Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net The APPS Policy Forum a public policy website devoted to Asia and the Pacific. Tue, 13 Nov 2018 01:23:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://www.policyforum.net/wp-content/uploads/cache/2017/01/favicon/2924535576.png Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net 32 32 Technology, research and development, and national security https://www.policyforum.net/technology-research-and-development-and-national-security/ https://www.policyforum.net/technology-research-and-development-and-national-security/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 01:23:36 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28557 Policymakers need to stop being drawn to the myth of the ‘quick fix’ and focus on long-term and sustained development of research and development as an ecosystem if they really want to solve those wicked problems, Lesley Seebeck writes. Recent debates over priorities in research and development, over university research, and even the plundering of […]

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Policymakers need to stop being drawn to the myth of the ‘quick fix’ and focus on long-term and sustained development of research and development as an ecosystem if they really want to solve those wicked problems, Lesley Seebeck writes.

Recent debates over priorities in research and development, over university research, and even the plundering of ideas from universities – Australian and others – by the Chinese government suggest confusion over the nature of R&D and the development of science and technology.

We live in an age of instant gratification, where the fast and the immediate tend to grab people’s attention. And so we’re often misled by a skewed view that technology is easy: start with a bright idea, add a little Silicon Valley, stir, and magic happens.

That’s suited a number of players. Silicon Valley propagates the myth of the heroic founder – almost without exception male – who has a vision and disrupts the normal to create a new world. Those companies are driven by incentives other than the deep, heavy lifting needed for good science and technology, specifically consumer needs and desires.

That’s a massive contrast to the slow, careful, patient work undertaken in government and university labs across the country, and on which much of Silicon Valley’s own products and services are built.

Politicians, too, are strongly attracted to tales of heroic endeavour by the quick, preferably cheap, fix to what are difficult, wicked problems. They’re an easy mark for those who promise fast solutions. But by focusing on the ‘tip of the spear’, they neglect the haft, the weight and balance, and the effort needed to give that tip power when applied.

More on this: The art of R&D courtship

Reliance on those narratives promotes immediacy, linearity, and single-point solutions—and does untold damage to public policy and national security. The reality is very different.

First, research and development is slow. It has long lead times – training people in complex fields such as mathematics, computer science, physics, and biology as well as anthropology, economics, philosophy, and psychology takes time and, importantly, seasoning. There is no app for that.

Good research may take years, as hypotheses are formed and tested, and new insights gained. Failure is fundamental to progress – something that does not sit well with the popular narrative but is intrinsic to the scientific method. One research proposal does not a capability make.

Unsurprisingly, these are understandings and capabilities that reward long-term thinking and investment. We should not be looking entirely to industry to fund this long, slow, deep research – that’s within the realm of government, which is better placed to bear the risks of such effort. As Mariana Mazzucato argues, such long-term investment in basic capability requires public, not private, financing.

Second, the outcome of deep R&D is not a linear progression to a commercial product or national capability. Despite the myth, it’s a messy process of trial and error, refinement, mixing and emergence.

Similarly, it is hard to point to a single product and draw a straight line back in time to a single R&D project. As Brian Arthur points out, emergent technologies result from the accumulation, interaction and recombination of often disparate sets of earlier technologies.

More on this: Raising Australia’s next generation of cyber security experts

Further, the development of science and technology, and R&D, is iterative, and tends to obey the Matthew Effect: the more you do, the better you get and the more you will attract others who want to do the same. We need to build and grow capability, not simply fund projects.

Similarly, careers are not linear ‘pipelines’ – that’s an unhelpful metaphor. We need people with good technical depth who are able to bridge into other disciplines, which may be economics or fine arts. Interesting things happen when domains intersect, and diversity brings insights.

To build great science and technology, we need creative individuals who are able to see opportunities across a breadth of possibility.

Third, there are no single-point ‘silver bullets’. Research and development must be understood as an ecosystem. Good research, just like the non-linearity of technological development and progress, has multiple, interconnected dependencies over differing domains and time scales.

That means appreciating the value of the ‘adjacent possible’. There are countless examples of where a researcher or post-doc, pursuing one research question, originated a new insight or technique that generates value in a range of other applications.

That’s a strength of the successful US Defense Applied Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Yes, DARPA expects research it funds to apply at some point to national security and the military. But it funds a wide range of programs that may or may not have direct immediate applications, while training a broad range of skills. When you don’t know what likely outcomes are, what technologies and ideas will beget new technologies and ideas, the best strategy is to explore widely.

More on this: Australia’s security agencies need to accept they don’t have a monopoly on good ideas

An ecosystem approach also means giving the smart, creative, technically-proficient people the support and infrastructure they need. Those supports are more than research assistants and students. They include connectors, who can see the inter-relationships across research silos, and enjoy access to sources of funding and entrepreneurs. It requires experienced managers—a competitive strength of Silicon Valley, incidentally – and a level of sophistication in the understanding of that ecosystem by politicians and bureaucrats.

A nation’s R&D effort is a leading indicator of how seriously a nation takes national security. It is a long-term investment into the nation’s ability to shape its own path in an increasingly contested, technologically-driven world.

Australia’s R&D expenditure is in decline. At 1.88 per cent of GDP in 2015-16, it is well below that of the OECD (2.55 per cent, 2015), East Asian nations (2.46 per cent, 2015) and even the world average (2.23 per cent, 2015), based on World Bank data.

An approach that focuses government efforts on the immediate and an overly narrow definition of research will fail; it will weaken an already emaciated and diffused capability. Rebadging programs in a declining overall effort won’t pass muster, nor will simply constraining Chinese access to Australian R&D.

Instead, the government should be increasing its investment in R&D and in universities, and helping future talent to realise their aspirations in those fields, whether STEM or social science. It needs to understand the time needed to build research, the value of the adjacent possible, and be prepared to invest in building healthy ecosystems that nurture that future capability.

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Wind and solar could make light work of climate change https://www.policyforum.net/wind-solar-light-work-climate-change/ https://www.policyforum.net/wind-solar-light-work-climate-change/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 02:13:14 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28480 Policymakers need to recognise solar photovoltaics and wind as the cheapest solution to global warming in a short time frame, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks write in this chapter from Securing our Energy, the new publication from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are growing fast enough to […]

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Policymakers need to recognise solar photovoltaics and wind as the cheapest solution to global warming in a short time frame, Andrew Blakers and Matthew Stocks write in this chapter from Securing our Energy, the new publication from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy are growing fast enough to eliminate global coal, oil and gas consumption before 2050, resulting in global greenhouse gas emission reductions of 85 per cent – with the time frame depending mostly on politics.

