The AUKUS Pact, With Michael Fullilove

Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the trilateral security agreement that Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed in September 2021, and the broader state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific.

November 16, 2021 — 32:22 min
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Host

James M. Lindsay

Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair Full Bio

Episode Guests

Michael Fullilove

Executive Director, Lowy Institute for International Policy

Show Notes

Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the trilateral security agreement that Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed in September 2021, and the broader state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific.

 

Articles, Documents, and Speeches Mentioned in the Podcast

 

China’s dossier of fourteen disputes with Australia via The Sydney Morning Herald, November 18, 2020

 

Natasha Kassam, Lowy Institute Poll 2021, Lowy Institute, June 23, 2021

 

Remarks by President Biden, Prime Minister Morrison of Australia, and Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom Announcing the Creation of AUKUS,” The White House, September 15, 2021

 

Jake Sullivan, “2021 Lowy Lecture,” delivered virtually at the Lowy Institute, November 11, 2021

 

Books Mentioned

 

Michael FulliloveRendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World (2013)

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Transcript

Jim Lindsay:

Welcome to The President's Inbox, a CFR podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the United States. I'm Jim Lindsay, Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This week's topic is the AUKUS pact.

Jim Lindsay:

With me to discuss the trilateral security agreement that Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed in September 2021, and the broader state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific, is Michael Fullilove.

Jim Lindsay:

Michael is the executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia. Michael was previously an advisor to former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, and has written widely on Australian foreign policy, US foreign policy, and global issues. His books include the award-winning Rendezvous With Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America Into the War and Into the World. And he recently hosted the 2021 Lowy Lecture with Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor to President Joseph Biden.

Jim Lindsay:

Michael, thanks for joining me.

Michael Fullilove:

Thank you for having me, Jim.

Jim Lindsay:

Well, it is great to talk with you, and especially given the time difference. I do want to talk about AUKUS, Michael. But I thought, perhaps, before we get into the details of the agreement and the consequences and how it's playing politically back in Australia, if you could set the table for us and give us the broader context?

Jim Lindsay:

Because it seems like it wasn't that long ago that the vibe in Australia was that Australians didn't have to choose between China and the United States, you could have a relationship in which you could work with both. But something seemed to have changed in Australia. So maybe you could walk us through that process?

Michael Fullilove:

Well, I think, principally, the reason that Australia's relationship with China has changed is that China has changed. And China's foreign policies have hardened. The constraints on people within China have tightened. Its willingness to accept criticism has disappeared. And Australia has taken a number of steps that we would say were to protect our sovereignty over the last three, four, five years; including banning Huawei and other high-risk vendors from participating in our 5G rollout and enacting foreign interference laws.

Michael Fullilove:

And the Chinese have seen all these steps that we saw as principally defensive, they've seen as provocations. And the latest one, last year, was Australia's call for an international inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Which directly and indirectly led to really an extraordinary campaign of economic coercion from China against Australia, including sanctions on many of our exports, including barley, wine, seafood, cotton, timber, beef and coal. And we're also in the diplomatic deep freeze. I mean, there have been no conversations between Australian and Chinese ministers for a long time.

Michael Fullilove:

So the last thing to say, Jim, is that public opinion has hardened in tandem with these changes. And as you know, one of the things the Lowy Institute is known for is the Lowy Institute Poll, our annual opinion poll on how Australians feel about the world. And in this year's poll, for example, we saw that trust in China has fallen precipitously, with only 16% of Australians saying they trust China a great deal or somewhat to act responsibly in the world. Which is down from 52%, three years ago.

Michael Fullilove:

So that was a long answer to your question. But basically, yes, in the last five years, the relationship with China has cooled substantially. Have we been perfect in all this? I don't think we have been perfect. But I would say, principally, you've seen Australian reactions to Chinese behavior and changes in how China conducts itself. And China has responded with this extraordinary campaign, which has really backed Australia into a corner.

Jim Lindsay:

I take the point, Michael, that Australia and Australians have really seen the fangs of China's wolf warrior diplomacy, and of course the issuance of the 14 grievances that China has against Australia.

