Allan Behm Meet the Author

9 Jul 2024

Allan Behm will be in conversation with Mark Kenny on his new book 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. They share interests: they like winning and being in charge; they like wealth, and they like being liked. They like condescension, and excluding people they do not like. ‘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. Despite the political rhetoric, America and Australians do not share values. They do not share the values of equality, inclusion, respect, tolerance and trust. They do share a pervasive sense of insecurity. America supports a gun and war culture regardless of the costs, and 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.

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). He has a significant publishing record and is a respected commentator in both the electronic and print media.

Professor Mark Kenny is Director at the Australian Studies Institute at ANU, where he hosts the popular podcast series ‘Democracy Sausage’. Mark is the Canberra Times political analyst and a regular on the ABC’s Insiders program, Sky News Agenda, and radio programs across the country.

The vote of thanks will be given by Professor Ann McGrath, Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellow and W.K. Hancock Professor of History ANU

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

Additional Information:

Registration is required for this event.

Accessible parking spaces are available around campus should you require them.

For accessibility assistance- please ask at Harry Hartog Bookstore.

Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

To help keep everyone safe, please ensure that you are familiar with, and follow, the advice from  ACT Health regarding COVID-19.

If you do not feel well, please refrain from attending this event.

TEQSA Provider ID: PRV12002 (Australian University) | CRICOS Provider Code: 00120C

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