The exponential rise and rise of PV and wind offers the only realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. Indeed, it is difficult to see any timely solution to climate change that does not involve PV and wind doing most of the heavy lifting. No other solution comes even close.

Most of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to the use of fossil fuels (Figure 1), which is typical for industrialised countries. Land clearing and agricultural emissions constitute most of the rest. However, PV (with assistance from wind and other renewables) is on track to eliminate these emissions within 20 years. (Click to see Figure 1)

More on this:Gas pipeline How Russia is fuelling Asia

In particular, silicon PV is doing for energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions what the silicon chip did for computing and electronics.

Unfortunately, attempts to capture and store large quantities of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels have come to naught due to technical difficulties and high cost. Thus, coal, oil and gas use must be eliminated to curtail global warming.

A replacement is needed that, ideally, meets all the following criteria:

  • very large and preferably ubiquitous resource base
  • small greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts
  • unlimited raw materials
  • minimal security concerns in respect of warfare, terrorism and accidents
  • low cost right now, allowing low economic impact from discarding fossil fuels
  • currently in mass production, allowing immediate scale-up.

Solar PV meets all these criteria, while wind energy meets many.

Together, PV, wind and other renewables can eliminate coal, oil and gas use and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 per cent. Renewables already dominate capacity markets (Figure 2) since both wind and solar overtook coal and gas in 2015.  (Click to see Figure 2)

PV and wind depend only on energy from the sun, which will be available for billions of years. Complete replacement of all fossil fuels requires solar and wind collectors covering much less than one per cent of the world’s land surface area. A large proportion of collectors are installed on rooftops and in remote and arid regions, minimising competition with food production and ecosystems.

The solar resource is ubiquitous – we are unlikely ever to go to war over access to sunlight or wind. Most of the world’s population lives at low latitudes (less than 35 degrees), which has good solar availability that varies little with the seasons (unlike at high latitudes).

More on this: The Brief: Australia's National Energy Guarantee

Complementing this, wind energy is also widely available, particularly at higher latitudes. Very wide distribution of PV and wind collectors over most regions of the world means that everyone has local energy generation, and this helps to minimise disruptions from natural disasters, war and terrorism. In addition, PV and wind have minimal environmental impact and water requirement. PV uses raw materials that are effectively in unlimited supply – silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, aluminium, glass and steel – plus small amounts of other materials.

Wind energy is an important complement to PV because it often produces at different times and places, allowing a smoother combined energy output. In terms of annual electricity production, wind remains ahead of PV, but PV is growing much more rapidly. As the wind energy resource is much smaller than the solar resource, PV will dominate in the end.

Other low emissions energy technologies can realistically play only minor supporting roles. The solar thermal industry is hundreds of times smaller than the fast-growing PV industry (due to higher cost), meaning an extravagant growth rate sustained over many decades would be required to catch up.

The resource base for hydro, geothermal, wave and tidal is significant only in some regions. Energy from biomass suffers from very low efficiency of sunlight capture, and unresolvable conflict with food and ecosystems for land, water, fertilisers and pesticides. Nuclear is too expensive, and planning and construction rates are far too slow, to catch up with PV and wind.

Stabilising an electricity grid with high levels of variable PV and wind is straightforward and comprises storage and strong interconnection with high voltage cables over large areas to smooth out the effect of local weather. By far the leading storage technologies are pumped hydro and batteries, with a combined market share of 97 per cent, according to the DOE Global Energy Storage Database’s global project installations over time.

More on this: The 'nexus' between food, energy and water security

The cost of PV and wind have been declining rapidly for many decades and is now in the range $55–$70 per megawatt hour in Australia. This is below the cost of electricity from new-build coal and gas units. There are many reports of PV electricity being produced from large-scale plants for $30–$50 per megawatt hour.

PV and wind have been growing exponentially for decades. In 2017, PV and wind comprised 60 per cent of net electricity generation capacity additions worldwide, with coal, gas, nuclear, hydro and other renewable capacity comprising the rest (Figure 2). Importantly, the combined global installed generation capacity of PV and wind has now reached half that of coal and will pass coal in the mid-2020s on current growth trends. It seems likely that global coal generation capacity will peak in 2019 and decline thereafter.

In Australia, PV and wind comprise effectively all new generation capacity. About 10–11 gigawatts of PV and wind is expected by the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Authority to be installed in 2018 and 2019, compared with peak demand of 36 gigawatts in the national electricity market. This installation rate is sufficient for Australia to reach 50 per cent renewable electricity by 2024 and 100 per cent in the early 2030s – meeting Australia’s Paris emissions target entirely by emission reductions within the electricity system (as explored further in the paper, Australia’s renewable energy industry is delivering rapid and deep emission cuts).

The cost of meeting Australia’s Paris target is zero because of the low and declining cost of PV and wind. Globally, the share of annual generation by PV and wind is no longer invisible – together they are producing about eight per cent of the world’s electricity and they are growing much faster than competitors. The worldwide growth rate of new PV and wind capacity over the past five years is 28 per cent and 13 per cent per year respectively. The net new installation rate of all other generation technologies is static, falling or miniscule.

It is interesting to note that PV and wind growth rates are sufficient to reach 100 per cent renewable electricity worldwide in 2032 (Figure 3), and 100 per cent renewable energy in the 2040s. (Click to see Figure 3)

Deep cuts (85 per cent reduction) in greenhouse gas emissions require fossil fuels to be pushed out of all sectors of the economy (not just electricity). The path to achieve this is by electrification of all energy services. Straightforward and cost-effective initial steps are to:

  • reach 100 per cent renewable electricity (pushing out coal)
  • convert most land transport to electric vehicles (pushing out oil)
  • use renewable electricity for water and air heating (pushing out gas).

These trends are already well established and would yield a 56 per cent reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions (Figure 1) at zero net cost.

More on this: Recharging Australia's energy future

The best available prices for PV already match the current wholesale price of gas in Australia ($10–15 per gigajoule after losses according to the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Gas Price Trends Report 2017). The outlook for the oil and gas industries is poor as PV prices continue to fall.

High temperature heat, industrial processes, aviation and shipping fuel, and fugitive emissions can be displaced by renewable electricity and electrically produced synthetic fuels, plastics and other hydrocarbons. There may be a modest additional cost depending on the future price trajectory of PV and wind.

Taken together, the amount of electricity required to completely displace fossil fuels is about three times current electricity consumption. In other words, worldwide electricity production must triple.

Remarkably, current annual global growth rates of PV (with support from other renewables) are enough to eliminate coal, oil and gas use in the 2040s (Figure 3 shows the first 14 years).

