Independent Strategic Analysis of Australia’s Global Interests

Feature Interviews

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.

Precision Agronomics Australia: Frank D’Emden

FDI interviews Mr Frank D’Emden from Precision Agronomics Australia, a company providing technology-based solutions to farmers, consultants and industry groups across Western Australia.

Biochar Production, Application and Benefits – Part Two: Karry Fisher-Watts

Biochar, when applied to soil as an amendment, is not a fix-all for Western Australian soils that are salt, sodium affected or which are otherwise de-graded. The key strategy is to use natural and organic materials that, functioning in combination with activated biochar will serve to nurture and improve the health of the soil, as described in Part Two of our interview with Karry Fisher-Watts.

Biochar Production, Application and Benefits – Part One: Karry Fisher-Watts

The potential of charcoal, in the form of biochar, to enhance soil fertility, while restoring carbon to the soil, has recently gained considerable attention. Research suggests that biological carbon converted to biochar can sequester about 50 per cent of its initial carbon in the soil for long periods, leading to a more stable and long-lasting soil carbon. FDI discusses with Karry Fisher-Watts her use of biochar as a way of enhancing the fertility of her property.

The Evolving Geopolitics of the Middle East – Part Two: Simon Henderson

11 October 2016 | Feature Interviews, Indian Ocean

After discussing the emerging Middle Eastern geopolitical realities in Part One of this interview, Baker Fellow and Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Programme at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mr Henderson gives his thoughts on the Saudi Government’s Vision 2030 plan and the Kingdom’s ability to weather the low price of oil before discussing US Middle Eastern policy and looking towards the November presidential election and some of the possible implications that it may have for the region.

The Evolving Geopolitics of the Middle East – Part One: Simon Henderson

6 October 2016 | Feature Interviews, Indian Ocean

Mr Simon Henderson,the Baker Fellow and Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Programme at The Washington Institute for Near East Studies, discusses with FDI the implications of developments in the Middle East and explores some of the new geopolitical realities facing the region’s states, particularly as they affect Saudi Arabia and its relationships with Iran, Russia, Turkey and Israel.

Soil Carbon and Soil Organic Matter: Dr Peter Keating

FDI has again taken the opportunity to interview Dr Keating of the integrated resource management company, Bioscience, on the topic of soil carbon; its types, importance, measurement and why Australian agriculture needs to be mindful of its conservation and promotion for general soil health and to enhance crop vigour and yield.

Vision Infinity for Food Security: Dr Shashi B. Sharma

Dr Shashi B Sharma is the current Director of Plant Biosecurity at the Western Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Food. He was recently seconded to Murdoch University as Professor and Chair in Biosecurity and Food Security. In this FDI Feature Interview, Dr Sharma discusses key aspects of his recently published and co-authored book, “Vision Infinity for Food Security”, calling for a fundamental and philosophical re-thinking and re-structuring of our food production, distribution and consumption.

Paris Agreement – Genuine Triumph or Total Fantasy: David Hodgkinson

The 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. It provided for the first time a universal agreement that aims to keep global warming well below 2 degrees. In this, the second part of a two-part interview, University of Western Australia Associate Professor David Hodgkinson discusses negative emissions, adaptation and legal aspects of the Agreement.

Paris Climate Change Talks, ‘A Genuine Triumph or Total Fantasy’: David Hodgkinson

The 21st UN Climate Change Conference was held in Paris in December 2015. It provided for the first time a universal agreement that aims to keep global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. Associate Professor David Hodgkinson discusses the background and the events leading to COP 21 and the global warming mitigation arrangements contained in the Agreement.

Counter-Terrorism Challenges in Indonesia and Beyond: Sidney Jones

Relative to its size, Indonesia has a jihadist movement that is very small and, for the most part, quite unsuccessful. Renowned counter-terrorism expert and director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Sidney Jones, discusses with FDI some of the potential security challenges confronting Indonesia, both from existing local groups and fighters returning from Syria, and the status of Jemaah Islamiyah, before looking further ahead and highlighting a possible longer-term problem that could evolve on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

Understanding the Role of Soil Microbiological Ecosystems: Dr Peter Keating

FDI has taken the opportunity to interview Dr Keating of Bioscience Pty Ltd, on the topic of soil microbiology, soil microbiological ecosystems and his research into the analysis and maintenance of healthy soils and soil biological fertility.

