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Contributions to the national debate, by publication type

The following pages describe some selected ASPI publications and outline how they have contributed to the national debate.

After Covid-19: Australia and the world rebuild (volume 1)

 Australia and the world rebuild (volume 1)

Edited by John Coyne and Peter Jennings
2 May 2020
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?

Strategic Insights
Indo-Pacific election pulse 2019: Thailand, Indonesia, India and Australia:
Views from The Strategist

 Views from The Strategist

Edited by Huong Le Thu
14 August 2019
With democracy under stress globally, a deeper understanding of the impact that elections in the Indo-Pacific in 2019 will have on the region’s strategic direction is crucial.
The editor of this volume, Dr Huong Le Thu, identified the consequential elections in 2019 as those in India, Indonesia, Australia and Thailand.
This Strategic Insight is a collection of articles from The Strategist that delves into the complexities and implications of the democratic elections, including the issues of foreign interference, populism and the effect of technology on voting behaviours.
The report is one of the more popular Strategic Insights produced. It was a popular download from the ASPI website, it generated international media attention, and parts of it have been republished in many online publication outlets as well as being referenced in academic articles.
The publication is well read across different government departments and training, education and research centres in Australia and abroad. It has featured in the resources of DFAT, the Defence Department, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Parliamentary Research Unit, all major Australian universities, the National Library of Australia and many high-ranking international universities and think tanks.

Special Report
Strong and free? The future security of Australia’s north

Strong and free? The future security of Australia’s north

John Coyne
19 August 2019
This report argues that ‘there is a need to reconceptualise northern Australia … as a single scalable defence and national security ecosystem’. This ecosystem should be developed to ‘deliver integrated support to current and future ADF and national security operations’.
With significantly reduced warning times of future conflict, it is likely that the north of Australia will increasingly become either Australia’s forward operating base (FOB) or a ‘lily pad’ to another forward location within the Pacific or the first or second island chain.
The northern Australian industry base needs to be enhanced to be able to provide a permanent and scalable civilianised replenishment and depot repair capacity for Defence capabilities deployed across the various physical nodes of FOB North. If the northern Australian industry base is not scalable, then the ADF might not be able to optimally configure to undertake ‘defence of Australia’ tasks or short-notification joint expeditionary operations in our regional neighbourhood.
The development of FOB North needs to be part of, and supported by, Australia’s sovereign nation building efforts. As both a sovereign defence and a national security concept, FOB North is an integral part of building national resilience in northern Australia and therefore should not be simply planned and delivered through a Defence White Paper. This kind of ambitious national approach will involve Defence working with a diverse array of stakeholders and partners. It will also allow Defence to make a significant and lasting contribution to its most basic strategic interest; a secure, resilient Australia.
The report was widely reported in the media over several days, including on the front page of The Australian, in an opinion piece in The Australian with a response from the Northern Territory Chief Minister, in the Adelaide Advertiser, and in several reports on Sky News, ABC RN Drive, ABC Radio, ABC TV, 3AW, Northern Territory News, Taipei Times, Daily Mail UK. Both the Defence Minister and the shadow defence minister responded to the report.

Counterterrorism yearbook 2020

Counterterrorism yearbook 2020

Edited by Isaac Kfir and John Coyne
20 March 2020
The annual Counterterrorism yearbook was published for the fourth time in 2020. This year’s 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 Director-General Mike Burgess commended the publication for its ‘valuable contribution to the public discourse on counterterrorism’.
While maintaining its geographical focus, the yearbook now includes thematic chapters on mental health, strategic policing, the media, the terror–crime nexus and terrorist innovation.
Those new thematic chapters have been included to encourage governments to consider more proactive counterterrorism 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 the comorbidity of mental health, the use of gaming platforms, and artificial intelligence.
Feedback from the federal and state governments, embassies and think tanks indicates that the publication is being used as a reference tool in defence and foreign policy circles.

International Cyber Policy Centre
Uyghurs for sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang

 ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang

Vicky Xiuzhong Xu et al
1 March 2020
This report found that the Chinese Government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. The report revealed that, under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.

The report found that more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred to work in factories across China between 2017 and 2019, and some of them were sent directly from detention camps. The estimated figure is conservative, and the real figure is likely to be far higher. The workers typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden to participate in religious observances. Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders, work under ‘military style management’ and have limited freedom of movement.

This report, drawing on open-source Chinese documents, exposed 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.

The report became the most read ASPI report of all time within 24 hours of being published on 1 March. It received global news coverage in top-tier media, including an exclusive in The Washington Post, and post-publication coverage from the BBC, CNN, PBS, The Financial Times, The Economist, al-Jazeera, South China Morning Post, Le Monde, The Straits Times, The Guardian and The Jakarta Post, among others.

The authors have since been invited to brief Australian and European parliamentary committees; large US industry groups with corporate members that manufacture in China; US officials; and ministers and political advisers in a wide range of countries. US members of Congress and members of the European Parliament have written to the CEOs of companies named in the report, demanding that they take action on forced labour supply-chain risks in China. The authors have contributed expert opinions to draft legislation on the issue in foreign parliaments.

