Independent Strategic Analysis of Australia’s Global Interests

Northern Australia SWA Articles

Rangelands: Critical to the Environment and Under Constant Threat

Rangelands constitute a significant proportion of the Earth’s total landmass and they sustain important ecosystems that are under an increasing environmental threat from climate change, habitat loss and soil degradation.

Hot Rock Opportunities for Northern Australia

Geothermal energy continues to be a viable source of clean energy.

Extreme Weather Events: Is this our Agricultural Market Future?

The devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie is likely to significantly influence the domestic, market price of agricultural, aquaculture and fishery produce for the following year. If the predictions of a higher frequency of extreme weather events occurring because of climate change are correct, supply based, price fluctuations may become a more regular feature of our primary produce industry.

Australian Aquaculture and Fisheries Threatened by Marine Plastic Waste

Plans to expand the northern Australia aquaculture industry must include investigation and analysis into potential affects resulting from increasing pollution of the marine environment in the form of marine debris.

Changes to International Defence Partnership Master Plan: Less Land and Smarter Use

Restricting the expansion of land for military exercises will enable and promote opportunities to enhance existing training areas and advances in virtual simulation technology in regional Queensland.

New Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils – Closing the Gap between Soil Science and Farm Management

Recently the Federal Government announced that a new Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils will receive nearly $40 million over 10 years to help the agricultural community bridge the knowledge gap between soil science and farm management. The aim is to provide the tools and knowledge needed to make the right decisions on complex soil management issues.

Vegetation Patterns Changing in Australia’s North

The vegetation patterns in Australia’s north are changing as higher rainfall and improved growing conditions promote the growth of native woody species and introduced noxious weeds.

Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia

The Federal Government recently established a Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. This move will ensure a better-informed policy making and legislative process on matters relating to the development of northern Australia.

Developments in Desalination

The shortage of fresh water in the face of an increasing global population is becoming a serious issue but technological advancements in desalination could provide a significant boost to future supplies.

World Soil Day 2016 – “Soils and pulses, a symbiosis for life”

The importance to the global community of healthy soils is recognised each year through communication, events and activities to focus attention towards the restoration of degraded soils by increasing biodiversity, improving soil structure and enhancing fertility.

Agricultural Development of sub-Saharan Africa: Who Carries the Burden?

The application of modern land management practices in the sub-Sahara will present African countries with opportunities to make a positive contribution to local and global food security and to combat climate change. Smallholder farmers, however, need to be protected for the risks and financial burden of associated change.

Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Storage: One Strategy to Help to Ameliorate Global Warming

Scientists are investigating and looking at different and innovative ways to lower levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a major contributor to rising temperatures leading to global warming.

Increased CO2 Beneficial to Plants – A Climate Change Mythical Fact

Exposing plants to higher levels of carbon dioxide may enhance plant growth in the short term but, in the medium to long term, climate change threatens crop production and food security on a global scale.

“Peak Carbon” Occurred a Decade Ago

Soil carbon plays an essential role in global food security. The ability for plants to grow is being challenged, however, with the term “peak carbon” being used.

Reforestation Projects Need to Consider Multiple Factors

Tree-planting projecsts to repair environmental damage and reforest denuded landscapes must consider multiple factors, not just the number and location of the trees .

No Trees, No Rain: Land Clearing Laws and the Future of Australia’s Climate

The body of research evidence linking land clearance with increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions continues to grow. Some Australian jurisdictions nevertheless, continue to promote land clearance over conservation, damaging Australia’s international climate management reputation.

Carbon Dioxide Plant Outcomes Study Needs More Consideration

Recent scientific research reporting has suggested increases in atmospheric CO2 could enhance moisture retention in soil. Closer examination, however, of experimental parameters suggests that these predictions may be premature.

Facing an Elongated Ratification Process, is COP21 being Hurried Across the Line before Signatories Hesitate?

Ban Ki-Moon has called on signatories of the Paris Agreement (COP21) to attend a special event on 21 September to quicken the ratification process of the Agreement. This, however, is more than just a diplomatic measure; it is an attempt to take advantage of the remnant diplomatic fanfare of the Agreement before national interest takes over.