Jim Lindsay:

But what I'd like to understand better is your sense of why Australia has reacted the way it has. My sense is the calculation in Beijing was that by being tough, taking a very hard line on Australia ... not just diplomatically, but in terms of rolling out the weapon of economic coercion ... that Australians would back down.

Jim Lindsay:

Now, we can point to many cases in which countries do back down in the face of that kind of pressure, particularly when it's coming from a country that is its number one trading partner; as is the case for Australia. But, again, what you've described is Australians stiffening their spine rather than bowing their head.

Michael Fullilove:

Well, you're quite right, that Australia has a huge amount to lose here. It's not like we're a country on the other side of the earth with peripheral relations with China. It's our number one trading partner. It remains our most important economic partner. And it's not just dollars and cents. I mean, China is a critical, perhaps the critical, security and diplomatic player of all the Asian countries. I'm sure it is. So yeah, it's quite a big risk that Australia is running.

Michael Fullilove:

I think there is something in the Australian character which doesn't like to be bullied. And from where we sit, the behavior from China does seem extreme and disproportionate, and I think, actually, probably from wherever you sit if you're a fair-minded person. China's response, for example, to Australia's call for an international inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus seems extreme and disproportionate. We're living through a once in a century pandemic. It does seem to me that it's important to understand how that pandemic arose and so that we can prepare for future instances. And to punish Australia like this, for making that fairly uncontroversial claim, seems extremely unfair.

Michael Fullilove:

So I think there is something in the Australian character that doesn't like to be bullied. We are historically a Western country that believes in a rules-based order and that believes that countries should follow the rules in the way that they interact with each other.

Michael Fullilove:

I'd say the second explanatory reason, and it's related to the first, is that it turns out that standing up for Australia against China is popular.

Jim Lindsay:

Popular, politically, at home.

Michael Fullilove:

Yeah. Yeah, it is popular. I mean, Australians don't like to be pushed around. And we've seen public opinion harden very much and basically be supportive of the Australian government taking a tough line.

Michael Fullilove:

So you have both the instinctive reaction, I think, of government and Australians and the public and the national security class, which says, "Basically, if we buckle now, we're finished. If we do perfectly reasonable things, like make our own sovereign decisions about who participates in the rollout of infrastructure, or who is taking steps to prevent foreign countries from interfering in our politics, or calling for an investigation into the origins of a global pandemic, and we are then coerced and we buckle, it's all over. And our dignity's gone. Our sense of independence is gone. We have to stand up in a self-respectful way." I think, really, that's the Australian position in this case.

Jim Lindsay:

What I seem to hear, Michael, in your assessment, is the idea that appeasement doesn't pay off, it just delivers you to a much worse place.

Michael Fullilove:

Well, I think that is what we've seen in relation to China's neighbors. So, yeah, I would agree with that. I mean, does that mean I'm completely uncritical of the way Australia's handled it? No. I think, for example, in the way that we called for an investigation into the coronavirus we exposed ourself to China's reaction in a way that was unnecessary. The foreign minister just announced, on a television show, that we were going to launch an investigation into that. It wasn't apparent that Australia had done the diplomatic legwork, for example, to assemble a coalition of like-minded countries in advance. Which would've been the smart way to do it. It would've provided us with political protection. But, more importantly, it would've added momentum to our call if you'd had a whole series of countries calling for this.

Michael Fullilove:

Australia went out alone. We were prepared to do that. And I like Australia leading, but I think in that sort of instance we could have shown a bit more guile. But does that mean that the direction of the policy is wrong? No. I think we do have to stand up for our own interests, we do have to stand up for our own values.

Jim Lindsay:

Something tells me that even if Australia had done it properly, in terms of building a coalition, the message still would not have been very well received in Beijing.

Jim Lindsay:

But let's talk about that change in Australian policy, Michael. Why do you see the current Australian government deciding that part of that change, in relation or reaction to China's policy, is to pursue something like the AUKUS deal?

Michael Fullilove:

Well, the first thing to say is that AUKUS is an ambitious thing. It's partly about nuclear propulsion for Australia's submarine fleet, but it's also about closer military and scientific ties between these three countries: United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. It's about technology sharing. It's about cyber capabilities. It's about AI cooperation. It's about trust. It's about deepening the connections between these three countries.

