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In a week when Australia is still reeling from the latest reports of state-based cyber attacks, the strategic importance of Australia’s collaboration with the United States and regional partners like India and Japan has never been more clear. On Tuesday, the United States Studies Centre released 10 recommendations for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in the wake of the pandemic in its report Bolstering resilience in the Indo-Pacific. Today the Australian Government has announced the recruitment of former US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to prepare Australia’s cyber security strategy.
In addition to calling on Canberra and Washington to do more in countering state-based disinformation and cyber threats, Bolstering resilience in the Indo-Pacific highlights the need to address a much wider range of destabilising regional trends in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most urgent and important issue for the alliance is helping regional nations – especially in Southeast Asia and the Pacific – to sustainably recover from today's unfolding health, developmental and economic shocks. As co-author and Director of Foreign Policy and Defence Ashley Townshend says, “the region is looking for the allies to match rhetoric with resources” on everything from aid and infrastructure financing to countering China’s coercive statecraft.
Similarly, the panellists from the recent USSC webinar The Quad: Will it ever work? with Lt General H.R. McMaster pointed to the new vulnerabilities created by the pandemic and the need for a multilateral regional approach to counter China’s exploitation of these areas at this time. The recognition of the weight and importance of Australia’s strategic alliances is gaining momentum and the condemnation of China’s manipulation has received bipartisan support in the United States.