Continued rapid growth of PV and wind (with support from other renewables) will minimise dangerous climate change with minimal economic disruption. Many policy instruments are available to hasten their deployment.

Government policy should recognise PV and wind as the by far the cheapest route to deliver the necessary solution to global warming in a short time frame.

This is a piece from Securing our Energy, a collection of expert essays from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific on the challenges and opportunities of energy security, energy access and climate change. You can read the essays for free here.

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South Korea’s digital diplomacy deficit https://www.policyforum.net/south-koreas-digital-diplomacy-deficit/ https://www.policyforum.net/south-koreas-digital-diplomacy-deficit/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 00:26:36 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28503 By failing to have a strategic plan for digital public diplomacy, South Korea is missing an important instrument in its diplomatic toolbox, Jeffrey Robertson writes. Digital diplomacy is the application of digital technologies, including information and communication technologies, software engineering and big data, and artificial intelligence, to the practice of diplomacy. Digital public diplomacy is […]

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By failing to have a strategic plan for digital public diplomacy, South Korea is missing an important instrument in its diplomatic toolbox, Jeffrey Robertson writes.

Digital diplomacy is the application of digital technologies, including information and communication technologies, software engineering and big data, and artificial intelligence, to the practice of diplomacy. Digital public diplomacy is applying the same, to the practice of openly engaging and persuading foreign publics, thought leaders, and ultimately decision-makers.

South Korea has some amazing advantages in digital public diplomacy. It is a deeply digitally-engaged society; consistently ranks amidst the best in innovation and technology statistics; and is emerging as a soft power giant as K-pop acts enter the global mainstream. However, South Korea is failing to exploit these advantages to secure what has become its core diplomatic objective – securing support for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

To date, South Korea’s digital public diplomacy efforts appear uncoordinated and incapable of capitalising on global interest and attention. There are three broad reasons for this failure.

First, South Korea has no strategic plan for digital public diplomacy. In 2016, South Korea enacted legislation to support coordination, management, reporting and oversight of public diplomacy. The legislation requires the lead agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to establish a Master Plan for public diplomacy. To date, there is no publicly available strategic plan and no noticeable change in digital public diplomacy.

More on this: Russia’s North Korea social media diplomacy

Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, Singapore, France, Poland, and Japan all have public diplomacy strategic plans that are publicly available online. Most plans take the form of ‘green papers’ with public, industry and stakeholder consultation prior to release. They detail the strategic rationale for investment, aims and objectives, benchmarks, participant roles, and measures for implementation. These plans act as guides for leadership, management, and line officers within responsible agencies; improve continuity across government administrations; and, by improving transparency and accountability, instill public confidence.

A strategic plan is particularly important given the impediments of foreign ministry organisational culture. A strategic plan makes a substantial difference within one year, as ‘digital champions’ emerge. With the correct training and guidelines, year upon year, graduating cadet classes would further strengthen South Korea’s ability to influence online foreign policy narratives.

Second, the strategic rationale for digital public diplomacy is misunderstood. Despite recognising its importance, South Korea’s understanding of public diplomacy is still evolving. In particular, the South Korean conceptualisation of public diplomacy conceives of a ‘borderless world’, in which the state seeks to persuade both external and internal audiences.

While the Public Diplomacy Act specifically targets “foreign nationals”, what is often called ‘public diplomacy’ in South Korea can actually be a form of ‘public outreach’. Multiple programs, events, and even social media platforms labelled as public diplomacy utilise only the Korean language (including the only YouTube channel, linked from the foreign ministry’s English language homepage). The people of only one foreign state speak Korean, and needless to say, few of them are paying attention.

Public outreach is important and plays a role in developing awareness of what public diplomacy is and its role in promoting diplomatic objectives. The importance has been put on display in Seoul’s first “Public Diplomacy Week” – a week of lectures, shows, displays, and exhibitions on the subject of public diplomacy. While the people of Seoul enjoy the promotion, a more cost-effective and efficient means would logically have been to call for public consultations and input on a strategic plan.

More on this: South Korea's diplomacy of influence

Third, the Moon administration has failed to clearly enunciate its strategic narrative. The administration is taking a longer-term approach to Korean Peninsula peace – a multidimensional, open-ended, confidence-building approach that aims to remove North Korea’s rationale for seeking and maintaining nuclear and missile programs. This is clearly distinct from the US approach, which focuses on constraining and immediately winding back North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Given the consistent failure of all previous approaches, one can argue the Moon administration’s approach is no better or worse. However, without being clearly enunciated, the hurdles to success will grow.

Without enunciating its strategic narrative, the Moon administration opens itself, and the Trump administration, to criticism as their policy objectives become more distinct. It also opens the bilateral relationship to deeper misunderstanding, or even exploitation by third-parties, as policy differences haphazardly emerge.

Public diplomacy and digital public diplomacy cannot succeed without a clear strategic narrative. Digital champions lack the confidence to lead; social media campaigns invite more criticism and become highly polarised; and multimedia materials are less effective – and even invite ridicule. With success dependent on the strategic narrative being accepted in the United States, and modern political discourse very much centred on social media, digital public diplomacy should be a South Korean priority.

There are multiple internal and external hurdles to securing the Moon administration’s core diplomatic objective to secure peace on the Korean Peninsula. Strategic neglect of digital public diplomacy means that in its efforts to achieve this aim, there is one less instrument in the diplomatic toolbox.

This article is based on the author’s paper in the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies journal, Organizational culture and public diplomacy in the digital sphere: The case of South Korea. All papers in the journal are free to read and download.

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Podcast: Rusted off https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-rusted-off/ https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-rusted-off/#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2018 00:28:14 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28455 On this week’s Policy Forum Pod, we take a look at how rural Australia is leading a political shift away from the major parties and towards a new way of doing democracy. Far from being ‘rusted-on’ voters, rural Australians are deserting the major parties in greater numbers than their city counterparts. And they’re not just […]

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On this week’s Policy Forum Pod, we take a look at how rural Australia is leading a political shift away from the major parties and towards a new way of doing democracy.

Far from being ‘rusted-on’ voters, rural Australians are deserting the major parties in greater numbers than their city counterparts. And they’re not just abandoning status-quo politics, but finding new ways of inspiring community action and taking policy change into their own hands. So what are urban policymakers getting wrong about rural voters? On this week’s podcast, hosts Martyn Pearce and Jill Sheppard hear from a journalist, a political scientist, and two rural leaders at the forefront of community politics, about the policy lessons we should be taking from the countryside and applying to the country. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/586a64eb

Gabrielle Chan has been a journalist for more than 30 years. Since 2013, she has worked for Guardian Australia as a political correspondent, Politics Live blogger and senior writer. Her latest book, Rusted Off: Why Country Australia Is Fed Up was released in September 2018.