Jim Lindsay:

Well, let's break it up and take each of those bits, Michael, if we may. Let's begin with the issue of nuclear-powered submarines. And I should stress, we're not talking about submarines with nuclear weapons.

Jim Lindsay:

It was only about a dozen years ago that the Australian Navy decided that it did not need nuclear-powered submarines. In fact, struck a deal not too long ago with the French to have conventionally-powered submarines. That deal has been torn up. We can talk about some of the political fallout from that in a moment. What's the rationale or the reasoning for the decision to embrace nuclear-powered submarines?

Michael Fullilove:

Given Australia's geography, given the size of the Australian mainland and the distance between Australia and the rest of the world, I think most experts have always thought that a nuclear-powered submarine fleet was more suited to Australia than conventional boats.

Michael Fullilove:

I think, in the past, the lack of an indigenous Australian nuclear industry and the unwillingness of the United States and other nuclear powers to share their nuclear propulsion technology, meant that it was very hard to see how Australia could put a nuclear submarine fleet to sea. I mean, there have been occasional talks about leasing, for example, Virginia-class boats from the Americans over the years.

Michael Fullilove:

But basically it just seemed too hard and there wasn't domestic support for a nuclear power industry in Australia. So therefore, we've always gone with conventional boats and the discussions over the last decade have been whether we purchase those boats from Japan or Germany or France. And in the end, we decided to go with the French about five years ago.

Michael Fullilove:

What's changed is that, first of all, our strategic circumstances have deteriorated. And the additional range, the ability to remain on station for longer periods of time, appears more and more valuable. The greater deterrent effect that nuclear-powered submarines provide has appeared much more attractive to Australia. And at the same time, as far as we can tell from reporting, it became apparent that perhaps there was an opportunity perhaps the Biden administration would be willing to share its nuclear propulsion technology with another country for the first time in six decades.

Michael Fullilove:

And so, Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, took a personal decision, I think. And it's quite a gutsy decision. And that is to start to explore this option and then to work it up into this larger AUKUS pact. Which, as I say, is not just about nuclear submarines, it's about lots of different things. And that meant, of course, disappointing the French.

Michael Fullilove:

I think that's it's a combination of deteriorating strategic circumstances, a change in willingness on our allies part to share this capability with Australia.

Jim Lindsay:

How long do you expect, Michael, before Australia actually gets nuclear-powered submarines? They're not inexpensive things to purchase. And do you expect the Australian government to follow through with the funding necessary to make it happen?

Michael Fullilove:

You're right, Jim, that this would be a huge national undertaking. The previous contract with the French to deliver conventional attack-class submarines was already going to be the largest contract in the history of Australia. Acquiring nuclear-powered submarines will be more expensive and more difficult. We have to train up a whole generation of engineers and scientists and sailors. It's an enormous exercise.

Michael Fullilove:

I will note that we have an election due in the next six months, and the opposition Labor Party has supported the AUKUS pact in principle. But there's a difference between supporting it in principle and ponying up for the funds in year one and year two, all out to 2040; when we would expect these boats to arrive.

Jim Lindsay:

Yeah, the devil is in the details and also in the budgets, as they say.

Michael Fullilove:

100%.

Michael Fullilove:

On the other hand, I think that there are questions about how this will work. And I'm not an expert, of course, on these matters. But the logic of nuclear-propelled submarines is compelling. So my hope is that the Australian government does proceed.

Jim Lindsay:

And what do you expect to happen on the other aspects of the deals you talk about closer to technological cooperation, working together on cyber, artificial intelligence and the like? What are the tangible things that Australia's hoping to see from the United States, and, I should also note, from the United Kingdom?

Michael Fullilove:

Well, it's interesting. As you mentioned in the introduction, I'm a historian and I have a particular interest in the Second World War. And when the AUKUS pact was announced, it reminded me of a quote from Winston Churchill in 1940, at the time of the destroyer-for-bases deal. And I know you are a history buff too. And you and your listeners will recall that, in 1940, the United States decided to provide Britain with 50 old destroyers in exchange for access to British Naval bases.

Michael Fullilove:

And the real point of that deal was not the destroyers and it wasn't really the bases, it was, as Churchill said, that, "These two countries, the United States and Britain, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage." And you saw in 1941 and 1942, again, you saw those two allies, and the Western alliance more generally, getting mixed up together.

Michael Fullilove:

And I think that's a very interesting analogy to think about in relation to AUKUS, but also in connection with the way relations between allies and like-minded partners in general are getting more mixed up with each other. The boundary between domestic and foreign policy is becoming less clear. The cooperation between allies is becoming much stronger. I think in the light of new challenges, and in particular in the rise of China, democracies and like-minded countries are seeing that the only way that we can get through this is by working much more closely together and by getting mixed up in each other's affairs. To me, that's the real significance of AUKUS.

Michael Fullilove:

From Australia's point of view, we are doubling down on our alliance with the United States, we're drawing the United Kingdom more deeply into the Indo-Pacific. From Washington's point of view, your government is seeking to strengthen our capabilities as well as a shared sense of solidarity by the three allies. Similarly, for the United Kingdom, it's showing continued global standing and ambition on Britain's behalf. But it's also, again, thickening the connections between these three countries. So that, to me, is the real significance of AUKUS.

Jim Lindsay:

Well, let's talk a little bit about that, Michael. And I will just note, historically, you made the reference to the destroyers-for-bases deal, that it was the precipitating event for the formation of the original America First Committee, which was formed in the campus of Yale University back in September of 1940.

Jim Lindsay:

But looking at this issue of trying to draw Australia closer to the United States to double down on the relationship with Washington, I think caught many people by surprise. Because it was just the month earlier, in August, when there was incredible tumult about the very chaotic, to put it politely, US withdrawal from Afghanistan. There was a lot of talk that the United States had irreparably damaged its credibility and like-minded countries wouldn't want to ally with the United States.

Jim Lindsay:

How much did the withdrawal from Afghanistan, or how much has the withdrawal from Afghanistan, raised concerns among Australians about the reliability and predictability of any American commitment?

Michael Fullilove:

I think you're right, that after the fall of Kabul many observers of US foreign policy concluded that America had lost interest in its allies and its allies had lost faith in America. And, to me, the AUKUS pact is a powerful rebuttal of both arguments.

Michael Fullilove:

I think where you stand depends on where you sit. And although I was horrified by the human cost of the way America withdrew from Afghanistan, I would say to you that in Australia, in Canberra, and Tokyo, and Seoul, and in our part of the world in the Indo-Pacific, I think people understood why the Biden administration had made that very hard decision. I think they basically agreed with its strategic logic. And I felt that the response in Europe in particular, to the nature of the withdrawal, was disproportionate.

Michael Fullilove:

And I would say that most of my colleagues in this part of the world felt the same thing, that ultimately the US presence in Asia brings balance to our region, it's essential for deterrence and stability. Australia has found the United States to be an extremely reliable ally over the course of 70 years. And the somewhat messy US withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of warfighting was not going to change that.

Michael Fullilove:

And, to me, AUKUS should have restored some balance to the global debate about US reliability. Because this is a big choice that America has made, in fact I put to the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, last week, that this was a big bet by the administration, and Jake agreed with that characterization. And he said that President Biden wanted to say to the world, "That if you're a strong friend and ally and partner, and you bet with us, we will bet with you."

Michael Fullilove:

So, to me, AUKUS showed, first of all, that America was a reliable ally, and that it was prepared to put its chips on the table and share the crown jewels of its military establishment with an ally in order to strengthen that ally's capabilities. And on the other side, AUKUS showed that allies, such as Australia, were prepared to reciprocate and were prepared to do what was required to make themselves more capable allies.

Michael Fullilove:

So that's why I say, to me, AUKUS was a rebuttal of both those arguments, that America had lost interest in its alliances and that its allies had lost faith in America.

Jim Lindsay:

I should note that the issue of Afghanistan is important in Australia. Australian troops served in Afghanistan. I believe that more than 40 Australian soldiers were killed in service there and several hundred wounded.

Jim Lindsay:

I also take your point Michael, that the decision by the Biden administration to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia is significant because of how closely guarded that technology is.

