and efforts by state actors to covertly manipulate the public opinion of domestic populations or citizens of other countries using inauthentic social media activity, on the other. The use of covert, inauthentic, outsourced online influence is also problematic as it degrades the quality of the public sphere in which citizens must make informed political choices and decisions.
  • Topic: Elections, Internet, Social Media, Economy
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Patrick Walters
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The ANZUS Treaty was signed on 1 September 1951 in San Francisco. It was the product of energetic Australian lobbying to secure a formal US commitment to Australian and New Zealand security. At the time, the shape of Asian security after World War II was still developing. Canberra worried that a ‘soft’ peace treaty with Japan might one day allow a return of a militarised regime to threaten the region. ANZUS at 70 explores the past, present and future of the alliance relationship, drawing on a wide range of authors with deep professional interest in the alliance. Our aim is to provide lively and comprehensible analysis of key historical points in the life of the treaty and indeed of the broader Australia–US bilateral relationship, which traces its defence origins back to before World War I. ANZUS today encompasses much more than defence and intelligence cooperation. Newer areas of collaboration include work on cybersecurity, space, supply chains, industrial production, rare earths, emerging science and technology areas such as quantum computing, climate change and wider engagement with countries and institutions beyond ANZUS’s initial scope or intention. The treaty remains a core component of wider and deeper relations between Australia and the US. This study aims to show the range of those ties, to understand the many and varied challenges we face today and to understand how ANZUS might be shaped to meet future events.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Ariel Bogle
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: As mainstream social media companies have increased their scrutiny and moderation of right-wing extremist (RWE) content and groups, there’s been a move to alternative online content platforms. There’s also growing concern about right-wing extremism in Australia, and about how this shift has diversified the mechanisms used to fundraise by RWE entities. This phenomenon isn’t well understood in Australia, despite the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) advising in March 2021 that ‘ideological extremism’ now makes up around 40% of its priority counterterrorism caseload. Research by ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has found that nine Australian Telegram channels that share RWE content used at least 22 different funding platforms, including online monetisation tools and cryptocurrencies, to solicit, process and earn funds between 1 January 2021 and 15 July 2021. Due to the opaque nature of many online financial platforms, it’s difficult to obtain a complete picture of online fundraising, so this sample is necessarily limited. However, in this report we aim to provide a preliminary map of the online financial platforms and services that may both support and incentivise an RWE content ecosystem in Australia. Most funding platforms found in our sample have policies that explicitly prohibit the use of their services for hate speech, but we found that those policies were often unclear and not uniformly enforced. Of course, there’s debate about how to balance civil liberties with the risks posed by online communities that promote RWE ideology (and much of that activity isn’t illegal), but a better understanding of online funding mechanisms is necessary, given the growing concern about the role online propaganda may play in inspiring acts of violence as well as the risk that, like other social divisions, such channels and movements could be exploited by adversaries. The fundraising facilitated by these platforms not only has the potential to grow the resources of groups and individuals linked to right-wing extremism, but it’s also likely to be a means of building the RWE community both within Australia and with overseas groups and a vector for spreading RWE propaganda through the engagement inherent in fundraising efforts. The funding platforms mirror those used by RWE figures overseas, and funding requests were boosted by foreign actors, continuing Australian RWEs’ history of ‘meaningful international exchange’ with overseas counterparts.
  • Topic: Internet, Social Media, Far Right, Political Extremism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Malcolm Davis, Khwezi Nkwanyana
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Earlier this year, ASPI and the Embassy of Japan in Australia convened a hybrid workshop on responsible behaviours in space; a concept which has emerged as a key focus of the international space policy community. At the workshop, participants discussed the stable and sustainable use of space and management of security challenges in space, and ways to define responsible behaviour in space, including through UN General Assembly Resolution 75/36. Participants at this workshop included academics, practitioners, government representatives, military personnel and legal experts from Australia, Japan, Britain and Southeast Asia. This workshop and report were sponsored by the Embassy of Japan in Australia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Diplomacy, National Security, Science and Technology, Space
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Paul Dibb, Richard Brabin-Smith
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Australia now needs to implement serious changes to how warning time is considered in defence planning. The need to plan for reduced warning time has implications for the Australian intelligence community, defence strategic policy, force structure priorities, readiness and sustainability. Important changes will also be needed with respect to personnel, stockpiles of missiles and munitions, and fuel supplies. We can no longer assume that Australia will have time gradually to adjust military capability and preparedness in response to emerging threats. In other words, there must be a new approach in Defence to managing warning, capability and preparedness, and detailed planning for rapid expansion and sustainment. This paper addresses those issues, recognising that they’re a revolutionary break with the past era of what were much more comfortable assumptions about threats to Australia. Considering the complexity of the issues involved, we have identified further areas for research, including at the classified level.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Science and Technology, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Marcus Hellyer
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Once again, the Australian Government has delivered exactly the funding it promised in the 2016 Defence White Paper (DWP) and subsequent 2020 Defence Strategic Update (DSU). If the government was willing to recommit to the DWP’s funding line in the depths of the Covid-19 recession, it was very unlikely to walk away from it now that the economy is recovering faster than expected. This year, the consolidated defence funding line (including both the Department of Defence and the Australian Signals Directorate) is $44.6 billion, which is real growth of 4.1%. It’s the ninth straight year of real growth, and, according to the DSU’s funding model, that will continue until the end of the decade.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Government, National Security, Military Spending
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Gill Savage, John Coyne
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The theme for this report is nation building, not the kinds of one-off investment ‘announceables’ we’re familiar with that connect cities with roads. Instead, this is the kind of nation building that’s big picture and courageous, and reminiscent of the past—the kinds of initiatives that build the infrastructure from which economic, social and national security opportunities grow. The Port of Townsville has embarked on a forward-leaning journey that started a decade ago with a vision, planning and initial environmental approvals, and that’s now being pursued through collaborative engagement of a type not common in the ports sector. While the sector does take a long-term view on management and expansion, it’s still very unusual for individual ports to actively engage with trading partners in a strategic way and beyond the boundaries of specific projects. This special report looks at what’s happening today in the Townsville region, using the Port of Townsville as an example of what’s possible, and looks at what others at the regional, state and national levels can pursue beyond one-off investments to drive nation building that fosters economic, social and environmental prosperity. A collaborative approach to nation building isn’t new. It’s more that we haven’t engaged in this way for several decades now and as a nation, and we’re out of practice. Nation building in Australia must move beyond investment in major highways between large cities and investment in inner urban infrastructure. It must be underpinned by a framework that drives economic, social and environmental prosperity and that’s pursued collaboratively with persistence and courage. It must also move beyond a focus on short-term energetic infrastructure construction and economic ‘sugar hits’. The Port of Townsville provides a case example of how that’s being done today.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, State Building
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Fergus Ryan, Audrey Fritz, Daria Impiombato
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Since the launch of ASPI ICPC’s Mapping China’s Technology Giants project in April 2019, the Chinese technology companies we canvassed have gone through a tumultuous period. While most were buoyed by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which stimulated demand for technology services around the world, many were buffeted by an unprecedented onslaught of sanctions from abroad, before being engulfed in a regulatory storm at home. The environment in which the Chinese tech companies are operating has changed radically, as the pandemic sensitised multiple governments, multilateral groups and companies to their own critical supply-chain vulnerabilities. The lessons about national resilience learned from the pandemic are now being applied in many sectors, including the technology sector, where a trend towards decoupling China and the West was already well underway. As the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China has heightened, both sides increasingly see any reliance on the other for strategic commodities, such as rare-earth minerals and semiconductors, as dangerous vulnerabilities.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Geopolitics, COVID-19, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: China, Australia
  • Author: Samantha Hoffman, Nathan Attrill
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Most of the 27 companies tracked by our Mapping China’s Technology Giants project are heavily involved in the collection and processing of vast quantities of personal and organisational data — everything from personal social media accounts, to smart cities data, to biomedical data. Their business operations—and associated international collaborations — depend on the flow of vast amounts of data, often governed by the data privacy laws of multiple jurisdictions. Currently, however, existing global policy debates and subsequent policy responses concerning security in the digital supply chain miss the bigger picture because they typically prioritise the potential for disruption or malicious alterations of the supply chain. Yet, as we have defined it in this report, digital supply-chain risk starts at the design level (Figure 1). For the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the designer is the Chinese party-state, through expectations and agenda-setting in laws and policy documents and actions such as the mobilisation of state resources to achieve objectives such as the setting of technology standards. It’s through those standards, policies and laws that the party-state is refining its capacity to exert control over companies’ activities to ensure that it can derive strategic value and benefit from the companies’ global operations. That includes leveraging data collection taking place through those companies’ everyday global business activities, which ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) described in the Engineering global consent report. Technology isn’t agnostic—who sets the standards and therefore the direction of the technology matters just as much as who manufactures the product. This will have major implications for the effectiveness of data protection laws and notions of digital supply-chain security.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Data, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: David Uren
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: hat if China were to attempt to seize Taiwan by force and the US and allies responded militarily? One consequence would be the disruption of China’s trade with many countries, including Australia. While strategic analysts have been working over such scenarios for years, there’s been little study of the likely economic consequences. This study is focused on the short-term shock to Australia’s economy. The objective is to contribute to an understanding of the nature of Australia’s economic relationship with China and the likely paths of adjustment should that trade be severed. It also explores the options available to the Australian Government to ameliorate the worst of the effects of what would be a severe economic shock. The conclusion of this report is that the disruption to the Australian economy would be significant. There would be widespread loss of employment, along with consumer and business goods shortages that would be likely to necessitate rationing.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Economics, National Security, Conflict
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Kyle Marcrum, Brendan Mulvaney
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This Strategic Insights report is the first in a series of essays, workshops and events seeking to better understand the nature of deterrence, particularly from the viewpoint of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The series is a joint project between the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the US China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI). Over the coming months, ASPI and CASI, along with our research associates, will examine the concept of deterrence, how both democratic countries and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) approach deterrence, what liberal democracies are doing to deter China and what China is doing to deter them, and assess the impacts of those efforts. The series will culminate in an in-person conference that will put forward policy options for Australia, the US and our allies and partners. These publications will draw heavily from original PRC and PLA documents, as well as interviews and personal experiences, to help understand the framework that the PRC uses when it thinks about what we call here ‘deterrence'.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, United States of America
  • Author: Nicolas Regaud
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The report analyses France’s military capabilities and cooperation activities in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, underlining its strengths and limitations. In terms of its economic presence and official development assistance commitments, it is clear that the French strategy suffers significant limitations. However, these may be offset by a growing commitment from the EU and through strategic partnerships allowing France to pool efforts at all levels to meet regional and global challenges.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: France, Australia, Asia-Pacific, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Robert Glasser
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This Strategic Insight report warns that within a decade, as the climate continues to warm, the relatively benign strategic environment in Maritime Southeast Asia - a region of crucial importance to Australia - will begin unravelling. Dr Robert Glasser, Head of ASPI's new Climate and Security Policy Centre, documents the region’s globally unique exposure to climate hazards, and the increasingly significant cascading societal impacts they will trigger. Dr Glasser notes that hundreds of millions of people living in low-lying coastal areas will not only experience more severe extremes, but also more frequent swings from extreme heat and drought to severe floods. The diminishing time for recovery in between these events will have major consequences for food security, population displacements and resilience. According to Dr Glasser, 'Any one of the numerous increasing risks identified in the report would be serious cause for concern for Australian policymakers, but the combination of them, emerging effectively simultaneously, suggests that we’re on the cusp of an overlooked, unprecedented and rapidly advancing regional crisis.' The report presents several policy recommendations for Australia, including the need to greatly expand the Government’s capacity to understand and identify the most likely paths through which disruptive climate events (individually, concurrently, or consecutively) can cause cascading, security-relevant impacts, such as disruptions of critical supply chains, galvanized separatist movements, climate refugees, opportunistic intervention by outside powers, political instability, and conflict. Dr Glasser also proposes that Australia should identify priority investments to scale-up the capability within Defence, Foreign Affairs, the intelligence agencies, Home Affairs and other key agencies to recognise and respond to emerging regional climate impacts, including by supporting our regional neighbours to build their climate resilience.