Peter Holding is on the board of Directors for Farmers for Climate Action – an alliance of farmers working to see the agricultural sector get support and investment to adapt to a changing climate, as well as be part of the solution. He is a third-generation farmer in south-east NSW, growing crops such as canola and wheat, as well as running sheep for wool.

Denis Ginnivan is President and a foundation member of Voices for Indi, a community group based in northeast Victoria, which seeks to encourage citizens to engage and participate in politics and democracy. He is also co-chair of Totally Renewable Yackandandah. He was raised on farms near Benalla where his family had been farming for five generations.

Carolyn Hendriks is an Associate Professor at Crawford School of Public Policy. Her research is broadly concerned with how to strengthen citizen agency in the governance of collective problems. Over the past two decades she has made substantial contributions to international debates on the practice and theory of citizen engagement, democratic innovation and deliberative democracy.

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

Rusted off: Why country Australia is fed up by Gabrielle Chan

Australian values survey: ANU / The Social Research Centre study led by Jill Sheppard (PDF)

Totally Renewable Yackandandah

Voices for Indi

Farmers for Climate Action National Farmer Climate Survey

Publication on Citizen-led Democratic Reform in Indi by Associate Professor Carolyn M Hendriks. Published in Australian Journal of Political Science.

Alpine Valleys Community Leader Program 

Pathways to Politics Program for Women 

The Brief: Sanctioning Myanmar with Trevor Wilson

Is Australia’s policy machinery fit for purpose? with Glyn Davis and Helen Sullivan

A vision for the North with Peter Yu

Crowding out the Pacific by Matthew Dornan, Richard Curtain and Stephen Howes

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

This episode of Policy Forum Pod was written and produced by Martyn Pearce and Nicky Lovegrove. It was edited by Martyn Pearce.

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How Russia is fuelling Asia https://www.policyforum.net/how-russia-is-fuelling-asia/ https://www.policyforum.net/how-russia-is-fuelling-asia/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 23:11:59 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28432 As Australia looks to develop a robust energy export strategy in the Asia-Pacific, it must keep a wary eye on Russia, Elizabeth Buchanan writes in this chapter from Securing our Energy, the new publication from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Russia holds the world’s largest known reserves of natural gas. Much of these reserves are […]

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As Australia looks to develop a robust energy export strategy in the Asia-Pacific, it must keep a wary eye on Russia, Elizabeth Buchanan writes in this chapter from Securing our Energy, the new publication from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific.

Russia holds the world’s largest known reserves of natural gas. Much of these reserves are located in Russia’s Far East, out of reach for the existing European market given the sheer distance.

Enter Asia.

On the doorstep of vast reserves, the Asia Pacific will account for the majority of growth in terms of future energy demand. For Moscow, this is a welcome reorientation of economic growth and energy demand. Russia’s energy sphere accounts for more than a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP), almost two-thirds of the Russian export market and roughly 30 per cent of the Kremlin budget.

Gone are the days of Putin’s pipeline politics towards Russian vassals abroad and Yeltsin’s resolve to siphon gas supply from unruly former Soviet states. Despite this historical ‘energy weapon’ sentiment that Russia attracts, the reality is that Russian foreign energy strategy is shifting to become increasingly interdependent.

Future proofing foreign energy strategy

Moscow’s recent re-evaluation of its foreign energy strategy illustrates this shift. However, global preoccupation with Russian action on the Crimean Peninsula since 2014 means many missed the Kremlin’s redraft of its foreign energy strategy.

Still in draft form, the Energy Strategy of Russia for the period up to 2035 (ES-2035) is geared at transitioning Russia away from resource-dependency and toward resource-innovation. This is an attempt by the Kremlin to future-proof Russia’s energy sector and reshape its development plans for the next 17 years.

More on this: China and Russia’s uneasy dance in Eurasia

The strategy earmarks Eastern Siberia and the Far East as paramount to Russia’s energy policy in the future. Ambitiously, Moscow is planning for the Far East to account for 40 per cent of Russia’s oil and gas exports. Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to Asia are expected to rise from six per cent to 30 per cent by 2035.

For Prime Minister Medvedev, Russia’s ability to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific market while executing existing commitments to Europe is of central importance to the new foreign energy strategy. And it is this balance that Moscow needs to work on.

Included in the redrafted ES-2035 are responses to external pressures – associated with Western sanctions stemming from a plethora of assertive activities by Russia since 2014. These pressures include increasingly difficult methods of securing credit to fund new energy projects in the Far East as well as the Western technology to explore new energy fields in the region.

A broader pressure is the shifting international energy sector with developing nations set to overtake developed nations in terms of resource demand. Not only is the global pole of power moving to the East, the future of global energy demand is also to be found in the Asia Pacific.

Further, new energy sources are emerging, particularly in the renewables sector, and export competition is leaving some energy chains in a supply glut. As a key global energy power, Russia’s future prosperity relies largely on how it mitigates this range of external pressures.

It’s geography, stupid

Russia is looking East for the answers.

As Matthew Sussex’s 2015 Lowy Institute Analysis points out, Russia is not doing so by choice. This is a crucial fact that rejects much of the Western rhetoric surrounding Putin’s pivot to the East.

First, the concept of Russia not already belonging in Asia strips Moscow of its centuries-old Eurasian identity. Second, to argue Russia’s pivot East is a reflexive strategic choice to counter the United States’ pivot to Asia conveniently writes off numerous historical attempts by Stalin, Gorbachev and even Yeltsin to revive Russia’s Far East.

Under Putin, we have seen a clear reorientation of Russia’s foreign energy strategy to rectify Moscow’s marginal share of the Asian energy market. This is increasingly evident in the use of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to link Russian Arctic LNG to the North East Asian markets in particular, despite a closer Western market to the High North field.

In any case, the notion of Russia seeking a complete pivot to Asia is entirely misguided.

More on this: Podcast: Australia's upcoming energy export industry

European energy imports from Russia have increased and new energy projects are underway. Examples are the Nord Stream-2 and TurkStream pipelines. When considering the ongoing commercial dealings undertaken in Europe, it is evident that Russia is unable to completely pivot away from the West.