Jim Lindsay:

But obviously, as Australia went through and reached the private deal that produced AUKUS, it ... how should we put it ... rent a tear in the fabric of Franco-Australian relations. How significant do you regard that disruption to be? Do we put this in the category of: you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs? Or did that decision actually, in some sense, take us a step back from what Australia's trying to do, in knitting together closer relations with allies?

Michael Fullilove:

Well, I think all those propositions are correct. I think, first of all, it's sad to see the current state of affairs between France and Australia, because both countries are great nations, Indo-Pacific democracies, and natural allies. And we left many of our dead in France in the First World War. And the French have always honored that sacrifice with seriousness and dignity. And as a Francophile myself, I, and many of my colleagues, had hoped that the French submarine program would be the foundation of a much closer relationship between Australia and France, one that would help to anchor France in our part of the world.

Michael Fullilove:

That wasn't to be. There's no point debating, I think, at this stage, where the fault lies for the failure of the previous program. It wasn't going well, that's no secret. You just have to look at an Australian newspaper over the last five years to know that the negotiations and the early work for the French attack-class submarines were not going well. And on top of that, as I said earlier, Australia's circumstances changed, another option appeared on the table, and Australia made a decision about where its self-interest lay. That's the first point.

Michael Fullilove:

The second point is that, I have to say, I wish that Australia had shown more grace in the manner of its withdrawal. We don't know all the ins and outs. There's been a lot of speculation about how it was communicated. I think we could've been more graceful. For example, I think the Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Morrison, could have mentioned France in the trilateral press conference that he did with President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson. We could have been more graceful in the way that we did that. And in fact, President Biden made a similar comment recently, he said that we were clumsy and we could have shown more grace.

Michael Fullilove:

Now I asked Jake actually, "Who did President Biden mean by we? Did he mean Australia? Did he mean the United States?" And Jake very elegantly dodged that answer. But I think, probably, we could have done more, Australia could have done more. But on the other hand, whichever way we had communicated it, it would've gone down very poorly because this is a huge contract for the French. Australia was meant to be the anchor for their Indo-Pacific policy. It's humiliating for France. I mean, to win the contract was a huge thing for France. And to lose it in this manner to the Anglosphere, as it was, was humiliating. Hard and humiliating.

Jim Lindsay:

Also politically difficult, given that we have a French president who is struggling in the polls, who intends to go to the voters next year and asked to be reelected.

Michael Fullilove:

Yes. And you have elections in both Australia and France next year, so that hasn't made it easier. I have to say that the extreme response of the French, I also think has been disproportionate.

Jim Lindsay:

We should note the French government recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and from Washington in wake of the announcement.

Michael Fullilove:

Exactly. Yeah, they withdrew their ambassador. I mean, in the end, this is a sovereign decision of Australia's, and there were lots of reasons to make it. And I understand France's disappointment.

Michael Fullilove:

But I saw a comment the other day by Japan's ambassador to Australia, actually. And he said this, he said, "Our situation does not allow for the luxury of this dispute to continue between partners." And I agree with that. I think that we could have shown more grace, but equally it's now incumbent upon both Paris and Canberra to show some grace and to show some class, and to identify creative ways for us to repair this damage. Because, in the end, Australia and France share history and memory and interests. And we shouldn't forget that.

Jim Lindsay:

Now, Michael, looking at this issue of Australia doubling down on the United States, are there other things that Australia wants to see Washington do, wants to see the Biden administration take on?

Jim Lindsay:

I note that Australia is part of the Quad, the Biden administration has made the Quad a priority. Is that enough? Is there more that Washington should be doing, from the perspective of Canberra?

Michael Fullilove:

Well, I think nuclear propulsion technology is a pretty big chip. So we're probably not in a position to ask for too many other things.

Michael Fullilove:

I would say that, look, Australia has been very heartened, I would say, by the premium that the Biden administration has put on alliances in our part of the world. You would have seen comments from Jake Sullivan, from Kurt Campbell, from Anthony Blinken, and others, even telling the Chinese, for example, that they need to step back from the economic coercion of Australia.