  • Topic: Climate Change, National Security, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: David Brewster, Richard Herring
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This Strategic Insights report is being published as part of an ASPI project that focuses on the vulnerabilities of Indo-Pacific island states in the Covid-19 era. It presents a series of views on ways that insiders and external observers have viewed the vulnerabilities and resilience of island countries in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. All of these contributions have appeared as posts on The Strategist. They don’t try to offer a sequential account of events or perceptions but represent a collection of responses to the crisis. The authors were not asked to address a single issue but, rather, were encouraged to focus on issues of relevance to them. The result is a mosaic rather than a portrait of nearly a year of living with the tensions posed by the pandemic. Two key themes do tend to dominate this mosaic. One concerns the way vulnerabilities are expressed as challenges. The second identifies the opportunities that resilience can create.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Robert Clark, Stephen Bartlett, Michael Bremner, Ping Koy Lam, Timothy Ralph
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This ASPI report examines the impact of quantum technologies on secure communications. It provides an overview of the key technologies and the status of the field in Australia and internationally (including escalating recent developments in both the US and China), and captures counterpart US, UK and Canadian reports and recommendations to those nations’ defence departments that have recently been released publicly. The report is structured into six sections: an introduction that provides a stand-alone overview and sets out both the threat and the opportunity of quantum technologies for communications security, and more detailed sections that span quantum computing, quantum encryption, the quantum internet, and post-quantum cryptography. The last section of the report makes five substantive recommendations in the Australian context that are implementable and in the national interest. A key message on quantum technologies relates to urgency. Escalating international progress is opening a widening gap in relation to Australia’s status in this field. It is critical that, in addition to its own initiatives, the Defence Department transitions from a largely watching brief on progress across the university sector and start-up companies to a leadership role—to coordinate, resource and harness the full potential of a most capable Australian quantum technologies community to support Defence’s objectives.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Science and Technology, Communications, Quantum Computers
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Jeffrey McGee, Marcus Haward, Anthony Bergin
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Next year, the Australian Government will decide on whether to commit funding for a proposed year-round, paved aerodrome near the Australian Davis research station in East Antarctica. An all-weather, year-round, paved runway near Davis would have huge positive impacts on Antarctic science and logistics in East Antarctica, where there are no equivalent facilities. It would be the only paved runway in Antarctica. As with any major piece of infrastructure development, there’ll be inevitable environmental impacts from the construction and operation of the Davis aerodrome. However, we believe that with care, it should be possible to design, construct and operate a facility that satisfies both operational requirements and environmental obligations under the Madrid Protocol and relevant Australian legislation. If Australia doesn’t proceed with the aerodrome, another country may step into our shoes and take a similar proposal forward. It might be a country with lower standards of environmental assessment and a lesser track record of environmental protection in Antarctica. The Davis aerodrome project requires long-term funding and political commitment. Failing to proceed with the proposal would weaken our influence in Antarctica: it would allow other states to take advantage of the opportunity for logistical and scientific leadership in East Antarctica. The proposed Davis aerodrome will increase Australia's strategic weight in Antarctica, where we claim 42% of the continent.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific, Antarctica
  • Author: Marcus Hellyer
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Last year’s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia was short, sharp and decisive. By effectively employing precision guided weapons, the former rapidly forced the latter to capitulate and accede to its political demands. The conflict confirmed the centrality of guided weapons to modern war fighting and showed how small states can now master the technologies and techniques needed to use them. Last year also witnessed the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the supply-chain crisis it triggered. That provoked much soul-searching from governments and companies about how to manage the risks presented by modern just-in-time supply chains that span the globe. When we take those two events together, it’s clear that the ADF will not only need many kinds of guided weapons across the spectrum of conflict, but also need to guarantee their availability in times of crisis when supply chains will be under pressure and threat. That will be difficult, since Australia currently manufactures virtually no guided weapons. The Australian Government is also aware of both needs. Its 2020 Defence Strategic Update plans on investing tens of billions of dollars in guided weapons over the next two decades. It also directs Defence to explore the potential for new sovereign guided weapons production capability to mitigate supply risks. It appears that exploration has determined that the potential can be turned into reality: on 31 March, the government announced that it was ‘accelerating’ the development of a sovereign guided weapon manufacturing capability. This report examines two fundamental questions. First, would the manufacture of guided weapons in Australia enhance ADF capability and provide greater self-reliance? Second, is it viable to manufacture guided weapons in Australia? The answer to both questions is ‘yes’. The report also presents some key considerations about how the industry should be established.
  • Topic: Security, Government, Weapons , Investment, Defense Industry, Supply Chains
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Andrew Davies
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Militaries have been trying to keep their communications safe from prying eyes for centuries. But they have also sought to be able to communicate as quickly as possible and as widely as possible with their own forces. Those requirements are in tension with one another. Today, militaries can communicate globally over increasingly capacious data pipes. But the same technological evolution that allows them to do that has also given would-be eavesdroppers new and powerful tools to collect and exploit signals. In this report, author Dr Andrew Davies explains the principles of secure communication and uses some examples of emerging technologies to illustrate what the next generation of secure communications might look like.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Communications, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Todd C. Hanks
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Stronger together: US force posture in Australia’s north—a US perspective on Australia’s strategic geography This report argues why, and analyses how, Australia’s defence force capabilities and strategic geography can enable US force posture initiatives in the Indo-Pacific to promote greater regional cooperation in ways that advance US and Australian national interests. Lieutenant Colonel Hanks writes that there are ‘practical and tangible areas for US-Australia cooperation and growth which include: 1) expanding the Australian defence industrial base while securing and hardening supply chains; 2) increasing US Army force posture in northern Australia; 3) increasing multinational training opportunities; and 4) in conjunction with Australia, expanding the defence partnership with Indonesia.’ ‘The US now relies on increased cooperation from partners and allies to regain the initiative from the PRC in the Indo-Pacific. Australia’s defence strategy and policies are better aligned with US defence strategy and policies today, than ever before.’ The report argues that military modernization alone will not effectively expand the competitive space and disrupt PRC grey-zone decision cycles. Thinking asymmetrically, Australia can use its strategic geography and defence capabilities to enable US force posture initiatives in the Indo-Pacific to promote greater regional cooperation and, through greater deterrent posture and capability, reduce the risk of conflict.
  • Topic: National Security, Military Affairs, Geography, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Australia, United States of America
  • Author: Nathan Ruser, James Leibold
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: In this report, we provide new evidence documenting the effectiveness of the Chinese government’s systematic efforts to reduce the size of the indigenous population of Xinjiang through a range of coercive birth-control policies. Using the Chinese government’s own publicly available statistics, we have compiled a dataset of county-level birth-rates (natality) across 2011-2019. We then marshal this data to analyse trends across nationalities and spatial regions in Xinjiang, before and after the 2016 crackdown, and comparatively with other countries as recorded in the UN population dataset. Finally, we place these statistics in context through our analysis of county-level implementation documents and other official Chinese language sources which have been previously overlooked. In 1979, Deng Xiaoping launched the “one child policy” and created a complex set of bureaucratic institutions and practices for controlling population growth. Party officials rather than women would decide what they did with their bodies. The one-child policy has seen a dramatic drop in China’s fertility rate and unleashed new concerns about a looming demographic crisis. Yet the instinct to control remains. As Party officials are loosening family-planning rules on Han women, they are simultaneously cracking down on the reproductive rights of Uyghur and other indigenous nationalities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) over perceived fears of instability and uneven growth. In the name of stability and control, the CCP under President Xi Jinping is seeking to fundamentally transform the social and physical landscape of Xinjiang. This includes the construction of hundreds of prison-like detention centres and the mass internment of Uyghurs, Kazakh and other indigenous nationalities; a regime of highly intrusive and near constant surveillance; the erasure of indigenous culture, language and religious practices and sites; and mandatory job assignments that are indicative of forced labour; among other now well-documented human rights abuses.