What is occurring is a fundamental rebalance of Russian foreign energy strategy – facilitating Moscow to act as a Eurasian power fuelling both the East and West. Russia’s energy interest in the Asia Pacific is an unsurprising development, no more than the ‘revenge’ of geography. A resource-rich state borders the region set to account for the majority of global energy demand – what follows is more or less a marriage of convenience shaped into a strategic relationship.

A common misperception of Sino-Russian energy relations is that there is an emerging partnership to thwart United States power in the region.

Beyond centuries of mistrust and competition, Russia and China are still far from strategic bedfellows. This is illustrated in the energy pillar of their relationship, where straightforward commercial discussions are protracted and increasingly complex. Negotiations of the natural gas pipeline, Power of Siberia, stalled for decades before a 30-year partnership was struck in 2014.

Slated for completion in 2019, the route appears ahead of schedule and there are now discussions to construct a brother pipeline to increase Russian export capacity to China. On face value, the commercial partnership is a win-win for all involved. Yet in reality, Beijing was able to beat down the natural gas price and dictate the orientation of the pipeline – it meets the Chinese border in the Far East and not in the West, as Moscow had envisioned.

A western route would have allowed Moscow access to further markets in Central Asia, further diversifying its customer base.

A balancing act

For a nation with energy superpower ambitions, it is perplexing that Russia’s energy sphere only accounts for one quarter of total state investment. However, it becomes apparent that Moscow has found a solution – albeit a short-term one.

Beijing has agreed to fund a variety of oil, natural gas and coal projects in Russia’s Far East.

Despite the Russian Far East accounting for 40 per cent of Russian territory, the region has remained no more than an afterthought. This is down to a range of factors, including slow development of the economy after what Putin described as the “greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th Century” in his 2005 State of the Nation Address – the collapse of the Soviet Union less than 30 years ago.

The lack of modern technology and investment to improve the sector or branch out into renewables is also a roadblock to Russian strategy. Low growth in terms of global demand for Russian hydrocarbons and the increasingly competitive international energy market have also curtailed Russian progress.

Seizing on Russia’s domestic structural issues, China is diversifying its energy import potential by also focusing on Russia’s Far East region.

More on this: Nuclear-free Korea will struggle for energy

The Russian Far East population is only about seven million, yet shares a border with roughly 70 million people in China’s North East. The Far East is a resource-rich region with plenty of space for population growth, something no doubt Beijing has an interest in.

Despite centuries of border disputes in the region, of late all has been relatively quiet on this front. Nonetheless, Russia’s Far East is certainly a potential flashpoint of conflict. Here, Russia is attempting to mitigate overreliance on the Chinese export market by diversifying its energy customer base within the Asia Pacific. Japan and South Korea are set to receive LNG from Russia’s Yamal and Sakhalin regions via the NSR.

Discussions are ongoing with North and South Korea to extend Russia’s Far East pipeline network to include a trans-Korea route. Further, Russia’s efforts to insert itself into the South East Asian energy chain are highlighted by various energy projects in Vietnam.

Moscow’s new fuel corridors have the potential to place Russia at the helm of Asia’s energy architecture. The priority for Russia is to control, as much as possible, Beijing’s influence over its resource potential. This is a central challenge for the Kremlin given the sheer access to capital Beijing affords. Yet, we have witnessed attempts to limit Chinese influence in Russian Arctic energy projects. Avoiding overreliance on Chinese capital for new projects, Moscow has invited India and Japan to join various joint ventures.

Implications for Australia

There are clear corresponding implications for the Australian energy export market. The most pressing: we are set on a potential collision course with Russia when it comes to fuelling the Asia Pacific.

The Australian Government should watch Russia’s NSR development closely, as a key component of the ES-2035 is the creation of a new global energy corridor for Asia. This has substantial implications for Australia.

The Asia Pacific currently relies on the Malacca Strait corridor to receive goods, and the majority of our energy needs. This corridor is congested, poorly secured and has long lead times – all of which factor into increasing transportation costs. These costs are carried over to the consumer.

More on this: Recharging Australia's energy future

Russia’s NSR, which can currently operate 3–4 months of the year for Asia (year-round for Europe), offers a viable alternative to fuel the Asian market in terms of LNG.

Thanks to climate change, in the coming years the NSR will be passable year-round. Of course, there is also the question of how competitive North American and Australian LNG can actually be for the Asian market, compared with pipeline gas from Russia’s Far East.

The reorientation of global energy corridors provided by the NSR will ultimately make Australia an extremely expensive import and export market. Not only does this mean higher fuel prices for Australians, it will put our transit-heavy economy under stress. Our fuel insecurity, currently at about 20 days’ supply despite our International Energy Agency obligation to hold 90 days, will be further exposed. The Kremlin fired a warning shot when it stated its resolve for energy to serve to ensure Russia’s security in full. Recent history has indicated how serious the Kremlin takes matters of security.

On the horizon, it is evident that Australia’s energy interests in Asia places us in direct competition with Russia. It is crucial to develop a robust energy strategy to meet the looming challenge Australia’s energy exports will face in the region. Just as critical is planning for Russia’s potential to secure its interests by weaponising energy in the Asia Pacific.

Here, the East has much to learn from the Western experience of entering into energy partnerships with Russia.

This is a piece from Securing our Energy, a collection of expert essays from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific on the challenges and opportunities of energy security, energy access and climate change. You can read the essays for free here.

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Running cities with multi-million migrants? https://www.policyforum.net/running-cities-with-multi-million-migrants/ https://www.policyforum.net/running-cities-with-multi-million-migrants/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 04:32:49 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28372 As China becomes increasingly urbanised, alternative solutions to the challenges of mass migration are needed, Bingqin Li, Bo Hu and Tao Liu write. China is experiencing the largest wave of urbanisation in human history. In 1979, only 17.9 per cent of the population (84.51 million) lived in cities. At the end of 2017, the urban […]

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As China becomes increasingly urbanised, alternative solutions to the challenges of mass migration are needed, Bingqin Li, Bo Hu and Tao Liu write.

China is experiencing the largest wave of urbanisation in human history. In 1979, only 17.9 per cent of the population (84.51 million) lived in cities. At the end of 2017, the urban population reached 813 million, 58.52 per cent of the total. Migration on such a massive scale poses great challenges for urban services and governance.

Major cities in China these days each host millions of domestic migrants. In Shanghai, there are 9.8 million migrants who are not from the city – 40.5 per cent of the total population. In Beijing, this figure is 37.3 per cent; for Shenzhen it’s 67.7 per cent and for Guangzhou it’s 38.0 per cent.

In smaller cities, the share of the migrant population could be even larger. For example, 75.7 per cent of the long-term residents of Dongguan are migrants. On average, China’s migrant population has grown by about three to five per cent each year from 2001 to 2016.