White House Call to Action to Save One of America’s Most Important Natural Resources – Soil

The President of the United States has issued a national Call to Action and is forming an interagency group to protect America’s soil. This action sends a clear message to Australian policy makers that a nationally co-ordinated approach is essential for the preservation of this critical resource.

The Development of Northern Australia: Reports of Demise May be Exaggerated

The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory appears increasingly pessimistic about the progress of initiatives to promote the development of Northern Australia. At this time, however, his lack of confidence may be premature.

What Marrakesh Can Learn from Paris: COP22 and the Need for a Realistic Climate Policy

The next meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP22, is scheduled for November 2016 in Marrakesh. After the optimism of Paris, COP22 will be forced to face the challenge of converting the aspiration of COP 21 into reality.

Global Research Increasing to Reduce Domestic Livestock Emissions

The environmental threat posed by increasing levels of methane gas is the subject of investigation and research around the world in order to reduce the amounts of gas produced and emitted by domesticated livestock.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement and New York Ratification: A Loose Guideline or Urgent Climate Action?

The Paris Climate Change Agreement has brought about excitement bordering on euphoria, but closer analysis reveals a less certain reality. The sense of global unity is indeed progress but, without immediate action, the agreement may become a comforting, though short-term illusion.

WA Biodiversity Conservation Bill – Balancing Environmental Protection and Economic Development

The WA Biodiversity Conservation Bill is currently before State Parliament and aims to provide much-needed improvements and modernisation to existing legislation. It may, however, fail to strike the appropriate balance between protecting the environment and promoting a growing and sustainable economy.

Pastoral Lease Reform in Western Australia Offers Agricultural Diversification

The West Australian Government has plans to introduce legislation in June 2016 that would see traditional pastoral leases expand to allow new business ventures.

AUSMIN: Highlights Opportunities, Neglects Challenges and Outcomes

21 November 2012 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Consolidation has been the theme of the 2012 AUSMIN discussions. Looking ahead, with defence reviews, changing regional dynamics and budgetary constraints, the alliance faces a number of policy challenges. Background: Last week in Western Australia, Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, and Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, hosted US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, and Secretary of...

Weak Chinese Demand Responsible for Commodity Slowdown

Despite assessments from commentators suggesting the mining boom is over, it is unlikely that Australia will suffer the ‘boom and bust’ pattern of previous resource booms. Background In late-August, as BHP Billiton announced a decline in profits and a decision to delay expansion plans in South Australia, policy makers debated the future of the booming...

East Timor: Xanana Gusmão’s Party Wins Most Seats

Background The National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction has secured the majority of seats in East Timor’s parliamentary polls. Led by charismatic former resistance leader, Xanana Gusmão, the party will require the support of a coalition to secure a majority to govern. With his nation at a crossroad, Prime Minister Gusmão can no longer capitalise on...

Vanuatu Row Highlights Flaws in Regional Policy

Background   In early-May, the 12-member Australian Federal Police (AFP) team in Vanuatu was asked to leave the island nation. This came in response to the alleged treatment of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister and his entourage by Australian immigration officials at Brisbane Airport. While some have dismissed this latest South Pacific diplomatic spat as misunderstanding of...

Federal Budget 2012: Implications for Northern Australia

Background   Federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, has released the 2012-13 Federal Budget. As promised, and on time, the budget returns Australia to a surplus of $1.5 billion; a remarkable feat, considering the estimated budget deficit for last year totals $44.4 billion. With constrained revenue streams, the surplus relies on fewer tax...

Findings of Defence Force Posture Review Announced

Background In May, almost a year after it was announced, the recommendations of the Force Posture Review were released. The report concluded that generally the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is currently appropriately positioned to meet existing, as well as emerging, challenges to national security. The findings were generally connected to improving the capability of the...

Ongoing Crisis in PNG Places Upcoming Elections in Danger

Background Papua New Guinea’s Electoral Commissioner, Andrew Trawen, is seeking legal advice amidst pressure from MPs to delay PNG’s upcoming elections this June. This comes despite Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s assurance that elections will proceed on time, in a safe and fair manner. The possibility of deferred elections and the widening divide within the PNG...

