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Episode 59: Malabar and an Emerging Balancing Coalition

30 Oct 2020
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
Ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the U.S. Navy sail in formation in the Bay of Bengal as part of Exercise Malabar 2017. Source: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder/US Navy

Also discussed in this episode of the Australia in the World podcast: Senator Abetz and loyalty tests, and diplomacy and quarantine.

This week’s episode begins with a focus on recent events in Australia’s defence policy space, which both Allan and Darren see as trending towards the formation of a balancing coalition in the region. Australia will join the US, Japan, and India in next month’s Malabar exercises, which was announced while Defence Minister Linda Reynolds was in Tokyo to meet with her counterpart. Meanwhile, Australia will no longer send a naval ship to the Middle East – signalling the conclusion of a decades-long focus on that region.

The conversation then turns to a controversial hearing in the Senate, during which Senator Eric Abetz asked three witnesses, all Australians of Chinese heritage, to denounce the Chinese Communist Party unconditionally. Both Allan and Darren explain why they were deeply troubled by this line of questioning, and Darren describes his recent co-authored piece that argues Abetz’s actions actually harmed Australia’s national security. The episode also raises interesting and thorny questions regarding whether and how every Australian should intervene in public debates.

Finally, given that Ministerial visits, like those to Japan recently made by the Foreign and Defence Ministers, currently come at the cost of 14-days quarantine upon returning home, what does this say about the future of diplomacy?

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Senator Linda Reynolds and Senator Marise Payne, “Australia to participate in Exercise Malabar 2020”, Media Release: 19 October 2020:

“2020 Japan-Australia Defense Ministers Kishi/Reynolds Joint Statement on Advancing Defence Cooperation”, 19 October 2020:

Senator Linda Reynolds, “Changes to the ADF’s naval presence in the Middle East”, Media Release, 23 October 2020:

Stephen Dziedzic and Andrew Greene, “Australia no longer sending Navy to the Middle East, shifts focus to Asia-Pacific, China”, ABC News, 23 October 2020:

Osmond Chiu, “I was born in Australia. Why do I need to renounce the Chinese Communist Party?”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 2020:

Yun Jiang, “Senator Abetz’s loyalty test”, Inside Story, 20 October 2020:

Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim, “Loyalty tests make Australia weaker, not stronger” Lowy Interpreter, 21 October 2020:

Australian Institute of International Affairs, “The World in 2021: Allan Gyngell and Dennis Richardson in Conversation”, 22 October 2020:[]=video (forthcoming)

Graeme Dobell, “What’s worth 14 days’ quarantine for Australia’s foreign minister?” The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 19 October 2020:

Australian Institute of International Affairs, contact details:

Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends (Goodreads page):

Francis Fukuyama, “Liberalism and its discontents: The challenges from the left and the right”, American Purpose, 5 October 2020:

David Brooks, “America is having a moral convulsion”, The Atlantic, 5 October 2020: