Australia-Southeast Asia Relations: The Post COVID-19 Regional Order

The fifth issue of the La Trobe Asia Brief examines the Australia-Southeast Asian relationship as the region enters into a phase of pandemic recovery.

The relationship between Australia and Southeast Asian countries has grown substantially in the last decade, from a marriage of convenience to the development of regional agendas, strategic partnerships and shared economic interests.

A global pandemic has shifted priorities, and vaccine diplomacy throughout the region has altered and strengthened existing allegiances. Has Australia's actions during the pandemic helped or hindered relationships with Southeast Asian nations? What will the post-COVID-19 regional order of Southeast Asia look like?

La Trobe Asia examines this increasingly complex topic in its latest La Trobe Asia Brief - Australia-Southeast Asia Relations: The Post COVID-19 Regional Order.

The publication comprises a series of opinion pieces, published with a creative commons license, examining the relationship between the Australia and Southeast Asia by twelve highly-respected experts with diverse views from across the region.

This publication is a product of a fruitful online academic dialogue held in February 2021 in collaboration between La Trobe Asia, Asia Centre, Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, Griffith Asia Institute, Asialink, Perth US-Asia Centre and Generate Worldwide. It was proudly supported by the Australia-ASEAN council.

It makes a timely and valuable contribution to an increasingly polarised topic, and should serve as a valuable resource for policymakers, scholars and members of the public.

Download La Trobe Asia Brief Issue 5 - Australia-Southeast Asia Relations: The Post COVID-19 Regional Order.


Building stronger relations between Australia and ASEAN
Lina Alexandra (Senior Researcher, Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia)
"ASEAN countries need to prove themselves worthy to become strategic partners for middle and even major powers, precisely because of certain qualities that make them equal, which in this case is by being a strong, cohesive and responsive organisation." 

Australia, ASEAN and geoeconomic competition - a shared agenda
Dr Jeffrey Wilson (Research Director, Perth USAsia Centre)
"As international rivalries have re-emerged between major powers, many governments have turned to economic tools to advance their strategic agendas." 

Vaccine diplomacy: tensions and contestation in Southeast Asia
Professor Caitlin Byrne (Director,Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University)
"The geopolitics of vaccine distribution has exposed the disaggregated nature of politics within Southeast Asia." 

Australian people-to-people engagement needs democracy
James Gomez (Regional Director, Asia Centre) and Robin Ramcharan (Executive-Director, Asia Centre)
"Canberra must consider how it can better serve the needs of people in Southeast Asia and the wider region as the struggles for democracy continue in countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines." 

ASEAN for Australia: Matters more, matters less
Malcolm Cook (Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)
"Over the last decade, ASEAN has come to matter more for Australian diplomacy and interests in Southeast Asia. At the same time, ASEAN and Southeast Asian states collectively appear to matter less for Australian diplomacy and interests beyond this region." 

Australia and Vietnam - harnessing the positive momentum
Huong Le Thu (Senior Analyst, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
"Despite differences in political systems and certain values, Canberra and Hanoi are increasingly more aligned in strategic priorities and like-minded in many ways." 

Australia-Singapore relations and the rules-based order
Chen Chen Lee (Diplomacy Adviser, Asialink) and Catherine Hooton (Intern, Asialink)
"The shared interests and values between Australia and Singapore should provide a sense of unity and collaboration in such unprecedented times."

Thailand protests while Australia watches from the sidelines
Yawee Butrkrawee (Program Coordinator, Asia Centre)
"Australia needs to take a step back and reflect upon its partnership with the people of Thailand. Its risk aversive behavior of not wanting to engage with civil society actors is consistent with the values of the privileged Thai-Chinese elites with whom Australian elites interact."

Australia and the Philippines: Prospects for engagement
Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby (Associate Professor of International Studies, De La Salle University, Manila)
"At the bilateral level, the Australia-Philippine relationship can continue its steady pace by paying even closer attention to domestic politics."

Why leadership matters in the Indonesia-Australia relationship
Dr Evi Fitriani (Associate Professor of International Relations, Universitas Indonesia)
"in the time of global health crisis caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, relations between Indonesia and Australia are tested:" 

COVID-19’s impact on Indonesia’s domestic and regional security
Natalie Sambhi (Executive Director, Verve Research)
"Indonesia's institutions and regional security defences are being put to the test. Whatever the case, it will need the support of its partners if it is to take its place as leader in the Indo-Pacific region."