  • Topic: Demographics, Population, Ethnic Cleansing, Family Planning, Cyberspace, Birth Rates
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific, Xinjiang
  • Author: Gavin Brennen, Simon Devitt, Tara Roberson, Peter Rohde
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The world is now at the precipice of another technological and social revolution—the quantum revolution. The countries that master quantum technology will dominate the information processing space for decades and perhaps centuries to come, giving them control and influence over sectors such as advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, the digital economy, logistics, national security and intelligence.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Quantum Computers, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: John Coyne, Teagan Westendorf
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Northern Australia Strategic Policy Centre’s latest report, North of 26° South and the Security of Australia Volume 3’, is an all-new series of articles by a range of authors exploring the continued importance of Northern Australia to national security and defence strategy. This Volume’s contributions were written over a year in which increased strategic uncertainty and an unprecedented global pandemic have collectively generated an interest in revisiting old policy assumptions. Right from the start, it was clear that we need to think of the north as the middle of the region, rather than the edge of Australia, and reflect that critical role in Australia’s political, military and economic strategies moving forward. The economic, social and geopolitical effects of Covid-19 have presented opportunities for a radical a rethinking of nation-building in the north, and collaboration between the public and private sectors to support it. The rise of Chinese influence in the region and globally has changed Australia’s role in the Indo-Pacific and the strategic significance of Australia’s defence capabilities and alliances to the broader international community. The pandemic response and geopolitical tensions have highlighted supply-chain resilience as a key area of capability uplift for Australia, making the north significant both as the key trade hub with region and a source of natural resource exports. The report builds on the previous Volumes of North of 26° South by broadening the breadth and depth of its contributions northern Australia strategic policy. This report provides much needed contemporary analysis and the criticality of the North to Australia’s national security and defence.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Geopolitics, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Charlie Lyons Jones, Raphael Veit
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has become increasingly willing to project military power overseas while coercing and co-opting countries into accepting the objectives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Beijing’s greater willingness to flex its muscles, both politically and militarily, is supported by its overseas investments in critical infrastructure, which provide the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the logistical enablers needed to project military power beyond the ‘first island chain’ in the Western Pacific. ‘Controlling the seas in the region, leaping across the ocean for force projection’ (区域控海,跨洋投送) is the term Chinese naval commentators use when referring to the PLA Navy’s bid to project power across the world. Australia should build its research and analytical capacity to better understand the nexus between the CCP and SOEs. That due diligence, building on open-source research conducted for this report, will better illuminate the PRC’s global expansion, potential grey-zone operations and the companies and individuals involved.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Navy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia-Pacific, South China Sea
  • Author: Jacob Wallis, Albert Zhang, Ariel Bogle
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Chinese Communist Party (CCP) diplomatic accounts, Chinese state media, pro-CCP influencers and patriotic trolls are targeting the UK public broadcaster, the BBC, in a coordinated information operation. Recent BBC reports, including the allegations of systematic sexual assault in Xinjiang’s internment camps, were among a number of triggers provoking the CCP’s propaganda apparatus to discredit the BBC, distract international attention and recapture control of the narrative. In ASPI ICPC’s new report, Albert Zhang and Dr Jacob Wallis provide a snapshot of the CCP’s ongoing coordinated response targeting the BBC, which leveraged YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and was broadly framed around three prominent narratives: That the BBC spreads disinformation and is biased against China That the BBC’s domestic audiences think that it’s biased and not to be trusted That the BBC’s reporting on China is instigated by foreign actors and intelligence agencies. In addition, the report analyses some of the secondary effects of this propaganda effort by exploring the mobilisation of a pro-CCP Twitter network that has previously amplified the Covid-19 disinformation content being pushed by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and whose negative online engagement with the BBC peaks on the same days as that of the party-state’s diplomats and state media. To contest and blunt criticism of the CCP’s systematic surveillance and control of minority ethnic groups, the party will continue to aggressively deploy its propaganda and disinformation apparatus. Domestic control remains fundamental to its political power and legitimacy, and internationally narrative control is fundamental to the pursuit of its foreign policy interests.
  • Topic: Media, Journalism, Chinese Communist Party (CCP), BBC
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Andrew Davies
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report analyses the future impact that hypersonic weaponry will have on global affairs. Hypersonic systems include anything that travels faster than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. We may be on the cusp of seeing hypersonic weapons proliferate around the world, with Russia, China and the US all in the process of developing and testing them. By 2030 they are likely to be in the inventory of all of the major powers. And Australia might well join them - we have some world class researchers and have been active in joint programs with the US for over 20 years. The government has added hypersonic weapons to its defence acquisition plan. It's a topic we should be interested in and better informed about. It's always hard to predict exactly how much will change when a new technology enters the battlefield, but Australia is investing tens of billions of dollars in advanced sensors and combat systems to defend its surface vessels against subsonic and supersonic weapons. It's not clear that they will be effective enough against hypersonic weapons. On the plus side for our defence forces, hypersonic strike weapons with ranges of thousands of kilometres could return a strike capability to the ADF that has been missing since the F-111 was retired a decade ago. There are some strategic stability issues to be wrestled with as well. The US is developing a 'prompt global strike' system that would allow it hit a target pretty much anywhere on Earth in 20 minutes. Russian and Chinese systems are being developed with a nuclear or conventional warhead capability. The combination of short warning times and nuclear warhead ambiguity is potentially highly destabilising.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, United States of America
  • Author: John Coyne, Teagan Westendorf
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report helps develop an understanding of the quantum of profits being made and where in the value chain they occur. Australians spent approximately A$5.8 billion on methamphetamine and A$470 million on heroin in FY 2019. Approximately A$1,216,806,017 was paid to international wholesalers overseas for the amphetamine and heroin that was smuggled into Australia in that year. The profit that remained in Australia’s economy was about A$5,012,150,000. Those funds are undermining Australia’s public health and distorting our economy daily, and ultimately funding drug cartels and traffickers in Southeast Asia. One key takeaway from the figures presented in this report is that the Australian drug trade is large and growing. Despite the best efforts of law enforcement agencies, methamphetamine and heroin use has been increasing by up to 17% year on year. Falling prices in Southeast Asia are likely to keep pushing that number up, while drug prices and purity in Australia remain relatively stable. Authors Dr John Coyne and Dr Teagan Westendorf write that, 'While ever-larger drug busts continue to dominate the headlines, the underlying fact is that methamphetamine and heroin imports continue to rise despite authorities seizing up to 34% of imported drugs'. As production prices for methamphetamine continue to decline along with wholesale prices, more sophisticated transnational organised crime actors are likely to begin to examine their business models in greater detail. Industrial production of methamphetamine for high-volume, low-profit regional markets like Australia has significant benefits for them. The data suggests that the more sophisticated transnational organised crime groups will seek to expand their control of the heroin and methamphetamine value chains to include greater elements of the wholesale supply chain as well as alternative product lines, such as synthetic opioids. The authors note that 'in the absence of supply reduction, and even with more effective supply-chain disruption, our federal and state governments will need to invest more heavily in demand reduction and harm minimisation.'
  • Topic: Crime, Transnational Actors, Supply Chains, Methamphetamine, Heroin
  • Political Geography: Australia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Albert Zhang, Jacob Wallis, Zoe Meers
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report explores how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), fringe media and pro-CCP online actors seek—sometimes in unison—to shape and influence international perceptions of the Chinese Government’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including through the amplification of disinformation. United States (US) based social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, along with Chinese-owned TikTok (owned by Chinese company ByteDance), are centre stage for this global effort. The Chinese Government continues to deny human rights abuses in Xinjiang despite a proliferation of credible evidence, including media reporting, independent research, testimonies and open-source data, that has revealed abuses including forced labour, mass detention, surveillance, sterilisation, cultural erasure and alleged genocide in the region. To distract from such human rights abuses, covert and overt online information campaigns have been deployed to portray positive narratives about the CCP’s domestic policies in the region, while also injecting disinformation into the global public discourse regarding Xinjiang. The report’s key findings: Since early 2020, there’s been a stark increase in the Chinese Government and state media’s use of US social media networks to push alternative narratives and disinformation about the situation in Xinjiang. Chinese state media accounts have been most successful in using Facebook to engage and reach an international audience. The CCP is using tactics including leveraging US social media platforms to criticise and smear Uyghur victims, journalists and researchers who work on this topic, as well as their organisations. We expect these efforts to escalate in 2021. Chinese Government officials and state media are increasingly amplifying content, including disinformation, produced by fringe media and conspiracist websites that are often sympathetic to the narrative positioning of authoritarian regimes. This amplifies the reach and influence of these sites in the Western media ecosystem. Senior officials from multilateral organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), have also played a role in sharing such content. The Xinjiang Audio-Video Publishing House, a publishing organisation owned by a regional government bureau and affiliated with the CCP’s United Front Work Department, has funded a marketing company to create videos depicting Uyghurs as supportive of the Chinese Government’s policies in Xinjiang. Those videos were then amplified on Twitter and YouTube by a network of inauthentic accounts. The Twitter accounts also retweeted and liked non-Xinjiang-related tweets by Chinese diplomatic officials and Chinese state-affiliated media in 2020.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Media, Social Media, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, United States of America, Xinjiang
  • Author: Leanne Close, Daria Impiombato
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: ASPI is delighted to release its 5th edition of the Counterterrorism (CT) yearbook, edited by Leanne Close, APM and Daria Impiombato. The 2021 yearbook provides a comprehensive picture of the current global terrorism landscape. The yearbook's 29 authors found Covid-19—a key theme in most chapters—to have had an impact on global terrorism. However, pervasive online social media platforms have played a more significant role, increasing terrorists’ ability to radicalise and incite individuals to commit terrorist acts, as well as encouraging financial support to terrorist groups. The yearbook begins with an overview of current trends and the terrorism landscape in 2020 identified in the 8th Global Terrorism Index (GTI) produced by Australia’s Institute for Economics and Peace. As well as analysis of the impacts of Covid-19 on terrorist threats globally, several key themes emerge from the yearbook’s chapters, consistent with the trends identified in the GTI. These include the impact of social media and technology on terrorist events and radicalisation, and a nexus between terrorism and organised crime. One concerning example highlights the impact of natural disasters on violent extremism, with a study of 167 countries over 30 years from 1970, which found that an increase in deaths from natural disasters resulted in an increase in terrorism-related deaths and attacks in the following two years. Strong examples of prevention and strategies to counter violent extremism are outlined in the yearbook, providing governments and CT practitioners with contemporary analysis of current and emerging challenges and offering key policy recommendations to combat radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism in all its forms.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, Hybrid Threats
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: David Brewster
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The ADF has long had an important role in providing humanitarian assistance to Pacific island countries (PICs). The force has extraordinary capabilities—people, expertise, training and equipment—in delivering necessary assistance quickly and efficiently. From Australia’s perspective, the ADF is one of our most important agencies in engaging with our PIC partners, particularly in helping them to develop capabilities to address a range of security challenges. In Australia’s new strategic environment, the ADF can also play an important role in helping to build regional health security as part of a new phase in Australia’s Pacific Step-up. This paper argues that the Australian Government should consider a new role for the ADF in the Pacific through developing mutually beneficial enduring military health partnerships.3 That would involve the regular rotation of ADF health professionals through partner medical facilities where they would have the opportunity to gain unique frontline experience from local experts, while also sharing their own knowledge and skills. The mutuality of benefits inherent in such an arrangement means that they shouldn’t be considered as traditional humanitarian assistance. An enhanced role for the ADF in regional health security, properly structured, might ultimately come to be seen alongside the Pacific Patrol Boat Program as a successful example of mutually beneficial partnerships between the ADF and our Pacific neighbours.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Health
