In conversation with Allan Behm

In conversation with Allan Behm

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Cinema, Cultural Centre, Kambri.

The Australian National University

Union Court

Canberra, ACT 0200


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Allan Behm will be in conversation with Helen Sullivan on Allen's new book, No Enemies No Friends: Restoring Australia’s Global Relevance

About this event

Allan Behm will be in conversation with Helen Sullivan on Allan's new book, No Enemies No Friends: Restoring Australia’s Global Relevance, a forensic analysis of the “pathologies” of Australia's strategic mindset.

The orthodoxy that increased defence spending will deliver increased national security confirms the status quo. But it does not help us to deal with shocks and surprises. How should Australia re-calibrate its national security settings to deal with global disruption?

Australia’s cultural and historical experiences have shaped our security thinking. Our mindset is built around interlocking pathologies: racism, misogyny, isolation, insecurity, a brashness that masks a deep lack of self-confidence, and the perverse effects of the cultural cringe.

This book is not about why Australia has become so good at getting things so bad. Rather, it suggests we have every capability to improve. It is less a lamentation for what might have been than a meditation on how to learn sure-footedness in our international affairs, in a new and less predictable world. We need to maintain a credible defence force, and invest in diplomacy to reduce our dependence on military force and defence alliances. This is crucial for the maintenance of our long-term security and confidence to become a significant international actor.

"Deeply informed, finely written and passionate, Allan Behm's No Enemies No Friends shows how much of Australia's ability to successfully navigate an increasingly dangerous world demands that we look with the same sharp clarity at ourselves as at the world outside." Allan Gyngell.

“A provocative book that turns the mirror on ourselves, our delusions, and our assumptions. In arguing for a recalibration of our strategic future it offers insights into the possibilities, more suited to our Realpolitik.”

Former Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie AC, RAN (Ret’d). Honorary Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.

“Behm skewers the false promise of deterrence, offers a blistering critique of Australia’s relationship with the United States and the recently announced AUKUS alliance, and makes a compelling argument for a complete overhaul of Australia’s engagement with our region”. Dr Emma Shortis RMIT University

Allan Behm has been thinking about international relations, national security and defence matters in the service of a strong democracy over his long career in public policy. He is currently Director, International & Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute in Canberra, following a career spanning nearly thirty 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).

Professor Helen Sullivan is Dean, College of Asia and the Pacific at the ANU. From 2016 to mid -2021 she was Director of the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy. Helen’s award winning scholarship explores the changing nature of state-society relationships. She is widely published, the author of six books and more than 100 peer reviewed academic articles, book chapters, and policy reports.. Helen appears regularly in print, mainstream and online media commenting on contemporary public policy issues.

Mark Kenny, Professor at the ANU Australian Studies Institute at ANU, host of the Democracy Sausage podcast and regular media commentator, will host the event and give vote of thanks.

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.

Please note

Accessible parking spaces are available at ANU.

This is an in-person indoor event, and according to ACT Health masks are mandatory. To help keep everyone safe, please ensure that you are familiar with, and follow, the advice from  ACT Health regarding COVID-19 exposures. If you do not feel well please refrain from attending the event. A podcast will be made available after the event.

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