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Australia needs to strengthen its strategic interests in Antarctica

By Anthony Bergin

We sometimes forget that we assert sovereignty over 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent, roughly the size of mainland Australia minus Queensland.

So the Turnbull government's Antarctic strategy and 20-year action plan released this week is important. It responds to the essential elements of a report to the federal government nearly two years ago by Tony Press, a former director of the Australian Antarctic Division.

Press found the pre-eminence we've traditionally held because of our historic polar connections and scientific and diplomatic leadership can no longer be assumed.

If we're not a big player in Antarctic affairs then our polar agenda will be driven by others. There's now, for example, a risk of being left behind by China. China's setting up its first air squadron in Antarctica this year. Last year it announced it was preparing to build a fifth research station on the continent.

China's building a second icebreaker ship and has made it clear to domestic audiences that possible resource development is its interest in the region. It's expanding its fishing for krill in the Southern Ocean, the largest unexploited fishery in the world. 

So, does the government's new Antarctic blueprint provide a useful framework to understand what we must do in the frozen continent or is it just a snow job?

Read the full article.

Published in: The Sydney Morning Herald - 28 April 2016

Originally published by: Sydney Morning Herald on 29 Apr 2016