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Marcus Hellyer
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Defence Strategic Update (DSU) represents a remarkable commitment by the Australian Government to sustained growth in the defence budget. Released on 1 July after months of bad economic news caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and growing budget deficits caused by the government’s measures to mitigate the economic pain, the DSU nevertheless confirms the robust funding line presented in the 2016 Defence White Paper (2016 DWP) and extends it for a further four years. This means the defence budget will continue to grow past 2% of GDP, and indeed at a faster rate than before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Measured from a starting point in 2019–20, the budget is planned to grow by a remarkable 87.4% over the coming decade. Why did the government make that commitment? It’s clear from the DSU that it’s very concerned about Australia’s strategic circumstances, which it assesses as having deteriorated significantly in the four years since the 2016 DWP. It states that the region is in the middle of the most consequential strategic realignment since World War II. That brings significant uncertainty and risk. The government regards robust military capabilities as essential to managing it. The DSU marks a clear break from previous high-level strategic statements in the frank way it describes those risks and the new capabilities needed to address them. It also makes several key adjustments to strategic policy settings: It redefines our immediate region to an arc from the northeastern Indian Ocean, through maritime and mainland Southeast Asia, to Papua New Guinea and the Southwest Pacific. It’s still a huge area. It prioritises the immediate region for defence planning. It introduces the concepts of ‘shape’, ‘deter’ and ‘respond’ to focus defence planning. The emphasis on shaping reinforces the importance of regional engagement and partnerships in creating a region conducive to our interests. It states that a largely defensive force won’t deter attack. Instead, ‘new capabilities are needed to hold adversaries’ forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance. They include longer range strike weapons, cyber measures and area-denial systems.’ It acknowledges that Australia can no longer rely on warning time, even for a conventional military attack on Australia, and so won’t have time to ‘gradually adjust’ military capabilities. While the redefinition of the immediate region might not in itself result in changes to the defence investment program—now known as the Force Structure Plan (FSP)—the other factors listed certainly will. To acquire new capabilities, the growth in the DSU’s funding model continues the pattern of the 2016 DWP. That means the capital component of the budget grows to 40% of the total budget and stays there. That’s a far higher percentage than has historically been the case. By the end of the decade, if that planned increase is achieved, the acquisition component of the budget will have grown by 148% in nominal terms from its 2019–20 start point. Despite the broader economic and budget uncertainty, this means that Defence is in the fortunate position of being able to add some significant new capabilities to its shopping list. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the FSP is that the ADF has entered the ‘age of missiles’ with a vengeance. There’s potentially $100 billion in investment over the next two decades in missiles and guided weapons. That includes the offensive systems needed to deter and defeat an adversary from a greater distance, such as hypersonic weapons. Even the Army is acquiring long-range missiles. But it also includes greatly enhanced defensive systems, such as ballistic missile defence, which is something Defence has considered for a long time but never previously committed to. That’s a clear sign that the region is getting much more dangerous. While the FSP is short on detail, the big picture it paints is pretty clear. It’s one in which the ADF continues its trajectory of steadily fielding improved capability and developing greater strategic weight. But there are risks, both in the design of the plan itself and in delivering it, that need to be managed. It must be said that Defence’s planning processes are improving along with its costing methodologies, so it’s likely that these are risks that it has considered in the development of the DSU and FSP. The first set of risks relates to the question of whether this is the right force for our deteriorating circumstances. Despite the recognition that Australia can’t rely on warning time, much of the planned force is still a long way off in the future. The first future frigate won’t be operational for 10 years and the first future submarine for 14, and subsequent vessels are to be delivered only on a two-year drumbeat. The Air Force isn’t getting additional air combat aircraft beyond its 72 F-35As until late in the decade. Most of the major new additions to the force structure are also some way off in the future. There’s a funding line that potentially provides a way forward to get Boeing’s Loyal Wingman unmanned aerial vehicle into service, but most of the big buckets of funding for unmanned and autonomous systems are still late in the 2020s or even in the 2030s. Until then, it looks like Defence is relying on improved weapons delivered from existing platforms to provide the main capability enhancement. Also, the force envisaged in the DSU and FSP is growing increasingly broad. There are many new capabilities in the plan, but virtually none are being retired or cancelled. Similarly, the range of tasks that the force is being asked to do isn’t being reduced. In fact, the DSU requires greater regional engagement as well as greater capacity for domestic disaster response—but will the force be able to do all the tasks expected of it? Related to this, our changing strategic environment seems to be pulling the force in two directions. The DSU states that we can’t match major-power adversaries and need to develop capabilities to deter them through strike, cyber and area-denial systems. This suggests a growing recognition of the need for asymmetric operational concepts and capabilities, yet the force is still largely being built around traditional, conventional capabilities such as expensive, multi-role, manned platforms of the kind Australia has relied upon to overmatch potential adversaries. Defence is also investing in an increasingly heavy conventional land force. That’s likely to be useful against some potential non-peer adversaries—but does it play a deterrent role against a major-power adversary? There’s also the question of balance between acquisition, sustainment and personnel funding. Acquisition’s share of the budget is growing rapidly. Personnel’s share is also growing but more slowly, and will decline as a percentage of the overall budget. The DSU states that the government will consider increases to Defence’s workforce next year, but those numbers are already accounted for in the DSU’s personnel funding stream, suggesting that any additional people won’t change the overall trajectory of personnel’s share of the budget. Certainly, increased capital spending is necessary, but is a 40% acquisition / 26% personnel balance feasible in the long term? There’s no point acquiring equipment you can’t crew. Then there are a set of risks that relate to the feasibility of delivery. The first, as ever, is money. The economic future of both Australia and the world is still very uncertain. If the economic impact of Covid-19 results in prolonged economic stagnation, it’s going to take sustained resolve by this and future governments to keep increasing defence funding over the decade. Should that resolve waver and a government revert to something like 2% of GDP, that would be a huge hit to the defence budget of potentially $5–10 billion per year, with a resultant cut to either existing core capabilities or the planned new ones. The government has already stated that it’s committed to Defence’s ‘megaprojects’ and that they aren’t part of any prioritisation or trade-off process, so other things will bear the brunt of any funding hit—potentially, the new asymmetric capabilities being introduced to deter a major-power adversary. Then there’s the very difficult question of the affordability of the force. The defence budget is growing substantially, but so is the list of capabilities Defence is acquiring and sustaining. The acquisition cost of military capabilities grows much faster than inflation. Since 2016, several key capabilities have grown significantly in cost (including submarines, frigates, armoured vehicles and air defence). Moreover, sustainment costs are also growing. The sustainment cost of key future capabilities is likely to be several times greater in real terms than the systems they’re replacing. One of the biggest implementation risks relates to Australian industry’s ability to scale up to deliver the force. The local share of Defence’s capital equipment spend has consistently hovered around one-third of the total. Last year, that was around $2.6 billion. As the capital budget rapidly grows over the decade, local acquisition spending will have to grow to over $7 billion per year just to maintain that one-third share. But it’s clear the government wants that share to grow. It has to, if we’re going to address the supply-chain risks currently inherent in defence capability. Getting to between 40% and 50% means the local acquisition spend will need to reach around $10 billion per year. That’s a lot of money for Australian industry to absorb and a lot of capability for it to deliver, but, if it doesn’t get there, the government won’t achieve the level of sovereign capability that it’s seeking and we’ll continue to rely on imported systems, with the attendant supply-chain risks. While the basic settings of the government’s 2016 defence industry policy statement are the right ones, it’s likely that it’s going to have to do more to develop the kind of local industrial ecosystem necessary to deliver the level of sovereign capability described in the DSU and FSP. Relying on the local assembly of foreign designs using mainly foreign high-value subsystems isn’t going to get us there. More needs to be done to generate technological innovation and advanced manufacturing here. There are only minor increases to innovation funding in the DSU, for example. The new line in the FSP to develop sovereign weapons manufacturing could be a model for a more deliberate approach to generating sovereign industrial capability. The other risk associated with industry policy is the old one of falling into the trap of preferring industrial outcomes to military capability. That risk has already been realised. Some of the hidden costs of continuous-build programs are becoming more apparent: the FSP states that the cost increase for the Future Frigate Program was caused by the government allocating ‘additional funding to enable construction of ships at a deliberate drumbeat over a longer period of time than originally planned to achieve a continuous shipbuilding program’. That is, we’re deliberately paying more to get capability later. The DSU acknowledges that we can no longer rely on warning time to be able to gradually adjust military capability, so surely now’s the time to be spending to accelerate delivery and the rate at which we ‘adjust capability’, not slow it down. If we’re willing to pay a premium to build here, let’s pay it to get more capability sooner, not later. Why are we prioritising jobs for future generations of shipbuilders over capability for current servicemen and women who may be called upon in the near future to use it? The new strategy has been written, and the government most certainly understands the urgency driving its defence policy changes. The key question is whether Defence can sufficiently internalise that urgency to implement the changes needed in how the organisation does business. The Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, stated on 7 August that ‘the Defence Department … has systematically for over 100 years failed to deliver on the government’s expectations of the enterprise.’ We now have a plan that calls for speed, lateral thinking, innovation and partnerships—to be implemented by an organisation that’s slow, subject to groupthink, risk averse and reluctant to reach out. Adapting Defence to the demands of our new reality is going to be challenging, to say the least.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Budget, Economy, Economic Growth, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Elise Thomas, Albert Zhang, Jake Wallis
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: ASPI ICPC has investigated a campaign of cross-platform inauthentic activity, conducted by Chinese-speaking actors and broadly in alignment with the political goal of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to denigrate the standing of the US. This appears to be targeted primarily at Western and US-based audiences by artificially boosting legitimate media and social media content in order to amplify divisive or negative narratives about the US. This has included highlighting racial tensions, amplifying criticisms of the US’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, and political and personal scandals linked to President Donald Trump. However, there’s no clear indication of a partisan lean in this campaign. President Trump appears to be criticised in his capacity as a leader of the US rather than as a presidential candidate. This activity has been conducted primarily in English, with a smaller amount of Chinese-language content. It relies on a high degree of automation and appears to have achieved low engagement across both Facebook and Twitter. The divergent tactics used in this campaign suggest that’s unconnected to the state-linked operations studied by ASPI ICPC in Tweeting through the Great Firewall and Retweeting through the Great Firewall. There’s no clear actor—state or non-state—to which attribution can be made from this investigation. It does appear that those behind the campaign commonly type in double-byte fonts used for Asian languages, including Chinese, and that a small number of accounts appear to have been used in an earlier campaign targeting the Falun Gong / Falun Dafa community in the US. This activity is valuable as a case study because it highlights the ways in which social media platforms provide a vector for small-scale actors to engage in covert political influence campaigns targeting citizens and voters in other nations in ways that can complement state-driven propaganda. The investigation offers insights into behavioural patterns that can reveal coordinated inauthentic activity designed to drive influence, even when it is disguised through selective sharing of authentic content by accounts with profiles that offer a veneer of legitimacy
  • Topic: Internet, Social Media, COVID-19, Misinformation
  • Political Geography: Australia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Elise Thomas, Albert Zhang
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has become the subject of a diverse and rapidly expanding universe of conspiracy theories. This report takes a close look at a particular variant of the Gates conspiracy theories, which is referred to here as the ID2020 conspiracy (named after the non-profit ID2020 Alliance, which the conspiracy theorists claim has a role in the narrative), as a case study for examining the dynamics of online conspiracy theories on Covid-19. Like many conspiracy theories, that narrative builds on legitimate concerns, in this case about privacy and surveillance in the context of digital identity systems, and distorts them in extreme and unfounded ways. Among the many conspiracy theories now surrounding Gates, this one is particularly worthy of attention because it highlights the way emergent events catalyse existing online conspiracy substrates. In times of crisis, these digital structures—the online communities, the content, the shaping of recommendation algorithms—serve to channel anxious, uncertain individuals towards conspiratorial beliefs. This report focuses primarily on the role and use of those digital structures in proliferating the ID2020 conspiracy.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, COVID-19, Misinformation