Australia Key Component of US Asia-Pacific Posture

  Background In November 2011, US President Barack Obama travelled to Australia to reaffirm the alliance. The US has stated its desire to expand its military ties with Australia, including the deployment of US Marines in the Northern Territory and increased rotations of US Air Force planes at RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal. In 2012,...

Progress Report Foreshadows Enhanced Defence Infrastructure

Background In late January 2012, former defence secretaries Allan Hawke and Ric Smith released a progress report on the Force Posture Review (FPR).  Media commentary has suggested that it is a pessimistic appraisal of current defence positioning. On the contrary, the brief findings published so far suggest that an enhancement, rather than a large-scale realignment...

Mutiny Tip of the Iceberg in PNG Instability

Background The botched mutiny in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is symptomatic of much larger political issues. PNG bears many of the hallmarks of a failing state. Although calm seems to have returned to Port Moresby for the moment, the latest development in the year-long political crisis bodes poorly for a resolution in the short-term. PNG’s...

Halls Creek Boom Could Break China’s Rare Earth Monopoly

Background The Shire of Halls Creek, in north-west Australia, is experiencing a rare earth mining boom. In the most recent example, George Bauk, Managing Director of Northern Minerals, announced in late November that the company hopes to start mining Rare Earth Elements (REE) in Browns Range by 2015. Australia’s expanded role in REE extraction comes...

Defence Minister Forecasts Joint Military Base on Australia’s “Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier”

30 November 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background In late November 2011, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith confirmed that the Force Posture Review (FPR) will consider the future strategic role of the Cocos and Christmas Islands. Mr Smith suggested that while no formal proposal existed, the Cocos Islands could, in the future, host joint US-Australian naval and air assets. The plan has...

American Military Increase: Limited in Force, Significant in Symbolism

16 November 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background This week, President Obama will visit Darwin to announce an increase in the American military presence in the region. The agreement, to be announced on the 60th anniversary of the United States-Australia alliance, is expected to lead to more joint military exercises and provision for a number of US military personnel to be rotated...

La Niña Effects Set to Have Impact on Northern Australia

Background According to recent predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology, the potential for climatic conditions to have a severe impact on Northern Australia this summer is high. Adverse weather conditions have the potential to disrupt operations in the coal and iron ore industries, highlighting the importance of accurate climatic predictions to support Australia’s economic interests....

Government Attempts to Link Welfare to Truancy

Background In mid-October, in response to recommendations from the “Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory report”, the Federal Government announced the expansion of initiatives linking school attendance to welfare payments. Comment Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, announced that the government would expand measures linking school attendance to welfare payments in the Northern Territory (NT). The...

Torres Strait Islanders Push for Secession

Background In mid-October, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, reignited debate on the long-term future of the Torres Strait Islands, by backing the Islanders’ long-term aspirations for succession from the state in a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard. As noted by Ms Gillard, however, increased autonomy would have lasting implications for the community. Comment The right...

AUSMIN Talks Confirm Primacy of Alliance

28 September 2011 | Northern Australia SWA Articles

Background In mid-September, Australia and the US held the annual ministerial-level meetings in San Francisco, to coincide with the anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. In attendance were the Foreign and Defence Ministers of both countries, who gave joint speeches on the current priorities and future direction of the alliance. It has been sixty years since...

Kimberley Proposed as Possible Tidal Energy Site

Background Plans to build a 100 megawatt tidal station in the Kimberley region of north-west Australia have been revived, almost ten years after the project failed due to cost blow-outs. In addition to providing a clean source of energy, the station has the potential to increase economic and social opportunities in the region. Comment In...

New PNG Leadership provides Opportunities for Australia

Background The appointment in August of Peter O’Neill, leader of the People’s National Congress, as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), will provide much needed stability for the state. As Mr O’Neill outlines his new agenda for PNG, Australia should seek to re-engage with its troubled neighbour. Comment Throughout its history, PNG governance has...