Grazing and Controlled Burning in Kimberley Pastoral Land Management: Mr John Henwood

FDI recently took the opportunity to speak with and interview pastoralist, Mr John Henwood, the former co-owner and manager of Fossil Downs Station. Mr Henwood oversaw the introduction, over a long period of time, of pastoral and land care practices that establish Fossil Downs as one of the show-piece pastoral properties of the Kimberley.

December in Paris – Determining the Future of the Planet: Associate Professor David Hodgkinson

Download PDF Key Points The Paris climate change conference aims at a global agreement to keep global warming to 2°C. The Paris conference is to draft a legal instrument applicable to all countries, both developed and developing. To restrict warming to less than 2°C, total emissions will have to be kept under a trillion tonnes...

Soil Carbon and the Role of Fungi in the Long-term Sequestering of Carbon in Soil: Associate Professor Peter McGee

3 November 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points Soil organic carbon is the most critically important factor for sustainable use of soil. For a more sustainable agriculture, more long-lived organic carbon is essential. So far efforts to increase long-lived soil organic carbon have failed, in large part because of the need to understand soil physics, soil chemistry and...

Microbial Digestion System and the Achievement of Ultimate Gene Expression: Garry Nunn

20 October 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Key Points Soil microbes are critical to soil fertility and the growth of healthy vigorous plants. Our knowledge of the presence, role and capabilities of soil microbes is still developing. The linking of nutrients to plants through microbial activity is important and at times, essential for plant growth. An innovative, commercial microbe digestion...

A Proposal for the Improved Provision of Emergency Food Aid through Industry Engagement: Mario Casotti

Download PDF   Key Points Australia is committed to being a disaster relief provider for theregion. The impact of regional disasters is becoming more acute as climate-related events become more severe and frequent. The capacity may exist for improved government and private sector collaboration to more efficiently maintain and deliver food aid stock for regional...

Soil Carbon, the Backbone of Soil Fertility: Emeritus Professor Robert White

24 September 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points Carbon is the backbone of organic matter and its presence in soil is essential for soil health. The amount of soil organic carbon is a balance between the rate of carbon inputs and the rate of decomposition. Input rate depends on the vegetative growth supported by the soil, and decomposition...

The Quest for a Practical, Predictable and Reliable Method to Build Soil Carbon in Agricultural Soils: Guy Webb (Part Two)

4 June 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Key Points Soil organic carbon influences the structural, chemical and biological soil processes that govern plant growth efficiency, crop productivity and subsequent food security. Doubling soil carbon (say, from one per cent to two per cent) roughly increases plant-available water by 50 per cent. After water, the second most limiting factor in crop...

The Quest for a Practical, Predictable and Reliable Method to Build Soil Carbon in Agricultural Soils: Guy Webb (Part One)

26 May 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points For ongoing agricultural sustainability, rural sector resilience and food security, the fundamental question of how to increase soil carbon requires an answer. Recent research has identified the mechanisms whereby soil carbon is deposited and stored safely within soil aggregates, using a specialised form of fungi. It is believed, that technology...

Wildfires Mitigation Strategy and Incentives in Northern and Central Australia: Dr Jeremy Russell-Smith

14 May 2015 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points The terms bushfire and wildfire are both used in Australia to describe uncontrolled, landscape fires in non-urban situations. Most Australians are concerned about the well-reported summer wildfires occurring in densely populated parts of south-eastern, southern and south-western Australia. The great majority of wildfires in Australia, however, occur annually in the...

Household and Commercial Waste Disposal, Asset Not Liability – The Pressing Need for Better Management of Western Australia’s Waste: Ian Marshall

30 September 2014 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Key Points There must be a better way to use and manage urban waste than depositing it into landfill. Currently, Western Australia lags behind the other mainland states in its waste management practices. By 2020 it is estimated that Perth annually will produce over 7 million tonnes of waste The Western Australian...

The Role of Mycorrhizal Fungi in Regenerating Healthy Soils and Agricultural Productivity: Walter Jehne and Phil Lee

10 July 2014 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points A type of fungi known as ‘mycorrhizal fungi’ forms an integral link between 98 per cent of the world’s flora and their soils, which assist plants in accessing limited essential nutrients. Over the past 60 years, however, industrial agricultural practices, such as the overuse of agricultural inputs, have significantly impaired...

Distributed Water – A Concept that Western Australia Cannot Ignore: Ian Marshall

13 June 2014 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points Mine sites are currently extracting water from aquifers in the Pilbara and Mid-West regions at an unsustainable rate, whereby available groundwater resources will be placed under significant pressure in the next ten to fifteen years. The Water Project aims to transport 1,000 gigalitres (GL; one GL = one billion litres;...