Michael Fullilove:

It was very welcome, for example, when the American representatives elevated China's economic coercion of Australia to a first-order issue during the Anchorage Summit. And you heard administration officials saying, "We are not going to leave Australia alone on the field." So I think that was very welcome support. And it was made flesh in AUKUS.

Michael Fullilove:

I'd look at the issue a slightly different way though, and I would say that Australia also needs to be realistic. Because the fact is that Washington has many issues that it needs to progress with Beijing: trade, climate change, strategic competition. There are lots of different issue that the United States has to do business with China on. And the relationship between the two most powerful countries on earth, China and the United States, is never going to be determined by the interests of a third-party, even a much loved ally like Australia.

Michael Fullilove:

I think it's right for Australia to double down on its alliance with the United States, but at the same time we need to work out some way of restoring some sense of in our relations with China. It's not in our interests to have the United States speaking to China on our behalf. It's in our interests that we talk directly to China about all the issues going on in the bilateral relationship.

Michael Fullilove:

And so I'm not quite sure what the off-ramp looks like or when it's going to come up. But at the same time that we double down on our relations with the United States, that we try to draw the UK in, it's important we don't shrink Asia to the dimensions of China. So at the same time that we thicken our relations with Japan and South Korea and Indonesia and Vietnam and other countries in our part of the world, we also need to re-establish a workable relationship with China. That's important, from our point of view.

Jim Lindsay:

I can certainly see, Michael, why it is in Australia's interest to find ways to lower the temperature with the Chinese. And certainly, no country wants to outsource its foreign policy to another country, no matter how fond or close it might feel to it.

Jim Lindsay:

But one of the things I was struck in your answers, something you didn't talk about, and that is trade. Typically, when I have conversations with people in East Asia, in South Asia, we talk about the administration's Indo-Pacific strategy or policy. What I often hear them saying is, "We want to see the United States to get back into the trade game." Typically, some call for resurrecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or now in its new iteration is the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Jim Lindsay:

But you didn't hit the drum beat on trade, should I read anything into that?

Michael Fullilove:

Look, I think it's the yin to the yang. And I think it's a hole in America's Indo-Pacific strategy. I think President Trump undermined the US position in the Indo-Pacific when he withdrew from the TPP. And I think it's regrettable that there doesn't seem to be appetite on behalf of any major American political figure to rejoin the CPTPP.

Michael Fullilove:

I think it's a problem for America, because although most Asian countries want to see the United States deeply engaged in the region, and although most of us feel that the United States presence is critical on the security front, the reality is that most Asian countries see China as the more important economic partner. And so I do think, as a matter of urgency, the United States needs to find some way to compete with the magnetic effect of the huge Chinese economy.

Michael Fullilove:

But it's hard to see what that is because President Trump has changed the debate on trade in Washington, and it's not your granddaddy's trade debate anymore. I asked Jake Sullivan about this last week. He said the administration was working hard on an Indo-Pacific economic framework. So let's see what that looks like.

Jim Lindsay:

Well, I'm eager to see what the framework looks like.

Jim Lindsay:

But let me ask you just one final question, Michael, and that is to shift the gears slightly from talking about what the United States and Australia agree on and where they're cooperating, and where there might be some significant differences between Canberra and Washington DC?

Jim Lindsay:

An issue that sort of pops in my head has to do with climate change. We've just come out of the end of COP26, this big global meeting in Glasgow. Do you have a sense that Washington and Canberra are on the same page of the playbook when it comes to climate change?

Michael Fullilove:

I think we're very much on different pages, and it's not to Australia's credit. We have a weird situation in Australia, Jim, where Australia wants to be a leader on security issues, but we're content to be something of a free rider on climate change.

Michael Fullilove:

So, on security, as we've discussed in this podcast, we're prepared to be the tip of the spear in protecting the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific, we're prepared to be the bodyguard for the rules-based order, we're prepared to take controversial stands, we're prepared to significantly increase our defense spending, we're prepared to set our eye on nuclear-propelled submarines to add to our deterrent abilities, even though, as a relatively small country, we're never going to shift the balance of power in the region. But nevertheless, we're prepared to be a leader.