The above figures refer only to migrants who have lived in cities for more than six months. It is estimated that another 73 million people across China have lived for less than six months in cities as temporary residents. In addition, at least 100 million farmers have been resettled to cities because of urban expansion, environmental protection, major infrastructure projects and poverty reduction.

Migrant workers either live in urban neighbourhoods alongside local residents or concentrate in peri-urban houses built by farmers. Resettled farmers usually live in purpose-built high-density neighbourhoods given to them as compensation for relocation.

More on this: A tale of two Chinas

The fast-growing migrant population is seriously challenging urban governments. An urban neighbourhood can accommodate 501 to 3,500 households (1,500 to 10,000 people). Each neighbourhood has a Residential Committee (RC), a self-governing body that functions as a grassroots-level agency to implement government policies. Each RC has seven to nine government-funded staff members.

An RC is responsible for keeping social order, providing services designated by the government, coordinating third-party service providers, and resolving conflicts in the neighbourhood. Because of insufficient staffing, RCs tend to focus on administrative tasks which are heavily geared toward crime prevention. They have been criticised for the tendency to act on behalf of the government rather than serving the community

Historically, urban neighbourhoods were responsible for providing accommodation to the employees of work units, such as state and collective enterprises and government agencies. Because these work units would provide a large part of the social services the employees would need, the residential neighbourhoods only provided minimal standardised services. In this sense, Chinese cities were defined for their role in supporting economic production.

As a result of the country’s labour market reform, which started in the early 1990s, employees no longer tend to work for a single employer their entire lives, and few work for employers that provide any social services.

Consequently, there is a growing demand for services where people reside. Moreover, as income inequality rises, urban residents are sorted into neighbourhoods according to their ability to pay. The expectations for services vary greatly in different neighbourhoods, placing huge pressure on the small number of staff to deliver services and govern.

In neighbourhoods where migrants concentrate, governments must improve safety, provide basic services, promote civic engagement and build a stronger sense of community. Such needs are currently not being met.

More on this: Mental health, migration, and megacities

To overcome staff and funding shortages, some city authorities are adopting a ‘co-production’ model for service delivery and governance.

In this model, private and non-profit actors, charitable funds, and volunteers are all encouraged to play a part as initiators, funders, or providers of services, and the government’s role is limited to coordinating or partially funding the activities involved.

Unlike many other parts of the world where co-production emerged from the bottom up, in these Chinese cities, local governments have been the ones initiating, and at times aggressively championing, the co-production model. RC staff members are coached to fund and run co-production activities and encouraged to work together with multiple stakeholders.

Co-production activities may include: community patrolling; public infrastructure improvement and communal gardens; the operation of libraries, function rooms and sports facilities; the organisation of festival activities; old age support; and after-school childcare. These activities and community-based projects can be subsidised by the government directly or funded through participatory budgeting.

We studied four pilot cities and found that despite all the effort by local governments, migrant participation in co-productive activities is still limited. One reason might be that many RCs still attempt to maintain significant control over the process, in particular when RC staff members believe co-production may reduce their importance in the community and threaten their jobs.

However, it takes time, effort, a sense of belonging, and often money to turn a housing estate full of strangers into a real community, let alone develop active public engagement. It is not always realistic to wait for self-governance and self-service to emerge and become self-sustaining on their own.

The fact that China’s RCs and local authorities are taking the lead on co-production has enhanced awareness and ignited enthusiasm for community-based activities, such as the establishment of neighbourhood watches and social clubs.

If RC staff members believe in the power of co-production and can find ways to exercise it effectively, their organisations can function as long-standing coordinators of migrant participation in China. This could help ensure that the largest wave of urbanisation in human history is less of an ordeal for the millions of people experiencing it first-hand.

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Beyond the hype of Pacific tourism https://www.policyforum.net/beyond-the-hype-of-pacific-tourism/ https://www.policyforum.net/beyond-the-hype-of-pacific-tourism/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 05:14:08 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28383 The extent to which tourism actually contributes to the sustainable development of the Pacific remains an unanswered question, Stephen Pratt, Joseph Cheer and Denis Tolkach write. Tourism is often seen as a panacea for development in the Pacific, a region deemed to have a competitive advantage with its warm climate, clean turquoise waters, beautiful landscapes […]

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The extent to which tourism actually contributes to the sustainable development of the Pacific remains an unanswered question, Stephen Pratt, Joseph Cheer and Denis Tolkach write.

Tourism is often seen as a panacea for development in the Pacific, a region deemed to have a competitive advantage with its warm climate, clean turquoise waters, beautiful landscapes and friendly locals.

These benefits are contrasted with some of the natural disadvantages of Pacific countries – their small size, both in population and geography; their insularity and remoteness; and their environmental vulnerability.

In our recent Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies article, we take a look at tourism in the Pacific, drawing on seven key emergent themes. These themes include: geopolitical influence; the impact of tourism; economic leakages and linkages; Chinese tourism; skills and training; air transportation; and tourism resilience.

The geopolitical drivers of tourism are critical for the Pacific. Although Australia and New Zealand have traditionally represented the bulk of international visitors to Pacific destinations, there is an increasing shift towards the Chinese outbound tourism market, particularly in marketing and promotion if not yet actual arrivals.

Pacific countries are keen to get a share of this exponentially growing market, as international tourism is one prong in China’s soft power arsenal where stronger ties can be forged with the Pacific.

However, whether tourism actually contributes to the sustainable development of Pacific countries, and how it impacts the economic, environmental and socio-cultural dimensions, are questions that remain largely unanswered.

More on this: Crowding out the Pacific

Tourism can have a number of economic benefits, including a contribution to economic growth, the support and creation of jobs, incentives for foreign direct investment, the potential to distribute income more equally, and the potential to drive infrastructure development.

These benefits are tempered, however, by the extent to which tourism expenditures leak out of the economy through imports and by the extent to which the tourism‐oriented sectors link with other sectors in the economy. The larger the leakages, the lower the multiplier effects of the benefits of tourism. The lower the linkages with other sectors, the less likely it is that economic benefits will be dispersed throughout the destination economy.

Another key factor affecting Pacific tourism is the basic logistical challenge of getting tourists there. Common to all Pacific countries is the vast distances that have to be spanned to maintain contact within any one island group, let alone between groups or with the rest of the world. Most of these countries established national airlines, not only for economic reasons but also for national pride and strategic intent.