  • Political Geography: Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: Jake Wallis, Tom Uren, Elise Thomas, Albert Zhang, Samantha Hoffman, Lin Li, Alex Pascoe, Danielle Cave
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report analyses a persistent, large-scale influence campaign linked to Chinese state actors on Twitter and Facebook. This activity largely targeted Chinese-speaking audiences outside of the Chinese mainland (where Twitter is blocked) with the intention of influencing perceptions on key issues, including the Hong Kong protests, exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui and, to a lesser extent Covid-19 and Taiwan. Extrapolating from the takedown dataset, to which we had advanced access, given to us by Twitter, we have identified that this operation continues and has pivoted to try to weaponise the US Government’s response to current domestic protests and create the perception of a moral equivalence with the suppression of protests in Hong Kong.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Internet, Social Media, COVID-19, Misinformation , Twitter
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Albert Zhang, Elise Thomas
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This new research highlights the growing significance and impact of Chinese non-state actors on western social media platforms. Across March and April 2020, this loosely coordinated pro-China trolling campaign on Twitter has: Harassed and mimicked western media outlets; Impersonated Taiwanese users in an effort to undermine Taiwan’s position with the World Health Organisation (WHO); Spread false information about the Covid-19 outbreak; Joined in pre-existing inauthentic social media campaigns.
  • Topic: World Health Organization, Non State Actors, Geopolitics, Social Media, COVID-19, Misinformation , Twitter
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, Australia
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: A range of actors are manipulating the information environment to exploit the Covid-19 crisis for strategic gain. ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre is tracking many of these state and non-state actors online and will occasionally publish investigative data-driven reporting that will focus on the use of disinformation, propaganda, extremist narratives and conspiracy theories. The bulk of ASPI’s data analysis uses our in-house Influence Tracker tool—a machine learning and data analytics capability that draws out insights from multi-language social media datasets. This report includes three case studies that feature China, Taiwan, Russia and Africa
  • Topic: Internet, Social Media, COVID-19, Misinformation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Russia, China, Taiwan, Asia
  • Author: Tom Uren
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: One of the largest online challenges facing Australia is to provide effective cybersecurity to the majority of internet users who don’t have the skills or resources to defend themselves. This paper explores the concept of ‘Clean Pipes’, which is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) could provide security services to their customers to deliver a level of default security. The Australian Government looks to be implementing a version of Clean Pipes: on 30 June 2020 the Prime Minister announced a funding commitment to ‘prevent malicious cyber activity from ever reaching millions of Australians across the country by blocking known malicious websites and computer viruses at speed’.1 This paper examines arguments for Clean Pipes and possible implementation roadblocks.
  • Topic: Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Internet
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Thitinan Pongsudhirak
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: After more than five years of military-authoritarian government following its 13th successful coup in May 2014, Thailand’s most recent elections on 24 March 2019 yielded a controversial parliament and a fractious post-election coalition government, headed by incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. This report argues that despite the challenges of domestic political preoccupations and the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, Thailand’s strategic role in the Indo-Pacific is too important to be marginalized and that the country is an indispensable piece of the regional jigsaw puzzle in an era of global power shifts and transitions. The current Sino-US competition involves far-reaching battleground between democracy and authoritarianism, and Thailand – one of America’s oldest treaty ally with increasingly close ties with China – is strategically consequential. The report explains the complexity of Thai’s foreign policy and implications for Australia.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, National Security, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: Asia, Australia, Thailand, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Marcus Hellyer
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report proposes a way for the Australian Government to acquire maritime war-fighting capability quickly and affordably while promoting Australian industry and the continuous Naval Shipbuilding Program. It would deliver substantial new maritime capability in the next few years, in contrast to the current investment program, and it would introduce a transformative force structure for the price of one or two traditional large multi-role platforms. This would address key challenges faced by the ADF by enabling it to transition more quickly to a force structure that better supports operating concepts employing distributed lethality and greater use of autonomous systems and human–machine teaming.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Economics, National Security, Military Strategy, Navy
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: Paul Barnes
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Disaster risk reduction is a global policy issue. Reducing the likelihood and severity of damage and related cascading and cumulative impacts from natural hazards has become central to all nations and has triggered the evolution of international cooperation, multilateral responses and humanitarian aid efforts over many years. The nexus between natural hazards and vulnerability is central to appreciating the scale of the damage caused by large disasters and resultant sociotechnical impacts. Multilateral efforts to mitigate the impacts of weather and climate hazards have progressed over time. The Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World: Guidelines for Natural Disaster Prevention, Preparedness and Mitigation was a harbinger for the Hyogo Framework for Action, which emphasised building the resilience of communities and nations to the effects of disasters, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction as the current flagship of unified effort. Pacific island countries (PICs) have long been affected by weather-related disasters. Many PICs have been listed among the top 10 most disaster-prone countries in the World Risk Index over several years. In addition to damaging winds a convergence of flash flooding, king tides and high intensity rainfall contributed to damage to essential services, food supply and displacement of people across island economies. This year marks the fifth year of applying the Sendai Framework to Disaster risk reduction efforts globally - completing one-third of the Framework’s operational life cycle. It seems an opportune time to take stock of the challenges faced by selected PICs in incorporating guidance from the Sendai Framework into policy, legislation and practice. This report details independent views on challenges to implementing the Sendai Framework in eight Pacific economies. It does not pursue an in-depth analysis of constraints or impediments to implementation of the framework but seeks to present independent views on the ‘fit’ of the Sendai Framework to local needs in a general context of the Four priorities central to the Framework. It hoped that it can contribute to ongoing discussion and thought about important issues in a vibrant yet vulnerable region.
  • Topic: Disaster Relief, Multilateralism, Crisis Management, Risk
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Alex Joske
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: What’s the problem? The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is strengthening its influence by co-opting representatives of ethnic minority groups, religious movements, and business, science and political groups. It claims the right to speak on behalf of those groups and uses them to claim legitimacy. These efforts are carried out by the united front system, which is a network of party and state agencies responsible for influencing groups outside the party, particularly those claiming to represent civil society. It manages and expands the United Front, a coalition of entities working towards the party’s goals.1 The CCP’s role in this system’s activities, known as united front work, is often covert or deceptive.2 The united front system’s reach beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—such as into foreign political parties, diaspora communities and multinational corporations—is an exportation of the CCP’s political system.3 This undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage, and increases unsupervised technology transfer. General Secretary Xi Jinping’s reinvigoration of this system underlines the need for stronger responses to CCP influence and technology-transfer operations around the world. However, governments are still struggling to manage it effectively and there is little publicly available analysis of the united front system. This lack of information can cause Western observers to underestimate the significance of the united front system and to reduce its methods into familiar categories. For example, diplomats might see united front work as ‘public diplomacy’ or ‘propaganda’ but fail to appreciate the extent of related covert activities. Security officials may be alert to criminal activity or espionage while underestimating the significance of open activities that facilitate it. Analysts risk overlooking the interrelated facets of CCP influence that combine to make it effective.4 What’s the solution? Governments should disrupt the CCP’s capacity to use united front figures and groups as vehicles for covert influence and technology transfer. They should begin by developing analytical capacity for understanding foreign interference. On that basis, they should issue declaratory policy statements that frame efforts to counter it. Countermeasures should involve law enforcement, legislative reform, deterrence and capacity building across relevant areas of government. Governments should mitigate the divisive effect united front work can have on communities through engagement and careful use of language. Law enforcement, while critically important, shouldn’t be all or even most of the solution. Foreign interference often takes place in a grey area that’s difficult to address through law enforcement actions. Strengthening civil society and media must be a fundamental part of protecting against interference. Policymakers should make measures to raise the transparency of foreign influence a key part of the response
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Science and Technology, Foreign Interference, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Emile Dirks, James Leibold
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: What’s the problem? The Chinese Government is building the world’s largest police-run DNA database in close cooperation with key industry partners across the globe. Yet, unlike the managers of other forensic databases, Chinese authorities are deliberately enrolling tens of millions of people who have no history of serious criminal activity. Those individuals (including preschool-age children) have no control over how their samples are collected, stored and used. Nor do they have a clear understanding of the potential implications of DNA collection for them and their extended families. Earlier Chinese Government DNA collection campaigns focused on Tibet and Xinjiang, but, beginning in late 2017, the Ministry of Public Security expanded the dragnet across China, targeting millions of men and boys with the aim to ‘comprehensively improve public security organs’ ability to solve cases, and manage and control society’.1 This program of mass DNA data collection violates Chinese domestic law and global human rights norms. And, when combined with other surveillance tools, it will increase the power of the Chinese state and further enable domestic repression in the name of stability maintenance and social control. Numerous biotechnology companies are assisting the Chinese police in building this database and may find themselves complicit in these violations. They include multinational companies such as US-based Thermo Fisher Scientific and major Chinese companies like AGCU Scientific and Microread Genetics. All these companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their products and processes don’t violate the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of Chinese citizens. What’s the solution? The forensic use of DNA has the potential to solve crimes and save lives; yet it can also be misused and reinforce discriminatory law enforcement and authoritarian political control. The Chinese Government and police must end the compulsory collection of biological samples from individuals without records of serious criminal wrongdoing, destroy all samples already collected, and remove all DNA profiles not related to casework from police databases. China must enact stringent restrictions on the collection, storage, use and transfer of human genomic data. The Chinese Government must also ensure that it adheres to the spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data (2003), the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights (1997) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), as well as China’s own Criminal Law (2018). National and international legal experts have condemned previous efforts to enrol innocent civilians and children in forensic DNA databases, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy should investigate the Chinese Government’s current collection program for any violations of international law and norms.2 Foreign governments must strengthen export controls on biotechnology and related intellectual property and research data that’s sold to or shared with the Chinese Government and its domestic public and private partners. Chinese and multinational companies should conduct due diligence and independent audits to ensure that their forensic DNA products and processes are not being used in ways that violate the human and civil rights of Chinese citizens.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Minorities, Surveillance, Chinese Communist Party (CCP), DNA
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: John Coyne, Peter Jennings
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This Strategy report offers policy-focused analysis of the world we will face once the pandemic has passed. At a time when all our assumptions about the shape of Australian society and the broader global order are being challenged, we need to take stock of likely future directions. The report analyses 26 key topics, countries and themes, ranging from Australia’s domestic situation through to the global balance of power, climate and technology issues. In each case we asked the authors to consider four questions. What impact did Covid-19 have on their research topic? What will recovery mean? Will there be differences in future? What policy prescriptions would you recommend for the Australian government?