Beyond the Status Quo – Boosting Australia-Indonesia Agricultural Ties: Ross Taylor AM

2 May 2014 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points Although the agricultural relationship between Australia and Indonesia has been strained in recent years, especially since the controversial suspension of live cattle exports in 2011, things are improving and there is significant potential in the future.    Indonesia’s growing middle class and close proximity to Australia should be key factors...

Holistic Management and the Regeneration of Northern Australia: Moira Lanzarin

10 December 2013 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Key Points   If a well-paced approach is taken, we test our decisions as we proceed, and we tailor the strategy to the northern context, the Regenerate Australia concept is definitely achievable for Northern Australia. Implementation of the concept should be taken in a staged process that focuses on perfecting methods on...

Al Shabaab’s Attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya: Professor Samuel Makinda

27 September 2013 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Key Points The attack on the Westgate shopping mall is the outcome of internal struggle within Al Shabaab. It has the potential to act as a major recruitment vehicle for Al Shabaab. The attack will not destroy the social fabric of Kenya; in fact, it has already caused Kenyans to grow more...

Farming Sustainability Series Part III: Sundrop Farms – Growing with Seawater and Sunlight

19 September 2013 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF     Key Points Significant cost advantages can be gained by reducing the use of non-renewable and limited resources such as oil and fresh water. By employing solar desalination technology, Sundrop Farms has created an agricultural system that is both profitable and environmentally sustainable. The focus of food security planning in the Middle...

Farming Sustainability Series Part II: Sustainability in Australian Farming Systems

12 September 2013 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF   Key Points While there is some potential for large-scale corporate farming in Sub Saharan Africa, this is not the answer to food sustainability issues on most of the continent. Rather, the focus should be placed on empowering smallhold farmers. One of the primary challenges facing the Australian agriculture industry is rising...

Farming Sustainability Series Part I: Smallholder Farming, Future Food Needs and Sustainability

6 September 2013 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Key Points The discourse on “sustainable intensification” has much to gain from an understanding of traditional agricultural methods developed by smallholder farmers that have taken the cost of environmental excesses into account and have adapted agricultural systems that have long-term sustainability.  Food security is often conflated with poverty as development organisations tend...

Uncertainty, Upheavals and Future Developments in the Middle East: Dr Emile Nakhleh

29 August 2013 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Key Points The changes that have swept the Middle East in recent times are a phenomenon that is entirely new to the region: “people power”. While they have complicated the West’s relations with the region, they have not benefitted al-Qaida, either.    Initially non-sectarian, the unrest has come to take on a sectarian...

Africa’s “Resource Boom” and the Potential Impact on Australian Mining

12 July 2013 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Key Points As competition in the mining sector grows, it appears that Australia, specifically Western Australia, is struggling to remain competitive. Due to various factors including the associated high costs, the country is becoming less attractive as cheaper and more profitable options are available for the mining sector. Africa has been identified...

Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Future: Dr Claude Rakisits

1 November 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Key Points The 2013 Pakistani elections are likely to produce a government that is very similar to the current one with a continuation of existing policies that might best be characterised as “muddling through”. The departure of the ISAF forces from Afghanistan in 2014 will have a significant impact on Pakistan because the...

Trends in Afghan-Australia Relations: Ambassador Nasir Andisha

22 May 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF     Key Points Afghanistan’s importance to Australia’s security is essentially the same as it is for all other western countries that are threatened by violent transnational extremism. Although major inroads have been made there are concerns that the reduced Australian military presence in Uruzgan Province could undermine the achievements that have been...

Darwin’s Importance to US Asia-Pacific Strategy

12 April 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points As part of the US realignment to the Asia-Pacific, the US and Australia have agreed to upgrade defence cooperation by deploying US rotational forces to Darwin to strengthen interoperability and engage in joint-training exercises with Australian and Southeast Asian forces. Darwin’s strategic location shall...

The ADF in Indonesia: Lessons from Operation Padang Assist

2 April 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points The ADF’s support to Indonesian authorities during Operation Padang Assist was an important confidence-building measure in strengthening relations between Australia and Indonesia. Modern disaster relief interventions require extensive inter-force military co-operation, including collaboration with non-military civilian agencies and foreign governments. The success of ADF...

The New Zealand Army Today: ‘A More Responsive, Smarter and Adaptable Army’

26 March 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points 70 per cent of the New Zealand Army currently has overseas operational experience. Wellington is looking to refocus defence policy back towards the South Pacific as it prepares to draw down from Afghanistan. Strategic competition and state fragility pose significant security challenges in the South...

