Digital Snapshot

by Katja Theodorakis


A potpourri of current affairs topics from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific brought to you by KAS Australia and the Pacific. The weekly digital snapshot showcases selected media and think tank articles to provide a panorama view and analysis of the debate in these countries.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect KAS Australia’s position. Rather, they have been selected to present an overview of the various topics and perspectives which have been dominating the public and political debate in Australia and the Pacific region.


2020 is coming to a close and many of us in in the foreign policy and (national) security space may be reflecting back also on the key events of this tumultuous year. As a year marked by staggering impact of the pandemic, the upheavals created by the Trump presidency and his ensuing election loss, Australia’s deteriorating relationship with China, 2020 was not necessarily flanked by too many optimistic takes on world events. Yet, as the US is holding out for the Biden presidency to usher in a new chapter for the country, we also hold high hopes for 2021.

On this positive note, we send you warm Christmas greetings from the KAS Australia and Pacific Team and best wishes for a hopefully less turbulent 2021. In keeping with the customary Australian summer break over January, we will be back with our snapshot analysis the beginning of February 2021.

As one commentator so aptly wrote this week,

” Surely, the zeitgeist for 2020 has to be the sourdough. In February, before lockdown happened, I started my own sourdough

starter. For those in the know, sourdough starter takes a month or so to cultivate before it is ready to bake bread. The act of creating something with your own hands and the meditative effect of kneading the dough gives back some of the power that the lockdown took away.

To our family and friends in the Northern hemisphere facing a second

wave and a winter like no other, keep Zooming and keep baking.


“If the Rules-Based Order didn’t exist today, we’d have to invent it” Julie Bishop

The 2020 KONRAD-ADENAUER LECTURE, delivered by the Hon Julie Bishop – Chancellor, Australian National University and former Foreign Minister of Australia- constituted a key highlight for KAS Australia and the Pacific this year. Under the title ‘Multilateralism and Regional Cooperation in Times of Global Crises: Australia and Europe and the International Order’, Ms Bishop discussed key ingredients for a secure, open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific based on the Rules-based International Order.

Against the backdrop of an international order under strain, the lecture specifically focused on the kind of international engagement that is needed to move forward as the pandemic has revealed systemic weaknesses in the international order and a long –simmering backlash to ‘hyper-globalization’.  Ms Bishop highlighted that the rules-based order can only be maintained and strengthened through sustained commitment and ‘brave, unconditional leadership’.  

Encouragingly, a recent move by Australia to refer its clash with China over barley imports to the WHO for international dispute resolution is seen by some as a step towards building renewed confidence in the legitimacy and integrity of this order. As one expert commented:

“In commencing a formal dispute, Australia also sends a firm but

dignified message – that it is willing to use international rules and

procedures to solve grievances.”

This shows that – as the Covid-19 pandemic has only highlighted the vulnerabilities inherent in global interdependencies and intensified existing debates about greater resilience, autonomy and various forms of diversification and decoupling,both Australia and Europe are seeking to take an increasingly active role in shaping the international system.

A second highlight for us was A DIALOGUE WITH THE DEFENCE MINISTERS OF AUSTRALIA AND GERMANY:“The Indo-Pacific: Geostrategic Challenges and Opportunities for Australia and Germany”

Here, KAS Australia and the Pacific, in partnership with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), brought together The Honourable Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Federal Minister of Defence, Germany and Senator the Honourable Linda Reynolds CSC, Minister for Defence, Australia for a hybrid dialogue on the strategic outlook in the Indo-Pacific and the potential of Australian–German Defence relations.

In light of the recently released German Government Policy Guidelines on the Indo-Pacific and the Australian Government’s Strategic Update 2020, the Ministers discussed their countries’ respective approaches to a rapidly evolving strategic environment. The topic of European engagement in the Indo-Pacific also continues to be of interest in Australia, with several articles over the last few weeks that delve deeper into what this may look like.


The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the interconnectedness of the world but also the associated vulnerabilities. Even before, it has been argued that greater cooperation and multilateral engagement are necessary on a broader geopolitical level. Our events on cybersecurity this year were built around

multilateral and multi-stakeholder engagement and the potential for

increasing cooperation as the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the attack surface for cyber operations. Discussions

focused on global cyber norms, joint responses to large-scale cyber incidents and the EU’s toolkit  as well as emerging technologies and issues of Digital Autonomy for Australia and Europe.

These issues will be of ongoing relevance next year, New Zealand for example has just published its views on how international law applies to cyber operations which addresses important points of sovereignty, due diligence and collective countermeasures. Likewise, the European Union has just released its new Cybersecurity Strategy which is supposed to “allow the EU to step up leadership on international norms and standards in cyberspace, and to strengthen cooperation with partners around the world to promote a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace, grounded in the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values. “

At KAS, we see tremendous value in comparative analyses and an exchange of perspectives – especially when there are diverging approaches on a certain issue. In particular, one key objective of our cybersecurity focus is to assess how and why Australia and Germany/Europe may take similar or different approaches, looking at the varied circumstances they may encounter in specific areas.


Our thematic focus in 2020 was centred on capturing recent developments in the extremism space following

the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences, especially in the form of socio-political fissures and identity politics, this may have on national security dynamics.

The Christchurch attack can be seen as a catalyst for bringing the danger from far right extremism into sharper focus. This is especially salient for Australia, the home country of Brenton Tarrant, where security agencies are becoming increasingly attuned to the presence and threat posed by white supremacist ideologies. there have been quite a few developments in this space lately, captured in the below articles.