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Climate Change, Disaster Relief, National Security, Science and Technology, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: John Coyne, Tony McCormack, Hal Crichton-Standish
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Most Australians have no idea how quickly they’ll be running on empty if fuel supplies from overseas are cut in a crisis. For decades, the nation has relied on risky, “just in time” deliveries of the fuel necessary for transport systems, industry, policing and individual motoring needs—and even the operations of the Australian Defence Force. This report describes how this situation is so fraught, and the national reserve so small, that during major military exercises and actual operations such as the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, fuel stocks have reached critically low levels.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Fossil Fuels, Aviation
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Boaz Ganor
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Print this page SR155 Terrorism is terrorism - banner 19 MAY 2020 Terrorism is terrorism: The Christchurch terror attack from an Israeli CT perspective By Professor Boaz Ganor This report by Professor Boaz Ganor examines the different phases of the Christchurch terror attack, its similarities to and differences from Islamic jihadist terror attacks, and the lessons to be learnt for preventing, thwarting and managing such attacks, based on Israeli counter-terrorism experience. Lone-wolf attacks have become a widespread phenomenon in many countries, some have ended with a limited number of casualties. The 2019 Christchurch terror attack resulted in dozens of casualties. This report rigorously examines each phase of the attack to assess where points of intervention may have been overlooked and what can be learned from this experience to evolve counter-terrorism strategy and methods. Professor Ganor shares key lessons from the Christchurch attack that will help prevent or thwart future attacks through social media intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data, security, gun regulation, damage mitigation and victim treatment, post attack activity, and international cooperation.
  • Topic: National Security, Terrorism, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Israel, Palestine, Australia, Australia/Pacific, New Zealand
  • Author: Jonathan Lusthaus
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: What’s the problem? Cybercrime is a serious threat facing Australia and the world, but this criminal activity is often wrongly viewed as a near invisible online phenomenon, rather than a ‘real world’ concern. Behind every attack sits one or more people in a physical location. Those people are products of particular socio-economic conditions, which influence the types of regional and local cybercrime activity they specialise in. Cybercrime isn’t evenly distributed around the globe, but is centred around hotspots, which offer potential breeding grounds or safe harbours from where offenders can strike. This is true in Australia’s own region, where some Southeast Asian countries are emerging as bases for serious regional, and even global, cybercrime threats. We’re not proactively tackling the locations where the cybercrime threat develops and matures. What’s the solution? Australia’s current approach to fighting cybercrime needs to be augmented to account more seriously for this local dimension, particularly in Southeast Asia, and our fight against cybercrime should be more targeted, enduring and forward-looking. While it makes sense to support international cooperation in the fight against cybercrime, those efforts need to be targeted to specific hotspots where the problem is the most acute and Australia’s contributions can provide the greatest value for money. This involves the identification of current or future cybercriminal hotspots within Australia’s near region. Australia’s existing law enforcement capacity-building programs should be matched specifically to those countries producing the biggest cybercrime threat. Deeper relationships should also be developed between investigators in Australia and those countries through more cyber liaison posts and exchange programs. Finally, Australia should adopt prevention programs that seek to block offenders’ pathways into cybercrime and promote those programs to suitable cybercrime hotspots in the region.
  • Topic: Crime, National Security, Cybersecurity, Internet
  • Political Geography: Australia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: John Coyne
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: North of 26° south and the security of Australia Volume 2’, is a new report by ASPI’s The North and Australia’s Security Program. The report builds on Volume 1 by presenting an all new series of articles by a range of trusted and up and coming authors exploring the continued importance of Northern Australia to national security and defence strategy. Northern Australia had become key political, military and economic terrain in a new era of major-power competition. Despite those developments, Australian policymakers have struggled to develop a cohesive northern Australia strategy. While Australia has a long-term defence capability plan, we need to continue to test our assumptions about the defence of northern Australia and the north’s significance to national security. In December 2019, Defence had finished the first draft of its internal review of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. The review was meant to test the White Paper’s underlying assumptions. Arguably, the economic, social and geopolitical changes driven by Covid-19 will be historically significant, and that will require all-new thinking about northern Australia. This report provides much needed contemporary analysis of the criticality of the North to Australia’s national security and defence.
  • Topic: National Security, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: John Coyne, Michael Shoebridge, Albert Zhang
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This new ASPI report, argues for the development of a national security cloud. If the community doesn’t shift to cloud infrastructure, it’ll cut itself off from the most powerful software and applications available, placing itself in a less capable position using legacy software that vendors no longer support. The report’s authors argue that if this need isn’t addressed rapidly and comprehensively, Australia will quite simply be at a major disadvantage against potential adversaries who are using this effective new technology at scale to advance their own analysis and operational performance. The report identifies four significant obstacles that stand in the way of Australia’s national security community moving to cloud infrastructure. These obstacles need to be crossed, and the change needs to be driven by ministers and agency heads. Ministers and agency heads have both the responsibility and perspective to look beyond the important current technical security standards and rules and think about the capability benefit that cloud computing can bring to Australia’s national security. They’re the ones who must balance opportunity and risk.
  • Topic: National Security, Cybersecurity, Internet
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Michael Shoebridge
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: National Cabinet is meeting to begin the pathway to get Australia back to work and school. That's while we are still in the midst of 'flattening the curve' and in a world without a vaccine or even effective therapeutic treatment to reduce death rates from the virus. So, how might Australia return to work without getting back on the elevator of exponentially growing infection and deaths? This Strategic Insight sketches out that path, with the answers involving mass testing, and companies funded and supported to do rapid testing, data collection and analysis. It will rely on smartphone apps for data collection to enable outbreak suppression and contact tracing. Critically, national cabinet must communicate how this new approach will work alongside the existing social distancing restrictions, which will need to remain in place for months to come. The hygiene and distancing protocols for this 'return to work' will be easier for advanced manufacturing workplaces, it turns out, as those workplaces are already pretty socially distant, with low levels of staffing and high levels of automation. A lot of construction work is mainly outdoors and is also now more mechanised than labour intensive. And a regime of testing workers on arrival, combined with strict workplace health protocols, will probably be feasible for many other manufacturing, large-scale agricultural and white collar workplaces—including our parliaments. Small businesses will struggle in the absence of almost ubiquitous community testing, unless ‘precinct’ approaches provide testing and health hygiene for facilities that house groups of such businesses (shopping centres and business parks are examples). This diversity across workplaces and organisations means that taking the path advocated here—tests, data, apps and surveillance—will involve a clear and pervasive communication effort between our leaders and our people. Confusion about who’s in, who’s out, which businesses can start planning to get back into operation in facilities now closed and which must stick to what they have now will unravel this approach. And being able to explain how the health surveillance approach has been designed to work with our democratic society and to not be a part of any future national security surveillance powers will be key to bringing different parts of our population along. Again, this communication task is a job for the national cabinet.
  • Topic: Health, Labor Issues, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Anthony Bergin, Tony Press
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Given recent broader tensions in the China–Australia relationship, China’s global ambitions, lack of progress on key Antarctic policy initiatives and the potential for significant geopolitical consequences for the future of Antarctica and for Australia’s strategic interests, it’s important that Australian policymakers reconsider our long-term Antarctic policy settings. The report found no clear evidence that China is violating the Antarctic Treaty. But it argues we should apply a more sharply focused assessment of the costs and benefits of cooperation, given China’s more assertive international posture and increasing interests in Antarctica. The recommendations in the report are designed to maximise the value and mitigate the downside risks of China engagement for our Antarctic and broader national interests. Overall, we should adopt a more transactional approach in our Antarctic engagement with China, making it clear what we require from cooperation and what we expect from China. Given the track record Beijing has in moving rapidly on a broad front, as it’s done in the South China Sea, we need to be prepared to respond to a rapid increase in the speed and scale of China’s actions in Antarctica.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, National Security, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia, Australia/Pacific, Antarctica
  • Author: Hannah Smith, Katherine Mansted
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Fakes are all around us. Academic analysis suggests that they’re difficult to spot without new sensors, software or other specialised equipment, with 1 in 5 photos you see being fraudulent. The exposure of deep fakes and the services they facilitate can potentially lead to suppression of information and a general breakdown in confidence in public authorities and trust. We need to react not just to false or compromised claims but to those who would try to exploit them for nefarious purposes. We should not assume the existence of fake news unless we have compelling evidence to the contrary, but when we do, we should not allow the propaganda. I’ve never been more sure of this point than today. —GPT-2 deep learning algorithm The foreword to this report was written by a machine. The machine used a ‘deep fake’ algorithm — a form of artificial intelligence (AI) — to generate text and a headshot. Deep fakes are increasingly realistic and easy to create. The foreword took us approximately five minutes to generate, using free, open-source software.1
  • Topic: National Security, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, Internet, Emerging Technology
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Isaac Kfir, John Coyne
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This year’s Counterterrorism Yearbook draws upon 19 contributing authors, each a renowned thought leader in their field, to promote practical counterterrorism solutions by reviewing a global range of terrorism developments and counterterrorism responses. ASIO’s Director General, Mike Burgess commends the publication for its ‘valuable contribution to the public discourse on counterterrorism’. While maintaining its geographic focus, the Yearbook now includes thematic chapters on mental health, strategic policing, the media, the terror–crime nexus and terrorist innovation. These new thematic chapters have been included to encourage governments to consider more proactive CT agendas that move beyond the current focus on disrupting plots and discouraging people from joining and supporting terrorist groups. The focus here has been on promoting new thinking on how to deal with emergent areas of concern, such as comorbidity of mental health, use of gaming platforms, and artificial intelligence.