Amnesty Report: Indigenous People Forced From Outstations

Background An Amnesty International report entitled, ‘The land holds us: Aboriginal Peoples right to traditional homelands in the Northern Territory’, published in early August, has urged the Federal and Northern Territory governments to place a greater funding emphasis on Indigenous homeland communities. Comment The report by the human rights organisation alleges current government policies are...

Pilbara to House World-First Tsunami Warning System

Background Geoscience Australia, in early August 2011, broke ground in the east Pilbara on the construction of a sophisticated seismic system that will provide highly-accurate tsunami warnings. Comment The world-first early warning detection system, located about an hour from the town of Marble Bar will, when operational later this year, track earthquakes in the Indian...

Shire President to Chair Pilbara Development Commission

Background Roebourne Shire President, Councillor Nicole Lockwood, has been appointed chair of the Pilbara Development Commission (PDC) board. Comment In an announcement made in late July, Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls appointed Councillor Lockwood to lead the PDC board. Councillor Lockwood will replace Andre Bush, who has been acting chair for the last six months;...

Migration Scheme Aims to Solve Chronic Worker Shortages

Background Federal Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced that Perth is to be classified as a regional employment hardship area. The move will allow Perth to benefit from the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme in an attempt to alleviate projected worker shortages. Comment Mr Bowen’s announcement, made last week at a Perth Mining Conference, will allow...

Caution Required in Shale Gas Boom

Background In an agreement that may signal the beginning of a “shale gas boom” in Australia, Houston-based ConocoPhillips last week agreed to a company farm-in deal with Perth energy junior New Standard Energy (NSE). The $100 million agreement will provide capital for exploration in NSE’s Goldwyer shale gas project in Western Australia’s Canning Basin. Economic...

Carbon Tax Looms Large Over Northern Australia

Background The Federal Government has announced the details of the largest emissions trading scheme outside of Europe. The nation’s top 500 polluters will be taxed in an ambitious attempt to combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy alternatives. The legislation will provide a mixture of opportunities and challenges for Northern Australia’s future development.   ...

Defence Feasibility Study for Northern Australia

Background Defence Minister Stephen Smith last week announced plans to conduct a Force Structure Review to ensure that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is geopolitically positioned to meet emerging strategic and security issues along the nation’s northern and western coastlines. Comment Mr Smith announced that former Defence Department Secretaries Dr Alan Hawke and Mr Ric...

Common User Facility to Diversify Pilbara’s Economic Profile

Background Anketell Port or Port Hedland’s Lumsden Point have been identified as the most appropriate potential sites for a marine-based Common User Facility (CUF), in a report released on 10 June. Comment The report, announced by Western Australian Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien and Minister for Regional Development Brendon Grylls, identifies the potential location and specifies...

Brazil: China’s New Pilbara

Background The “proximity premium” afforded to Australian iron ore companies and which provides a competitive advantage in the minerals sector, is under threat from Brazilian mining company, Vale. In June, the company announced ambitious plans to heavily invest in a global supply chain network. Comment  The Pilbara region’s primacy as the source of China’s seemingly...

Northern Australia Welcomes End of La Niña

Background The end of the capricious La Niña weather pattern will provide ecological stability for Northern Australia. Comment According to climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology, La Niña, or “the girl” in Spanish, the weather phenomenon responsible for flooding and increased cyclonic activity over Northern Australia, has begun to dissipate. Since the beginning...

Publication Guide

  • Associate papers are primary source assessments written by FDI associates. The assessment topics range from regional bilateral relationships and opportunities and challenges in our neighbouring countries.

  • Feature interviews are interviews conducted by an FDI Research Manager. Interview topics range from the sustainability of our planet to the improved provision of emergency food aid.

  • Normally issued in hardcopy, these represent a comprehensive study of one of FDI’s four research areas.

  • Strategic alerts are priority current intelligence items. We provide these alerts when events such as military deployments or foreign election results occur.

  • A 1500 to 3000 word, single topic assessment.

  • A number of short articles addressing current intelligence topics, issued each week.

  • A record of discussions resulting from a single, or series of, roundtable conferences.

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