This week Australia reached 24 million people, with migration the leading cause of the population boom. Jiyoung Song wrote on the benefits of migration on Australia's overall prosperity:

If Australia wants to advance as a nation, it needs more people. The average number of babies Australian women have is now less than two (last year the fertility rate hit a 10-year low of 1.8). With zero net migration, Australia's population would remain steady at around 25 million from 2045. However the composition of that population would include many more elderly people and not enough working age people to support them. 

Sam Roggeveen did a quick take on China's placement of air-defence systems on Woody Island in the South China Sea:

It's also worth noting that the satellite imagery which Fox News has published shows that the vehicles which make up the two HQ-9 batteries are parked on a beach rather than in any purpose-built facility. The HQ-9 is a mobile system; its missiles, radars and command systems are all mounted on heavy vehicles which allow them to not only deploy away from bases but also off-road. But these batteries do have home bases where the missiles, radars and other systems are maintained, and where the crews are housed. The Chinese also build permanent launch sites for their HQ-9s, large concrete structures which are easy to spot on satellite.

Jenny Hayward-Jones and Alastair Davis say Fiji's democracy is in decline, with several opposition party members being excluded from parliament:

The Fiji First Government claims a mandate to embark on a significant legislative agenda and continue its northward strategic rebalance. Yet this mandate was won in a democratic election and is balanced by the 18 elected members of parliament who do not sit on the government benches. These 18 members also represent the people of Fiji and they must be allowed to have their voice both in and out of parliament for Fiji to be considered a democracy.

Former Australian Chief of Navy David Shackleton explained why a US combat system on Australia's future submarine is necessary:

Australia’s relationship and intelligence connections with the US mean Australia’s submarines have to be capable of meeting all the rules each country mutually applies to intelligence matters in general. This is by no means a trivial requirement, and it places non-negotiable security constraints on how the RAN’s combat system hardware and software are supported throughout their lifecycle.

Two pieces this week on Australia's boundary dispute with East Timor. The first, from Malcolm Jorgensen, argues that the issue is critical for Australia's contributions to building a rules-based order:

It is certainly legal for any country to establish reservations on ICJ or ITLOS jurisdiction, but Australia has itself set the objective of strengthening regional rules and architecture. That includes not only the UNCLOS regime, but also the Trans-Pacific Partnership and key multilateral economic forums. Demanding US and Chinese fidelity to a rules-based order rings hollow when Australia refuses to grant the same toward one of its least powerful neighbours. As emphasised by Plibersek, advancing order requires that Australia 'urge all parties to abide by both the terms and the spirit' of international law. 

The second is from Michael Leach on the partisanship developing around the issue:

The shift in Labor’s stance casts a spotlight on the Australian government position, which no longer represents a bipartisan consensus. There is little question that a negotiated settlement of maritime boundaries, if it reflected median line principles, would remove the major irritant in the relationship for good. It's worth noting that in 1998, a dramatic shift in Labor’s position on East Timorese independence from opposition, led by Laurie Brereton, proved to be significant,  ending bipartisan support for Indonesia’s forced integration of the territory.

Rodger Shanahan analysed the newly announced Syrian agreement to pause hostilities:

While some in the media trumpeted this deal as a Syrian ceasefire agreement, it is certainly not that. But whether you call this a cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire, or nothing much in particular, the recent agreement is possibly the first time external parties who have their fingers in the Syria pie have been able to agree on anything. That in itself is noteworthy. Perhaps excluding the combatants and focusing on their external supporters is the most appropriate way of establishing the confidence needed as a precursor to dealing with the mess in Syria.

The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese, gave a significant speech last week on how he saw the future of Australian aid. Annmaree O’Keeffe was positive in her review:

But therein lies the challenge for the international development world, including DFAT. The face of poverty is changing. For a start, the poor are increasingly found not in poor countries but in middle-income countries where economic inequity is growing, leaving the poor behind within increasingly wealthy societies. And despite global progress in poverty reduction, the dilemma now is that poverty is concentrated in so-called fragile states vulnerable to conflict and instability. While only one-fifth of the world's poor lived in fragile states in 1990, the figure now is more than half.