  • Topic: National Security, Counter-terrorism, Mental Health, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, Danielle Cave, James Leibold, Kelsey Munro, Nathan Ruser
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority1 citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. This report estimates that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps.2 The estimated figure is conservative and the actual figure is likely to be far higher. In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories,3 undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours,4 are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances.5 Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders and have limited freedom of movement.6 China has attracted international condemnation for its network of extrajudicial ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang.7 This report exposes a new phase in China’s social re-engineering campaign targeting minority citizens, revealing new evidence that some factories across China are using forced Uyghur labour under a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme that is tainting the global supply chain.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Science and Technology, Labor Issues, Minorities, Business , Uyghurs
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Fergus Hanson, Gai Brodtmann, Rachael Falk, Nigel Phair, Lesley Seebeck, Peter A. Dutton
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Back in 2016, Australia launched a new national cybersecurity strategy. The strategy covers a four-year period to 2020, and given the changes in the security environment, an update is now clearly warranted. To that end, the government has just released a discussion paper to kick off the public consultation. The closing date for submissions on the discussion paper is 1 November. To complement the public submission process, ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre is initiating a public debate on what should be included in the next cybersecurity strategy. Contributions will be compiled into a report that we will deliver to the Department of Home Affairs to inform the strategy’s development. This Strategic Insight includes views from The Strategist published in late 2019.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Louise Allen
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Australia’s implementation of women, peace and security examines the benefits of Australia strengthening its implementation of the women, peace and security agenda to bolster its regional stability and national security efforts. Since its formal establishment by the UN Security Council in October 2000, the women, peace and security agenda has become the central framework through which to advocate for women’s participation across all peace and security decision-making processes, to promote the rights of women and girls in conflict and crisis settings, and for the integration of gender perspectives into conflict prevention, resolution and post-conflict rebuilding efforts and throughout disaster and crisis responses. The agenda, when implemented holistically, can also complement states’ national security efforts and strategies aimed at promoting regional stability. The report highlights that while Australia has a positive story to tell particularly about its mainstreaming of the agenda across the Australian Defence Force, within international operations of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and in its aid program. There are, however, significant inconsistencies and resourcing gaps in how Australia approaches the implementation of its commitments on the women, peace and security agenda.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, National Security, United Nations, Women, Peace
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Bart Hogeveen
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) as an invisible driver of socio-economic change have long captured the imagination of politicians, policymakers and aid professionals alike. Since the first fibre-optic submarine cable connected Fiji 20 years ago, many reports and studies have been written about the potential that the introduction of ICTs in the South Pacific would bring for reaching targets of poverty reduction and economic growth. The internet, mobile devices and e-commerce have already penetrated the Pacific, configured to the political, economic and sociocultural context of the various island nations. This report takes a step back and zooms in on one aspect of that digital revolution: e-government. E-Government is defined as a set of capabilities and activities that involves the use of ICTs by government to improve intragovernmental processes and to connect with citizens, businesses and industry. Fiji was the first island to get linked up to the global network of submarine communications cables in 2000. In 2020, all major islands in the region are connected through one or more domestic and international fibre-optic cables. The region is connected. This report finds that the potential of ICTs to enable stronger governance, effective public service delivery and better government services is there. In all countries that are part of this study, critical foundational infrastructure is in place: Government broadband networks that connect departments, schools and hospitals have been established. Central government data centres have been built, public registries are being digitised, and the introduction of national (digital) identities is currently being considered. All Pacific island states have introduced relevant strategy and policy documents and have reviewed, or are currently reviewing, legislation related to data-sharing, cybersecurity and universal access. All islands have an online presence that is steadily professionalising. Government (information) services are increasingly provided online, along with tourism information, fisheries data, geological data and meteorological forecasts. But there’s still a lot to be unlocked. Increased internet connectivity, the availability of mobile devices and online services and access to information are creating a greater demand from users to their governments. International donors similarly focus on the delivery of ‘digital aid’, using ICTs to provide international assistance more efficiently and effectively. This report asks the following questions: What capabilities have been established and are in place? What are the current policy issues? What can the international (donor) community do to enhance its support for the digitisation process of the Pacific island governments? The report reaches five main conclusions for the implementation of e-government and digital government initiatives, and it concludes with four recommendations for future programming of international support in the area of ICTs and e-government.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Communications, Internet
  • Political Geography: Australia, Australia/Pacific
  • Author: Lisa Sharland, Genevieve Feely
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: There’s a long and proud history of peacekeeping in the Pacific. Countries in the region have hosted missions, and contributed to them, to support their neighbours, resolve conflicts and maintain a more secure and peaceful region. They have also sent personnel abroad to contribute to global efforts to maintain international peace and security. Yet, this is an area that’s less explored and understood. The Pacific is frequently viewed as a beneficiary of peacekeeping rather than as a substantive contributor. In this report, we attempt to address that gap, drawing on interviews and discussions with government officials and returned peacekeepers in seven case-study countries (Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu). We offer recommendations for Pacific countries, as well as the Australian Government, about opportunities for further partnerships to support the engagement of countries in the region in UN peacekeeping.
  • Topic: United Nations, Peacekeeping, Partnerships, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Asia-Pacific, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji
  • Author: Rajiv Shah
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: 5G will be the next generation of mobile telecommunications. There are differing views on how quickly it will become commonplace and exactly what form it will take, but it will ultimately transform much of what we do and how society functions. The trustworthiness, security and resilience of 5G networks will therefore be critical. A key part of this will be the partnerships that network operators form with vendors to provide and maintain the network infrastructure. There’s now a good understanding that 5G will underpin critical national infrastructure in a way that previous telecommunication technologies don’t, and that supply-chain trust and security are key national security issues. Australia and some other countries have eliminated specific vendors from their 5G supply chains, but the space is globally contested and there is no consensus on what happens next. There is a need for a trusted ecosystem of vendors, which may also bring enormous opportunities for states, including Australia, to develop sovereign 5G capabilities and grow their 5G market. However, barriers to entry and a lack of consensus among key 5G stakeholders across the public and private sectors are holding up progress towards these goals.
  • Topic: Markets, Science and Technology, Cybersecurity, 5G
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Fergus Hanson, Emilia Currey, Tracy Beattie
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly deploying coercive diplomacy against foreign governments and companies. Coercive diplomacy isn’t well understood, and countries and companies have struggled to develop an effective toolkit to push back against and resist it. This report tracks the CCP’s use of coercive diplomacy over the past 10 years, recording 152 cases of coercive diplomacy affecting 27 countries as well as the European Union. The data shows that there’s been a sharp escalation in these tactics since 2018. The regions and countries that recorded the most instances of coercive diplomacy over the last decade include Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and East Asia. The CCP’s coercive tactics can include economic measures (such as trade sanctions, investment restrictions, tourism bans and popular boycotts) and non-economic measures (such as arbitrary detention, restrictions on official travel and state-issued threats). These efforts seek to punish undesired behaviour and focus on issues including securing territorial claims, deploying Huawei’s 5G technology, suppressing minorities in Xinjiang, blocking the reception of the Dalai Lama and obscuring the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. China is the largest trading partner for nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries, and its global economic importance gives it significant leverage. The impacts of coercive diplomacy are exacerbated by the growing dependency of foreign governments and companies on the Chinese market. The economic, business and security risks of that dependency are likely to increase if the CCP can continue to successfully use this form of coercion.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, European Union, Economy, Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Nathan Ruser, James Leibold, Kelsey Munro, Tilla Hoja
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Chinese Government has embarked on a systematic and intentional campaign to rewrite the cultural heritage of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). It’s seeking to erode and redefine the culture of the Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking communities—stripping away any Islamic, transnational or autonomous elements—in order to render those indigenous cultural traditions subservient to the ‘Chinese nation’. Using satellite imagery, we estimate that approximately 16,000 mosques in Xinjiang (65% of the total) have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies, mostly since 2017. An estimated 8,500 have been demolished outright, and, for the most part, the land on which those razed mosques once sat remains vacant. A further 30% of important Islamic sacred sites (shrines, cemeteries and pilgrimage routes, including many protected under Chinese law) have been demolished across Xinjiang, mostly since 2017, and an additional 28% have been damaged or altered in some way. Alongside other coercive efforts to re-engineer Uyghur social and cultural life by transforming or eliminating Uyghurs’ language, music, homes and even diets, the Chinese Government’s policies are actively erasing and altering key elements of their tangible cultural heritage. Many international organisations and foreign governments have turned a blind eye. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) have remained silent in the face of mounting evidence of cultural destruction in Xinjiang. Muslim-majority countries, in particular, have failed to challenge the Chinese Government over its efforts to domesticate, sinicise and separate Uyghur culture from the wider Islamic world.
