The Odd Couple: The Australia-America Relationship (Melbourne)

Thu, Jul 18, 2024 6pm AEST The Wheeler Centre

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Join Allan Behm, Director of The Australia Institute's International & Security Affairs Program, in conversation with Dr Emma Shortis, Senior Researcher, International & Security Affairs, the Australia Institute to discuss Allan's latest book, The Odd Couple: The Australia-America Relationship.

The Odd Couple: the Australia-America relationship, a provocative narrative about recalibrating the relationship between Australia and the USA to deliver peace and prosperity rather than conflict and disharmony.

America matters. Australia matters. They matter to each other. They matter to the world. Their institutional and structural alignments are deep and powerful. Americans believe in themselves. Australians believe in each other. They are mates. They are gregarious. Americans are single-minded and ambitious. Success is the reward for effort. Australians are happy-go-lucky. They do not push themselves too hard. Americans honour success. Australians cut down tall poppies. Both are brash.

There are also many contrasts. America is religious. Australia is secular. Curiously, their differences help to explain why they are so close – and why their relationship is so superficial. ‘National security’ is a major shared interest. So is racism. America’s (and Australia’s) recent wars have all been against non-whites. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off for the wars we fought. So are we. Australia supports American adventurism unconditionally. Their focus on security emphasises war, not peace. America is floundering and appears to have lost its way. It needs friends that advise and encourage. It needs Australia.

In The Odd Couple, Allan Behm suggests ways that America and Australia can transcend military glitz to strengthen well-being and human security worldwide. America needs a friend, not a flunkey, and Australia may become its best ally.

Allan Behm, Director, International & Security Affairs Program at the Australia Institute, Canberra, specialises in international and security policy development, political and security risk evaluation, policy analysis and development, and negotiating the policy/politics interface. Following a career spanning nearly 30 years in the Australian Public Service, he was Chief of Staff to Minister for Climate Change and Industry Greg Combet (2009 to 2013) and senior advisor to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Penny Wong (2017–19).

Dr Emma Shortis, Senior Researcher in the International & Security Affairs Program at the Australia Institute, is a historian and writer, focused on the history and politics of the United States and its role in the world. She uses her expertise in history to interpret and explain what is happening in the world today, and what it means for Australia. In a conversation often dominated by the same voices, Emma offers a fresh perspective on international relations grounded in moral questions about how we might imagine a post-American future.

Emma’s first book, Our Exceptional Friend: Australia’s Fatal Alliance with the United States, was published by Hardie Grant in 2021. She writes regularly for Australian and international outlets, and appears regularly on Australian radio and television.


Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 6:00pm - 7:30pm AEST


The Wheeler Centre
176 Little Lonsdale St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
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