Australia 360 – exploring the big issues that confront us
Professor of International Security & Intelligence Studies
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Young leaders and professionals gathered with leading researchers, thinkers and practitioners in the majestic Gandel Hall at the National Gallery of Australia on Wed 21 August to take a closer look at the big issues and trends shaping the world around us. Australia 360, the flagship annual event of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs is tailored specifically as a forum for emerging leaders to explore Australia’s political, security and economic realities, and to benefit from the insights of our leading academics, policymakers, diplomats and business leaders.
The world is facing unprecedented geostrategic and geopolitical shifts. At Australia 360 we took a closer look at how Australia’s key relationships are travelling – both globally and in the Asia-Pacific region which is experiencing profound upheaval and transition.
The aim of the event was to generate greater awareness about the big issues that confront us all and to present a rich, rigorous and relevant set of panels that would help to contest assumptions about how the Asia-Pacific is changing and what this means for Australia.
The first panel looked at how Australia is travelling in its relationships with Asia’s giants - China, Japan, India and the US. The audience heard brief comments from Dr Amy King (Strategic & Defence Studies Centre - SDSC) on China, Dr Lauren Richardson (Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy) on Japan, Honorary Professor Brendan Sargeant (SDSC) on India, and Dr Benjamin Zala (Department of International Relations) on US relations. We then delved into a lively Q&A session which put our specialist contributors to the test - ably chaired by Jonathan Pearlman, Editor of Australian Foreign Affairs magazine.
The second panel focussed on how Australia is travelling in its nearer neighbourhood, zeroing in on key relationships in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. We heard from Liam Gammon (Department of Political & Social Change) on Indonesia, Associate Professor Nicole Haley (Department of Pacific Affairs) on the Southwest Pacific, and Dr Huong Le Thu (Australian Strategic Policy Institute - ASPI) on Southeast Asia. Again the Q&A segment was thoroughly stimulating, with the panel fielding challenging questions from the highly engaged audience, chaired by Professor John Blaxland (SDSC).
The final panel of the day was an interactive, hands-on session delving into the hard choices Australia has to make about its defence as the world rapidly changes. Emeritus Professor Hugh White briefly presented key insights from his recent book ‘How to Defend Australia’. Then Professor Nicholas Farrelly, Associate Dean of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific roamed the room, gameshow host style, posing a series of questions to the audience, who inputted their responses via smartphones and devices, to give us a live-polled reaction. Then the panellists Dr Joanne Wallis (SDSC), Professor Rory Medcalf (National Security College - NSC), Dave Curran (Chairman, Westpac Scholars Trust) and Katherine Mansted (NSC) commented on the poll results, and shared their expertise and acumen on this critical debate.
As part of the ongoing partnership between Westpac and ANU, 17 of the Westpac Future Leader Scholars attended the conference. They were given a warm welcome by the Bell School’s Director, Professor Toni Erskine, who explained the founding mandate of ANU – to advance Australia’s understanding of the Asia-Pacific region, and Australia’s place in it. – and how the Australia 360 event, now in it’s fifth year, contributes to that goal.
This event offered a rare chance to get some of the brightest minds in the nation together to reflect upon the past year, and to consider what happens next. It also enabled our future leaders to engage closely with them. Many of the participants departed feeling energised and equipped with new ideas and fresh thinking to help them prepare for the challenges of leadership in the future. We hope that all participants will continue building our shared understanding of the dynamic region around us.