  • Topic: Islam, Culture, UNESCO, Uyghurs
  • Political Geography: China, Xinjiang
  • Author: Samantha Hoffman, John Garnaut, Kayla Izenman, Matthew Johnson, Alexandra Pascoe, Fergus Ryan, Elise Thomas
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: China’s central bank digital currency, known as ‘DC/EP’ (Digital Currency / Electronic Payment), is rapidly progressing and, if successful, would have major international implications that have not yet been widely considered by policymakers. DC/EP would have ramifications for governments, investors, and companies, including China’s own tech champions. It has the potential to create the world’s largest centralised repository of financial transactions data and, while it may address some financial governance challenges, such as money laundering, it would also create unprecedented opportunities for surveillance. The initial impact of a successful DC/EP project will be primarily domestic, but little thought has been given to the longer term and global implications. DC/EP could be exported overseas via the digital wallets of Chinese tourists, students and businesspeople. Over time, it is not far-fetched to speculate that the Chinese party-state will incentivise or even mandate that foreigners also use DC/EP for certain categories of cross-border RMB transactions as a condition of accessing the Chinese marketplace. DC/EP intersects with China’s ambitions to shape global technological and financial standards, for example, through the promotion of RMB internationalisation and fintech standards-setting along sites of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In the long term, therefore, a successful DC/EP could greatly expand the party-state’s ability to monitor and shape economic behaviour well beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • Topic: Monetary Policy, Central Bank, Digital Currency
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: David Uren
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report argues that the growing use of economic coercion by both China and the United States is an emerging risk for business and undermines the world trading system. Australian businesses that have in good faith taken up the opportunities offered by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, signed in 2015, now find themselves facing the potential loss of market access as the Chinese administration retaliates over Australian government policies on a coronavirus inquiry and the next generation internet network. Australian businesses are not the targets of US sanctions, but US extra-territorial reach means they are at risk of serious collateral damage if they even inadvertently transact with any individual or organisation that is. The report traces the growing use of trade as an economic weapon, particularly over the last three years as the global trade environment has become increasingly fractious amid rising protectionism. The World Trade Organisation has successfully been used in the past to push back against economic coercion and the report argues the Australian government should be ready to use the disputes mechanism of the World Trade Organisation to tackle Chinese trade barriers. Multilateral forums, including APEC, the G20, the OECD and the WTO should recognise the growing threat which economic coercion represents to the freedom of commerce.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Economy, Trade Wars, Free Trade, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, United States of America
  • Author: Aakriti Bachhawat, Danielle Cave, Jocelinn Kang, Rajeswari Pillai, Trisha Ray
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report by ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre and India’s Observer Research Foundation argues that as the India-Australia bilateral relationship continues to grow and evolve, both governments should invest in the construction of a new India–Australia partnership on technology. The foundation for such a partnership already exists, and further investment areas of complementary interests could stimulate regional momentum in a range of key critical and emerging technology areas including in 5G, Artificial Intelligence, quantum technologies, space technologies and in critical minerals. The report contains 14 policy recommendations that will help build this new technology partnership. This new report outlines what this new India-Australia technology partnership could look like. It examines the current state of the India–Australia relationship; provides an overview of current technology cooperation and where challenges and roadblocks lie; analyses each state’s competitive and complementary advantages in selected technology areas and highlights opportunities for further collaboration across the areas of 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Quantum technologies, Space technologies and in critical minerals.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Science and Technology, Bilateral Relations, Partnerships, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: India, Australia
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Arange of actors are manipulating the information environment to exploit the COVID-19 crisis for strategic gain. ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre is tracking many of these state and non-state actors online, and will occasionally publish investigative, data-driven reporting that will focus on the use of disinformation, propaganda, extremist narratives and conspiracy theories by these actors. The bulk of ASPI’s data analysis uses our in-house Influence Tracker tool - a machine learning and data analytics capability that draws out insights from multi-language social media datasets. This new tool can ingest data in multiple languages and auto-translate, producing insights on topics, sentiment, shared content, influential accounts, metrics of impact and posting patterns.
  • Topic: Social Media, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19, Disinformation, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: Sarah O'Connor, Fergus Hanson, Emilia Currey, Tracy Beattie
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Over the past decade, state actors have taken advantage of the digitisation of election systems, election administration and election campaigns to interfere in foreign elections and referendums. Their activity can be divided into two attack vectors. First, they’ve used various cyber operations, such as denial of service (DoS) attacks and phishing attacks, to disrupt voting infrastructure and target electronic and online voting, including vote tabulation. Second, they’ve used online information operations to exploit the digital presence of election campaigns, politicians, journalists and voters. Together, these two attack vectors (referred to collectively as ‘cyber-enabled foreign interference’ in this report because both are mediated through cyberspace) have been used to seek to influence voters and their turnout at elections, manipulate the information environment and diminish public trust in democratic processes. This research identified 41 elections and seven referendums between January 2010 and October 2020 where cyber-enabled foreign interference was reported, and it finds that there’s been a significant uptick in such activity since 2017. This data collection shows that Russia is the most prolific state actor engaging in online interference, followed by China, whose cyber-enabled foreign interference activity has increased significantly over the past two years. As well as these two dominant actors, Iran and North Korea have also tried to influence foreign elections in 2019 and 2020. All four states have sought to interfere in the 2020 US presidential elections using differing cyber-enabled foreign interference tactics. In many cases, these four actors use a combination of cyber operations and online information operations to reinforce their activities. There’s also often a clear geopolitical link between the interfering state and its target: these actors are targeting states they see as adversaries or useful to their geopolitical interests. Democratic societies are yet to develop clear thresholds for responding to cyber-enabled interference, particularly when it’s combined with other levers of state power or layered with a veil of plausible deniability. Even when they’re able to detect it, often with the help of social media platforms, research institutes and the media, most states are failing to effectively deter such activity. The principles inherent in democratic societies—openness, freedom of speech and the free flow of ideas—have made them particularly vulnerable to online interference.
  • Topic: Elections, Referendum, Foreign Interference, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: Peter Jennings, Marcus Hellyer
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: Prime Minister John Howard famously coined the term ‘barbeque stopper’ to refer to a political controversy so hot that it was likely to make backyard diners stop mid-shrimp-sizzle to debate the big issue of the day. If ever the specialist world of defence procurement has produced a national barbeque stopper, it would be over the question of Australia’s future submarine. Why are they so expensive? Why do we need 12 of them? Why build them here? Why not nuclear propulsion? Why a French design? Why not an American, German, Japanese or Swedish design? Aren’t submarines obsolete, to be replaced by drones? Won’t technology make the oceans transparent? There are many questions and few, if any, easily accessible, plain-English explanations. This ASPI study attempts to answer the many questions that Australians pose when it comes to the design, acquisition, cost, operational service and strategic implications of submarines. Our writing team includes a vice admiral and former Chief of Navy, two rear admirals—one a distinguished submariner who has served with the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy; the other, one of Australia’s leading naval historians. Other contributors include people steeped in strategy and capability development and with deep industry experience of defence production.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Economics, National Security, Armed Forces, Navy, Submarines
  • Political Geography: Australia
  • Author: John Coyne
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: This report highlights the vast economic opportunities in northern Australia and how they can contribute to our national security. The author makes the case that, while defence spending is vital to northern economies and nation building, it’s focused more on the Defence organisation’s more narrowly conceived portfolio capital investments in defence establishments and facilities rather than on much-needed broader national security and economic decisions. Instead, there’s a need for the federal government and the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian governments to take a more holistic perspective on northern Australia’s critical economic and national security role. The cities of Townsville, Cairns, Darwin and Katherine are vital to our defence, but also to our financial and national security. They’re most definitely more than home bases for the ADF.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Economics, Government, National Security
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Katja Theodorakis, Leanne Close
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s (KAS) Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific held their annual Australia–Europe Counter Terrorism Dialogue in virtual form this year. This publication provides an overview of the issues discussed at the 5th Dialogue in Europe in 2019, and the two events held in Australia and virtually with European experts, in August and September. The annual ASPI–KAS Counter-Terrorism Dialogue, now in its sixth iteration, seeks to foster knowledge exchange on continuing and emerging forms of terrorism and violent extremism across the ideological spectrum, exploring how to proactively deal with an ever-evolving threat landscape. Keynote speakers were live-streamed from Europe joining a selected group of Australian experts and representatives of the European diplomatic corps. A tried and proven format, it brings together policymakers, representatives from relevant government institutions, academic experts and practitioners from Australia, Germany and other European countries for frank discussions. Security in our countries relies on peace, civility and collaboration within and beyond our own borders. The propagation of hate speech and disinformation is being creatively used by terrorists and conspiracy theorists, as is the current global pandemic. This report focuses on the theme of the 2020 dialogues - building national resilience, including consideration of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the dynamics of violent extremism and terrorism.
  • Topic: National Security, Counter-terrorism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Australia, Global Focus
  • Author: Huong Le Thu, Alexandra Pascoe
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: The ‘Indo-Pacific Election Pulse’ is an annual project examining the most consequential elections in the region and the most important for Australia’s strategic environment. In what was an ‘unprecedented’ year, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Myanmar, and the United States braved the challenge of conducting elections under the shadow of a pandemic. This diverse collection of views – from experts from different countries and fields – looks at how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the key elections in our region. A key challenge faced this year included countering misinformation, disinformation and cyber-enabled attempts at foreign interference, as in-person campaigning was restricted, and the virus forced campaign activities online. The victories of incumbents in Singapore, New Zealand, and Myanmar showed how effective responses to the pandemic granted legitimacy to governments. Taiwan also saw an electoral win by the sitting government. But this was largely a response to Xi Jinping’s harsh politics rather than the government’s pandemic response, as the election took place in January before Covid-19 spread globally. Conversely, in the US, the Trump administration’s disastrous response to the Covid-19 crisis resulted in a change of leadership. With the Biden administration preparing for the transition, partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific are growing more hopeful to see a return of a more engaged, predictable, or at least conventional, US foreign policy. The year has been short on good news, and the Indo-Pacific democracies, like all nations, have had their fair share of challenges. But despite the creeping trend of democratic decline globally – arguably exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic – the results show that democratic activism and accountability are doing well.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, Elections, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, Myanmar, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Alex Joske, Lin Li, Alex Pascoe, Nathan Attrill
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Abstract: In the past two decades, Australia’s Chinese-language media landscape has undergone fundamental changes that have come at a cost to quality, freedom of speech, privacy and community representation. The diversity of Australia’s Chinese communities, which often trace their roots to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and Taiwan as well as the People’s Republic of China, isn’t well reflected in the media sector. Persistent efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to engage with and influence Chinese language media in Australia far outmatch the Australian Government’s work in the same space. A handful of outlets generally offer high-quality coverage of a range of issues. However, CCP influence affects all media. It targets individual outlets while also manipulating market incentives through advertising, coercion and WeChat. Four of the 24 Australian media companies studied in this report show evidence of CCP ownership or financial support.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Media, Social Media, Cyberspace
  • Political Geography: China, Asia