However, due to heavy financial losses in recent years, most airlines have been restructured, entered into commercial partnerships with metropolitan carriers such as Qantas and Air New Zealand, or ended up in bankruptcy. The costs of owning and operating a national airline are still extremely high in these sparely populated and remote South Pacific countries, for whom running a profitable airline is a formidable task.

The demand for skilled hospitality and tourism workers in the Pacific continues to grow. Developing successful hospitality and tourism enterprises and adequately skilled tourism sector employees is vital for servicing new markets, adapting to changing circumstances, and contributing to economic growth and social prosperity.

More on this: Floating a solution to Pacific problems

The 21st century Pacific tourism worker needs more than enterprise‐specific skills to work effectively in the industry. Technical skills must be augmented by employability skills.

Pacific governments need, therefore, to pay more attention to the tourism sector’s skills development needs. They should create national, coordinated workforce development plans focused on meeting the demand for appropriately skilled tourism workers with the capacity to contribute to economic growth and social prosperity.

In general, Pacific Islanders are in constant transition as they continue to find complex ways to contend with the intricate impacts of development on their communities and the many pressures that are applied to traditional lifestyles.

Of particular concern are the impacts of development on social and ecological systems. Because communal land, customary marine resources, and Indigenous peoples are all part of the tourism experience, Islanders are exposed to the pressures that tourism brings. In general, Indigenous landowners have several options insofar as tourism land use is concerned: lease to developers, develop tourism themselves, undertake other activities on the land (typically subsistence agriculture), or leave it fallow.

While fundamental constraints make them less competitive than Southeast Asian destinations such as Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam, Pacific nations have little choice but to seek further development of tourism.

The tourism sector will continue to be a key contributor to Pacific economies and at the same time have a commensurate effect on the demand for resources: human, capital, and natural. This might make tourism at odds with social, environmental, and community needs, especially where trade‐offs are required.

Just how tourism will enable Pacific nations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals is one area of prominent concern. Another includes how destination communities will deal with the effects of climate change and sea level rises.

In the meantime, multilateral development partners such as the World Bank and bilateral donors such as New Zealand and Australia appear set to continue their enthusiastic support for tourism. However, what is needed is a more concerted attempt to validate the sector’s true development credentials beyond the hype that often accompanies the sector.

This article is based on the authors’ paper in the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies journal, Tourism in Pacific island countries: a status quo round-up. All papers in the journal are free to read and download.

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Infected by conflict https://www.policyforum.net/infected-by-conflict/ https://www.policyforum.net/infected-by-conflict/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 22:54:42 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28194 If policymakers are serious about tackling infectious diseases, they can’t afford to neglect the role of conflict as a key driver of vulnerability, Erin Sorrell and Claire Standley write. Political instability and conflict have led to some of the worst humanitarian disasters this year. Globally, we are experiencing the highest levels of displacement in history, […]

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If policymakers are serious about tackling infectious diseases, they can’t afford to neglect the role of conflict as a key driver of vulnerability, Erin Sorrell and Claire Standley write.

Political instability and conflict have led to some of the worst humanitarian disasters this year. Globally, we are experiencing the highest levels of displacement in history, with an estimated 68.5 million people currently forced from their homes. There are twice as many internally displaced people (IDPs) as there are refugees in the world – an astounding 40 million and counting. Regional and local power struggles impact national governance, security and infrastructure, leading to mass displacement and inhumane living conditions

In addition, because of the destruction of physical infrastructure and loss of human resources and consumables, a lack of health services has allowed vaccine-preventable infectious diseases to re-emerge.

Conflict has long been associated with communicable diseases, which are typically contained through improved sanitation and hygiene, effective medication, and vaccination. But when violence and insecurity hinder humanitarian response mechanisms, challenges arise for both those in need and those providing services.

More on this: Zika virus: it’s like déjà vu

From 2014 to 2016, the world witnessed the Ebola virus wreaking havoc in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – three countries with already weakened health systems and populations that lacked trust in their governments due to political alienation or protracted civil war.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now facing similar challenges, where conflict and violence from militant groups has led to over two million IDPs, adding to the largest displaced population on the continent. At the same time, across the country, at least 13 million are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.

DRC’s eastern province of North Kivu continues to be the hardest hit by conflict, suffering from almost 15 years of constant violence and currently hosting over one million IDPs. In July 2018, Ebola hit Mangina, a town in North Kivu. By the last week of October, the outbreak had resulted in at least 239 cases and 139 deaths. While Mangina saw a decline in cases in September, this surge in October indicates a second peak and spread to at least ten health zones in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, highlighting how the region’s history of conflict is impeding an effective response to this outbreak.

A successful response to Ebola must include the isolation of cases, effective contact tracing, and vaccinating high-risk populations, all of which involve various stakeholders and extensive coordination. During the present outbreak, the lack of access to at-risk communities, on top of targeted attacks against healthcare workers and humanitarian actors by militant groups in and around Kivu, make an already challenging outbreak response exponentially harder.

More on this: Medical workers in war zones

The Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamic militant group with a history of violence against civilians, is just the latest actor instilling fear and prompting civilian displacement in a region which has been plagued by instability, conflict, and forced migration since the independence movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

The ADF has claimed responsibility for two recent attacks on civilians in Beni and Oicha in the Kivu province. The group’s actions have caused people to flee their homes and thwarted attempts to trace and respond to the Ebola outbreak. The World Health Organization was forced to suspend operations in Beni due to security concerns and while treatment centres remain open, vaccination campaigns have been put on hold.

The Ebola virus has an incubation period of two to 21 days. As a result, any lag in case identification and contact tracing can have a major impact on efforts to contain further transmission. But when the target population is constantly on the move, seeking safety within a conflict zone, monitoring patients and tracking contacts becomes difficult. On top of that, public resistance to vaccination campaigns is being fueled by local and provincial politicians, potentially causing some of the newly reported cases.

The danger of politicising disease outbreaks and response efforts is not unique to Ebola. A similar scenario combining political distrust and interference by local politicians led to boycotts of polio vaccination campaigns in Nigeria in 2007, allowing polio to spread beyond Nigeria’s borders.

More on this: Controlling emerging infectious diseases

The current situation in Kivu highlights the complexity of dealing with infectious disease outbreaks in areas affected by conflict. The international community has to develop novel solutions to navigate a delicate political situation, care for a fractured and reticent population, and ensure the safety and security of their own personnel while conducting epidemic response efforts.

These solutions must focus on empowering health and humanitarian organisations in building trust with community leaders where trust of government is lacking. Such communities have been plagued by insecurity and conflict for years; they must feel safe from attack in order to effectively participate in containment and control efforts. Without this exchange, the chance of containing this outbreak to the 10 health zones is extremely unlikely.