Lead author Vicky Xu said, ‘This is now a global problem. We’re seeing the practices of the “re-education camps” in Xinjiang being exported to major factories across China and implicating both global brands and their hundreds of millions of consumers. Regardless of where these factories are in a company’s supply chain, what these global brands all have in common is a supply chain that appears to be tainted by forced and surveilled labour. And at no stage can we forget this forced and surveilled labour is coming from one of the most repressed regions of the world where huge parts of the population remain under active surveillance, house arrest or arbitrary detention.’

The China Defence Universities Tracker: Exploring the military and security links of China’s universities

 Exploring the military and security links of China’s universities

Alex Joske
25 November 2020
This project analysed the growing ties between China’s People’s Liberation Army and Chinese universities, companies and research institutes. It produced a unique online database of the military links of Chinese institutions and a report analysing the project’s findings. The project found that Chinese universities are increasingly engaged in military research, and many have been implicated in cases of illegal exports or espionage. Seven of China’s leading universities are particularly close to the military and are often referred to as the ‘Seven Sons of National Defence’.
The project was designed as a tool to address the high level of concerning collaboration with Chinese military-linked entities that was identified in earlier ASPI research. By providing greater transparency about ‘military–civil fusion’ in China’s university sector, it aims to encourage better practices by universities as they partner with Chinese institutions.

The China Defence Universities Tracker project has been highly influential since its November 2019 launch. Its dedicated website has attracted more than 300,000 readers worldwide, who have totalled over 750,000 unique page views, making it the most viewed single resource that ASPI has published. The report also received 52,214 unique views, which was the second most of any ASPI report. It has been consulted by governments and universities in Australia, the US, Canada, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the UK and Japan. In particular, it informed the recent US Government decision to restrict visas for Chinese military-linked scientists.

ASPI Case Studies
Sticking to our guns: a troubled past produces a superb weapon

 a troubled past produces a superb weapon

Chris Masters
31 October 2019
ASPI case studies in defence projects is a series dedicated to telling the ‘warts and all’ stories of major undertakings in Australian defence procurement and project management. The ‘dates and dollars’ of defence projects are available in reporting from Defence and the Australian National Audit Office, so this series explores the less quantified but nonetheless crucial aspects of project management—the organisational, human and technological challenges that occur along the way. ASPI hopes that future project managers will be able to turn to this series to see how their predecessors dealt with the problems they faced, and be able to see how outcomes—good or bad—were shaped by events along the way.
In Sticking to our guns, Chris Masters delivers a cracking read about the ‘funny plastic weapon’ that replaced the Vietnam-era L1A1 assault rifle in the 1980s, the successors to which remain the ADF’s primary personal weapon. And what a history it is. Chris skilfully weaves the political, design, industrial, economic and battlefield factors that have driven decision-making about the weapon earlier known as the Steyr AUG, F88 and Austeyr and now known as the EF88.

The Bushmaster: from concept to combat

 from concept to combat

Brendan Nicholson
12 December 2019
This account of the Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle by Brendan Nicholson is the classic story of an ugly duckling—an ‘armoured Winnebago’—transformed, swan-like, into a vital lifesaver for Australian and Dutch troops on combat operations in Afghanistan. It was never designed to play that role. Based on South African and Rhodesian experiments with landmine-blast-deflecting V-shaped hulls, the Bushmaster was first conceived as a lightly armoured truck. In 1980s ‘defence of Australia’ planning, the Bushmaster would move troops around the vastness of northern Australia pursuing ‘thugs in thongs’ bent on harassing locals.
As with earlier ASPI case studies on defence projects, The Bushmaster: from concept to combat is designed to help those in Defence, industry and parliament and other interested observers to better understand the complexities of the business, all with the aim of improving how Australia equips its defence force.

Strategist Selections
Nuclear strategy in a changing world

Nuclear strategy in a changing world

Rod Lyon
24 October 2019
The immense destructive power of nuclear weapons continues to shape the international strategic balance, not least Australia’s place as a close ally of the US in an increasingly risky Indo-Pacific region.
What is the continuing utility to America’s allies of extended nuclear deterrence? Where is the risk of nuclear proliferation greatest? How should the world deal with the growing nuclear capabilities of North Korea? Is the nuclear order as sturdy and stable as it needs to be? These and other pressing issues are addressed in this volume by one of Australia’s leading thinkers on nuclear weapons and the global strategic balance, Rod Lyon. Rod’s career spans academic research and teaching at the University of Queensland and strategic analysis for Australia’s peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (now the Office of National Intelligence). Since 2006, he has been a senior analyst at ASPI and a frequent contributor on nuclear issues to The Strategist, Australia’s best online source of analysis on defence and strategic issues.
The 36 pithy articles in this volume offer Rod Lyon’s distilled wisdom on critical nuclear issues, which are increasingly occupying the minds of Australia’s best policy and intelligence thinkers.