Michael Fullilove:

On the other hand, on climate, where we're among the highest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, we are not prepared to lead. And the same people who make the argument that we should lead on security, say, in relation to climate change, "Well, we can't change the global climate so why should we accept any economic cost?"

Michael Fullilove:

And I would argue, Jim, that we should be leading on both fronts. And we're not leading on both fronts at the moment. Under a great deal of pressure, the Morrison government finally committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. But we did it with a great deal of reluctance. And it's not really clear how heartfelt it is, on behalf of the government. And our 2030 targets, which, as we know, are probably even more important in terms of fighting the prospect of dangerous global warming, are quite unambitious.

Michael Fullilove:

So I think this is one area where Australia's performance is disappointing. It's sad, because this is a kind of issue, that a generation ago, Australia used to excel at; finding public policy solutions to complex wicked public policy programs. We used to do that really well. But, unfortunately, on climate, we've lost that ability. And it's also an area where we are out of step with our great Anglospheric allies. Actually, the two other countries with which we've joined in the AUKUS pact were putting extreme pressure on Australia to step up on net zero by 2050 and to have more ambitious 2030 targets.

Michael Fullilove:

So there's an interesting disconnect. And from my point of view, I would like to see Australia lead on both contributing to security in our part of the world, but also contributing to the momentum that we need in order to stop the dangerous warming of planet Earth.

Jim Lindsay:

I will note, Michael, that there are a lot of people who would say that the United States could be doing a lot more, a lot faster, on climate change as well. But that would be the subject of a whole nother podcast.

Jim Lindsay:

For now, I'm simply going to close up The President's Inbox for this week, let everybody know that my guest has been Michael Fullilove, Executive Director of the Lowy Institute, which is based in Sydney, Australia.

Jim Lindsay:

Michael, thank you very much for coming back on The President's Inbox.

Michael Fullilove:

Jim, it's always a pleasure and always a delight to pop up at the top of the inbox, if only for one week.

Jim Lindsay:

Please subscribe to The President's Inbox in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you listen. And leave us a review, they help us get noticed and improve the show. The books and articles mentioned in this episode are listed on the podcast page for The President's Inbox. You can find it on cfr.org.

Jim Lindsay:

As always, opinions expressed on The President's Inbox is solely those of the hosts or our guests, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.

Jim Lindsay:

Today's episode was produced by Zoe Collis, with senior producer, Jeremy Sherlick. Zoe did double-duty as our recording engineer. As always, Zoe, thank you.

Jim Lindsay:

Special thanks go to Margaret Gach for her assistance.

Jim Lindsay:

This is Jim Lindsay. Thanks for listening.

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Fiona Hill, Robert Bosch senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, sits down with James...

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Martin S. Indyk, distinguished fellow at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss how Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy reshaped the poli...

Martin S. Indyk, distinguished fellow at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss how Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy reshaped the poli...

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Lynn Kuok, Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discu...

Lynn Kuok, Shangri-La Dialogue senior fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discu...

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Matt Pottinger, senior advisor at the Marathon Initiative and chairman of the China Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, sits down with James M. Lin...

Matt Pottinger, senior advisor at the Marathon Initiative and chairman of the China Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, sits down with James M. Lin...

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Miles Kahler, senior fellow for global governance at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the recent Pandora Papers leak, and the broader problem of globa...

Miles Kahler, senior fellow for global governance at CFR, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the recent Pandora Papers leak, and the broader problem of globa...

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Manjari Chatterjee Miller, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at CFR, speaks with James M. Lindsay about what India sees as its interests, threats, an...

Manjari Chatterjee Miller, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at CFR, speaks with James M. Lindsay about what India sees as its interests, threats, an...

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Constanze Stelzenmüller, Fritz Stern chair on Germany and trans-Atlantic relations in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, sits d...

Constanze Stelzenmüller, Fritz Stern chair on Germany and trans-Atlantic relations in the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, sits d...

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Adam S. Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss how the United States has become less open...

Adam S. Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss how the United States has become less open...

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Elbridge A. Colby, cofounder and principal of the Marathon Initiative, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss whether and how the United States should revise its...

Elbridge A. Colby, cofounder and principal of the Marathon Initiative, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss whether and how the United States should revise its...

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