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Message from the ASPI Chairman and the Executive Director

Clear strategic thinking and the value of contestable policy advice are never more important than
in moments of crisis. With the world enduring the worst health pandemic in a century,
an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and
challenges to the international rule of law from authoritarianism and from democratic malaise,
2019–20 will be remembered as a dark and difficult year. Indeed, in launching the Government’s
2020 Defence Strategic Update and the 2020 Force Structure Plan at the Australian Defence Force Academy on 1 July 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison observed: ‘This simple truth is this: even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID
world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly.’

The team at ASPI worked hard during the year to meet the objectives set for the institute in its
foundation Charter letter:
  First, to provide alternative sources of input to Government decision-making processes on
major strategic and defence policy issues.
  Second, ASPI is intended to help nourish public debate and understanding.
  Third, the Government believes that Australia needs to invest in nurturing a body of men
and women, working both inside and outside Government, who are expert in the strategic
policy issues faced by Government.

From mid-March 2020, like much of the Australian workforce, ASPI staff worked remotely
for several months before a staged return to the office. We are very proud of the efforts
of our staff. Despite the challenges, they have continued to produce high-quality research
with an Australian and indeed global policy impact. This 2019–20 annual report shows
continued growth in staff numbers, a widening funding base and a substantial upswing in our
publications through many channels and covering many issues.

ASPI continues to be prominent in explaining the trajectory of Australia–China relations and
locating in in the wider context of the shifting geopolitical balance. We see this as essential
work, providing a broader context in which to understand government decision-making on legislation designed to prevent covert foreign interference in Australian political and economic life. ASPI remains heavily engaged with parliamentarians, officials, the diplomatic corps, industry and the media on China and other subjects central to Australia’s path to recovery from Covid-19, a return to healthy economic growth and strengthened national security.

The annual report also shows significant growth in funding support from some international partners. In common with many think tanks, universities and research institutions, ASPI depends on multiple sources of funding to grow our expertise and operations. The report shows this in detail. It is important to state that, in entering any financial relationship, ASPI insists on maintaining complete independence in its editorial judgements. Indeed, that independence is why people see value in sponsoring ASPI work and why so many people consider ASPI to be a touchstone of sound judgement and analysis.

We thank Professor Joan Beaumont AO, the Hon David Johnston and Mr Jim McDowell, who have completed their terms on the ASPI Council, for their valued contributions to the council. We welcome Ms Gai Brodtmann, Dr Lavina Lee and the Hon Dr Brendon Nelson AO to the council and look forward to working with them as ASPI looks towards the 20th anniversary
of the institute’s founding in 2021.

We would like to thank the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, for her continuing close personal engagement and support, as well as the Defence Department,
the Australian Defence Force and our many sponsors.

Kenneth Gillespie (Chairman)
Kenneth Gillespie (Chairman)

Peter jennings (Executive Director
Peter jennings (Executive Director