Weak health systems, transient and vulnerable populations, and a long-term lack of national governance are emblematic of the critical and on-going challenge of building sustainable global health security capacity. If policymakers fail to act on this issue, they will leave substantial areas of the globe at acute risk for the emergence and spread of deadly infectious diseases.

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The Brief: Freedom of religion, or freedom to discriminate? https://www.policyforum.net/the-brief-freedom-of-religion/ https://www.policyforum.net/the-brief-freedom-of-religion/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 00:37:04 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28312 This week on The Brief, Margaret Thornton surveys the legal landscape as Australia debates whether religious schools should be allowed to discriminate on sexuality.  A government review of freedom of religion laws in Australia last month sparked outrage after it suggested that faith-based schools ought to have the right to turn away gay students and teachers. […]

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This week on The Brief, Margaret Thornton surveys the legal landscape as Australia debates whether religious schools should be allowed to discriminate on sexuality. 

A government review of freedom of religion laws in Australia last month sparked outrage after it suggested that faith-based schools ought to have the right to turn away gay students and teachers. This week on The Brief, we hear from Professor Margaret Thornton about Australia’s legal ambiguity when it comes to religion and discrimination. Topics discussed include what the proposed religious exemptions would involve, whether employment and educational discrimination should be treated differently, and how Australia’s secular-religious divide has changed over the last 20 years. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/e9603494

Margaret Thornton is Professor of Law at the Australian National University, specialising in socio-legal issues and feminist scholarship. She is a Barrister of the Supreme Court of NSW and the High Court of Australia, and has published extensively on issues relating to discrimination and the law.

Edwina Landale is the presenter of The Brief. She is a student of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the ANU.

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

God Under Howard: The rise of the religious right in Australian politics by Marion Maddox

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

This episode of Policy Forum Pod was written and produced by Edwina Landale.

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Learning from Israel’s cyber playbook https://www.policyforum.net/learning-israels-cyber-playbook/ https://www.policyforum.net/learning-israels-cyber-playbook/#respond Sun, 04 Nov 2018 22:43:40 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=28176 From special taskforces to education programs, Australian policymakers should take a leaf out of Israel’s book when it comes to cybersecurity, Isaac Kfir writes. Israel sees the world of cyberspace as critical for its survival. The nation has long been known as a cybersecurity powerhouse, with the sector a key revenue earner for the country. […]

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From special taskforces to education programs, Australian policymakers should take a leaf out of Israel’s book when it comes to cybersecurity, Isaac Kfir writes.

Israel sees the world of cyberspace as critical for its survival. The nation has long been known as a cybersecurity powerhouse, with the sector a key revenue earner for the country. In 2018, Israeli cybersecurity firms received 16 per cent of the world’s total cybersecurity investments.

However, the ecosystem that surrounds Israel’s cybersecurity – specifically the counter-terrorism space – is shrouded in confusion, both because it is so fluid and because the country has no cybersecurity doctrine. Consequently, it is hard to know where the civilian side begins and the military side ends.

Israel’s cyber ecosystem needs to evolve, as the country faces myriad threats: cyberattacks by state and non-state actors; the use of social media platforms to gather information for attacks; denial of service hacks; and misinformation campaigns.

Historically, Israel has approached cybersecurity through two lenses. On the one hand, there was the military, which focused on sdeh hakrav haatidi (future battlefield) and information warfare. On the other hand, the civilian domain dealt with the protection of data and computerised systems in the non-military space.

Israel’s current cybersecurity system is thriving in a semi-structured relationship between the public and private sector and between the military and civilian domain. This has been made possible in the country because people know one another through their military service.

More on this: Raising Australia’s next generation of cybersecurity experts

Nevertheless, there are doubts that this system is sustainable. As a result, there are indications that Israel is in the process of restructuring its approach to cybersecurity. For example, in 2015, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) toyed with idea of establishing a separate cyber corps. It has since walked away from the idea, as military leaders felt that cyber shouldn’t be seen as a separate domain.

Appreciating that cybersecurity experts must be actively developed and don’t simply emerge on their own, the Israeli state has invested heavily in its cyber education sector. 10th-graders taking courses through the Magshimim program are able to take after-school classes in encryption, coding and preventing malicious hacking. More than 75 per cent of the graduates of these programs end up serving in the IDF’s cyber and intelligence units.

Israel has two principal entities that run the military cyber program. The first is Unit 8200, known as ‘the Israeli NSA’. It was established in the 1990s with the purpose of intercepting and collecting digital communication and intelligence on Israel’s enemies. Accordingly, the Unit’s activities go beyond Israel’s borders – the agency was allegedly involved in helping to foil the Sydney Airport Plot.

The second entity is the IDF’s technological division, the Lotem C4I unit, which develops logistic and defence software. The unit developed a program called Tzayad (‘Hunter’) – a GPS-based system helping commanders track their soldiers’ location in real time.

Through Mamram, which is the IDF Center of Computing and Information Systems, the IDF is developing a hybrid cloud for all sections of the military, based on an open-source code that would allow everyone within the IDF to access the system in real time.

More on this: Is cyberwar politics by other means?

Israel recognised that to be successful in the cybersecurity space, it had to invest in education infrastructure, create links between the public and the private sector, and ensure the lines between offence and defence remained flexible. What is missing from the conversation about Israeli cybersecurity is the issue of ethics, as is evident by the country’s willingness to partner with a host of unsavoury actors in the cybersecurity field in pursuit of its national interests.

Young Israelis increasingly gravitate towards the cybersecurity space. This is because it is well known that graduates of the IDF cyber and technology units often go on to develop and build multi-million dollar companies. This may pose a danger to Israel, as there has been a decline in the number that wish to join infantry units.

The decision of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to nominate Major General Aviv Kochavi as the next chief of staff of the IDF is significant. Beyond serving as deputy to the man currently in the role, Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi had served as the head of the IDF Northern Command (a key concern due to the threat posed by Hezbollah and the ongoing conflict in Syria) and the head of Military Intelligence, which oversees many of Israel’s cybersecurity units, including Unit 8200. He has also served as a field commander in the Paratroopers Brigade.

Israeli policymakers must, therefore, remember that as important as cybersecurity is, ultimately it is the men and women that serve in combat units who will protect the country from its many enemies.

In a recent speech, Mike Burgess, the Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate, emphasised the centrality of cyber to Australian security. In lieu of this, Australian policymakers should look to the Israeli model and develop a long-term policy of investment in cyber education that must begin with primary education, as opposed to just focusing on the tertiary sector as called for by the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy.

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