Australia’s PM Morrison and Regional Implications
By: Jeff Bates
Australia has long since been a crucial ally with the United States. As a right-leaning politician, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is likely to uphold stability and economic prosperity in Australia. Morrison’s election was a surprise win in Australia as the country faces extreme drought and the destruction of it’s Great Barrier Reef due to climate change. Voters were expected to upset the status quo and seek reformations for these causes, however with Morrison’s win, issues like climate change are not likely to be a high priority.
A priority of the US with the newly elected government in Australia is to keep Chinese influence in the region at bay. Australia, so far, has supported the rejection of Huawei’s 5G systems, like the US. The US tariffs on China have affected Australia to a certain extent, but many Australians are in favor of the tariffs (Medcalf, Rory. 2019). It is unclear exactly how Morrison will support the US trade war against Beijing. He has visited China in the past to encourage economic ties. However, he has also blocked electricity infrastructure to Chinese run State Grid Corp, and to a Hong Kong energy company – citing security concerns (Power, John. 2018). From 2016-2017, Australia’s exports to China totaled US $80 billion, which is nearly 1/3rd of Australia’s exports (Power, John. 2018). Rory Medcalf states,
“Washington cannot assume that Australians will automatically understand or agree with all measures that the United States is now taking to constrain Chinese power. Australia wants to prevent Chinese dominance of its region but will be selective about which measures of pushback to support” (Medcalf, Rory. 2019).
Australia is part of the 5 eyes intelligence group. President Trump has questioned Australia’s and the UK’s knowledge of Russian interference in the 2016 elections (Davey, Melissa. 2019). Perhaps this means that the 5 eyes alliance’s mutual trust is being tested. The 5 eyes intelligence sharing alliance is of critical importance to the US. With open intelligence sharing, threats from bad actors, other nations, and terrorists can be more readily recognized beyond what the US can do alone. The alliance could potentially derail and threaten peace and sources of intelligence if member nations do not trust each other and feel free to share intelligence.
Medcalf, Rory. 2019. Toward a Shared Alliance Strategy in a Contested Indo-Pacific: A View from Australia. The National Bureau of Asian Research. Accessed May 27, 2019 from https://www.nbr.org/publication/toward-a-shared-alliance-strategy-in-a-contested-indo-pacific-a-view-from-australia/
Davey, Melissa. 2019. Donald Trump wants investigation into Australia’s role in ‘Russian hoax’. The Guardian. Accessed May 27th 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/25/donald-trump-wants-investigation-into-australias-role-in-russian-hoax
Power, John. 2018. Australia’s new prime minister Scott Morrison: bad news for China? Ask Huawei. This Week in Asia. Accessed May 27, 2019 from https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2161282/australias-new-prime-minister-scott-morrison-bad-news-china-ask
Mark Graham/Bloomberg. Australia’s new prime minister quotes Bono in maiden speech. The Irish Times. Accessed June 1, 2019 from https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/asia-pacific/australia-s-new-prime-minister-quotes-bono-in-maiden-speech-1.3606507