‘A Third of the RAN is based in the Indian Ocean’: Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of the Royal Australian Navy

12 March 2012 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF   Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe Research Manager South and West Asia Programme   Key Points One third of the RAN operates in the Indian Ocean. HMAS Stirling, located in Western Australia, is the RAN’s largest base. While the Asia-Pacific will continue to remain critically important, the Indian Ocean has markedly risen in importance to the...

‘The Indian Ocean is Fundamental to UK Interests’ – Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Royal Navy

27 January 2012 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points 50 per cent of deployed Royal Navy manpower and assets are situated in the Indian Ocean Region. 25 per cent of the total British force deployed in Afghanistan comes from the Royal Navy. Due to budget constraints, the Royal Navy is increasingly seeking to...

Nation Building in Afghanistan: Australia’s Contribution to PRT Uruzgan

15 December 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points PRT Uruzgan reconstruction and capacity-building initiatives have made progress since operations began. There have been noticeable developments in areas such as health care, education and infrastructure, the latter emphasising the construction of roads, bridges, schools and government buildings. Although significant resources have been injected, more...

‘The Search to Understand a Changing Climate Leads Inexorably to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean’ – Dr Tony Fleming, Australian Antarctic Division

24 November 2011 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF   Key Points Antarctica-based scientific research is critical to developing an understanding of climate change and its likely environmental and ecological implications. Understanding globally significant processes driven by the South Ocean, principally, changes in surface energy, future greenhouse gas levels, sea-level rise, the variability and rate of change of climate and changes...

Australia and the Rise of China

8 November 2011 | Feature Interviews

  Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst   Key Points The rise of China presents a challenge to Western pre-eminence and the diffusion of liberal political ideals. While China’s economic power has rapidly expanded, it also faces a number of looming internal challenges in areas such as governance, fiscal management and an ageing population,...

‘Somalia Helped us to Better Understand the Importance of Civil-Military Relations’ – General David Hurley, Chief of Defence Force

17 October 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst Key Points Establishing a secure environment early in a foreign humanitarian intervention is crucial to a mission’s success, especially in dealing with potential threats to public safety and the mission objectives. Developing functional and co-operative relations with the local civilian population is critical to achieving a humanitarian mission’s...

The Inspector of Transport Security Discusses Offshore Hydrocarbon Inquiry

13 October 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF  Liam McHugh Manager Northern Australia and Energy Security Research Programmes   Key Points The Office of the Inspector of Transport Security (ITS) is empowered to conduct proactive and reactive risk assessments aimed at advising and strengthening transport and offshore security. The ITS creates quality risk assessments through industry/ government engagement, site examinations and international...

Operation Pakistan Assist II: ‘The Most Successful Australian Deployment of a Combined Humanitarian Task Force.’

16 September 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst Key Points ADF involvement in overseas humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions are forecasted to increase in frequency in the coming decades and will continue to remain integral to Australian foreign policy objectives. Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations require extensive inter-force and inter-agency cooperation, not only with...

‘The Objective I Have for the Army is to be Able to Confront the Full Spectrum of Threats’ – General Teeravat Boonyapradub, Royal Thai Army

30 August 2011 | Feature Interviews

  Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe FDI Senior Analyst Download PDF Key Points The Royal Thai Army is modernising its weapons systems and equipment in preparation for a number of potential future contingencies ranging from conventional to irregular threats. Presently, Thailand appears to be more concerned about its restive Islamic population in the south of the country, than...

‘I See the Indian Ocean to be as Important as the Pacific’ – Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston

5 July 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF    Key Points As the Indian Ocean’s importance continues to increase, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston believes that: Australia’s defence forces must be able to operate in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans simultaneously Australia will need to engage the military leadership of China, India and other Indian Ocean littoral states Existing base...

South African Taps into Kimberley Potential

20 June 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF Key Points Indonesian cattle exports face uncertain future as Indonesia seeks self-sufficiency Summer cropping gives cattle breeders scope for income security Soil and water conditions provide Kimberley with significant untapped potential South African farmers, eager to come to Australia, would bring new farming methods that would lift farm production levels. Background As the...

Timor-Leste: Operation Tower Monitors Stability

16 June 2011 | Feature Interviews

Download PDF    Key Points Australian military observers in Timor-Leste report that: Progress has been made in training and integrating Timor-Leste’s security forces. Timor-Leste has achieved a respectable degree of self-sufficiency in maintaining internal security. For the foreseeable future, Australia’s military involvement in Timor-Leste under a UN mandate will remain integral to the stabilisation of...

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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