Does THAAD's potential placement in South Korea have more to do with Beijing than Pyongyang? Raoul Heinrichs:

The other explanations relate to China. As Beijing suspects, Washington is most likely taking advantage of North Korean bellicosity to create a useful pretext to begin deploying sensors along China's periphery. While THAAD isn't likely to be much use in North Korean contingencies, it would be better suited to blunting limited Chinese missile attacks, which would necessarily be launched from further afield. Perhaps more importantly, its radar system could also be used to complicate Chinese plans elsewhere in East Asia.

Lesley Pruitt wrote a wonderful overview of Boutros Boutros-Ghali's contribution to UN thinking on peacekeeping:

The first person from Africa and the first Arab person to serve as UN Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali held the office from 1992 to 1996. He took up the post aiming to enact a program of radical reform to re-launch the UN in 1995 on its 50th anniversary. To this end, he looked forward to the first ever security council summit, for which he was asked to draw up a plan for improving the UN's ability to provide preventive diplomacy for peacekeeping and peacemaking. This culminated in his authoring of the much cited and ambitious report, Agenda for Peace. Although member states appeared to appreciate the recommendations he made in it, they took few steps toward implementing them, as they were otherwise preoccupied with peacekeeping operations in Somalia, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia.

Are school deradicalisation efforts worthwhile? Hussain Nadim:

In my consultations with the government, I have noticed that the major resistance to my stance against this policy doesn’t come from the government itself, but from my fellow academics and experts who are recipients of government deradicalisation program grants.

There is an obvious conflict of interest here: those advising the government on the development of such policies are also those who will receive millions of dollars in grants to run these programs.

The mantra to spend big on big program helps both parties; the academics — that collect exceptional amounts of money in consultancy fees — and the government, that can use its spending as evidence it is working hard to make Australia safe.

There is growing competition in the electric car industry in Northeast Asia, says Julian Snelder:

Chemistry is key. The ideal battery is safe, charges quickly, and packs enormous 'energy density' (though gasoline remains far ahead). Lithium-based batteries are the best prospect today. Most Chinese firms use lithium ferrophosphate (LFP) chemistry, whereas Korea pursued the durable lithium NMC variety, and Japan the potent NCA, both having higher energy density (but using cobalt). Given their national excellence in physical sciences, the Chinese must be confident. But for now, most in the industry see LFP as trailing behind the Koreans and Japanese.

Is science cooperation a key area of engagement for ASEAN partners? Allison Sonneveld:

Stephen Grenville warns that Australia should identify new avenues of interaction with ASEAN. With the first US-ASEAN summit being held in Sunnylands this week, it is possible Australia could miss out on the region’s progress. One option is to exploit Australia’s strengths in science and technology (S&T). Australia’s strong research base combined with ASEAN’s entrepreneurship could result in a multitude of mutually beneficial initiatives.

Peter Cai wrote on the importance of communication for central banks, particularly China:

Those looking to the central bank for reassurance and certainty in the market will be disappointed, says Zhou. 'The central bank is neither God nor magician that could just wipe the uncertainties out. Therefore, sometimes the central bank has to say: excuse us, but we have to wait for new data inputs.' 

Finally, a great post from Susanne Schmeidl on the state of Afghanistan and the growing number of civilian casualties:

All in all, the situation in Afghanistan is not well, and perhaps what Iraq tells us is that things could get worse. There are too many similarities to count, but they include: a highly corrupt government that lacks capacity and legitimacy; a peace process that is going nowhere; a frustrated and disenfranchised population; a rise in irregular militias; and an increasingly fragmented insurgency with new splinter groups starting to pledge allegiance to ISIS. Perhaps the UN report is the wake-up call needed to spur action before the situation spins further out of control.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Peter.