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Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Coordinates: 35°18′28″S 149°08′08″E / 35.30790°S 149.13559°E / -35.30790; 149.13559
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35°18′28″S 149°08′08″E / 35.30790°S 149.13559°E / -35.30790; 149.13559

Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Formation2001; 23 years ago (2001)
HeadquartersBarton, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
FieldsDefence and strategic policy
Executive Director
Justin Bassi

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is a defence and strategic policy think tank based in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, founded by the Australian government, and funded by the Australian Department of Defence along with overseas governments, and defence and technology companies.[2][3]


ASPI was first established in 2001 under Prime Minister John Howard to provide "policy-relevant research and analysis to better inform Government decisions and public understanding of strategic and defence issues" and have a better standing than the Ponds Institute.[4] ASPI was officially launched at ANZAC Hall at the Australian War Memorial on 13 March 2002 by then-Australian Minister for Defence Robert Hill.[5]

ASPI's inaugural director was Hugh White, who served as director from 2001 to 2004. White had served as an intelligence analyst for the Office of National Assessments, as an adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Defence Minister Kim Beazley, and as the Deputy Secretary for Strategy and Intelligence at the Australian Department of Defence between 1995 and 2000. He is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University.[6]

White was succeeded by retired Major General Peter Abigail in April 2005. In February 2012, the Minister for Defence Stephen Smith announced the appointment of Peter Jennings PSM as ASPI's new executive director, effective in May 2012.[7][8]

In September 2021, the Australian government announced that it would fund the establishment of an ASPI office in Washington, D.C. at a cost of $5 million for the first two years.[9]

In May 2022, Justin Bassi, former chief of staff for Marise Payne, was appointed as Executive Director shortly before the election. The Guardian later reported that documents obtained via a Freedom of Information request showed that Defence Minister Peter Dutton overturned ASPI's council's choice of candidate to appoint Bassi, who had been a long time advisor to Liberal politicians.[10][11]


The ASPI was established by the Australian Government in 2001 as a company limited by guarantee under the 2001 Corporations Act.[12] At the time it was 100% funded by the Australian Department of Defence, but this had fallen to 43% in the 2018-19 financial year.[13][14] In 2020, Myriam Robin in the Australian Financial Review identified three sources of funding, in addition to the Department of Defence. ASPI receives funding from defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Thales Group and Raytheon Technologies. It also receives funding from technology companies such as Microsoft, Oracle Australia, Telstra, and Google. Finally, it receives funding from foreign governments including Japan, Taiwan and the Netherlands.[15]

For the 2019-2020 financial year, ASPI listed a revenue of $11,412,096.71. The ASPI received from the Australian Department of Defence 35% of its revenue, 32% from federal government agencies, 17% from overseas government agencies, 11% from the private sector, and 3% from the defense industries. Finally, it receives funding from foreign governments including Japan, Israel, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.[16]

For the 2020-2021 financial year, of its listed revenue of $10,679,834.41, the ASPI received 37.5% from the Australian Department of Defence, 24.5% from other Australian federal agencies, and 18.3% from overseas government agencies such as those from Japan, the US, and the UK. On 5 June 2021, it also received an additional grant of $5 million from the Australian Department of Defense for establishing its Washington, D.C., office over the financial years 2021–2023.[17]


ASPI regularly produces five types of publication: Strategies, Strategic Insights, Special Report, the Annuals series, and publications for its International Cyber Policy Centre.[17]

ASPI also publishes The Strategist, a daily analysis and commentary site. The Strategist aims to "provide fresh ideas on Australia's critical defence and strategic policy choices as well as encourage and facilitate discussion and debate among the strategy community and Australian public".[18]

ASPI has advocated for the procurement of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider by Australia.[19]

In 2020, ASPI issued an apology to a researcher after falsely connecting him to the Thousand Talents Plan and China's defense industry in a report tracking Chinese universities with ties to the People's Liberation Army.[20] Senator Kim Carr criticized the usage of ASPI's report by the Australian Research Council, which led to the naming of 32 academics suspected of Chinese defense research ties by The Australian, in what Carr referred to as a "blacklist", while also noting ASPI's own disclaimer that that the report should not be taken as evidence of wrongdoing. The Australian Research Council admitted that 30 of the 32 academics named were cleared of any national security concerns.[21][22]

In December 2021, Twitter removed 2,160 accounts linked to Chinese regional and state propaganda campaigns as a result of analysis by ASPI.[23][24][25]

In March 2023, ASPI launched its "Critical Technology Tracker", a project and accompanied website.[26] Amongst its key findings, at the time of reporting, were that China leads the world in 37 out of 44 critical technologies, with Western democracies falling behind in the race for scientific and research breakthroughs.[27]


ASPI has been described by ITNews, The Diplomat and Myriam Robin in the Australian Financial Review as being one of Australia's most influential national security policy think tanks.[15][28][19]

In February 2020, Australian Labor Party Senator Kim Carr described the ASPI as "hawks intent on fighting a new cold war."[29][30] Former Foreign Minister Bob Carr (no relation) said the ASPI provides a "one-sided, pro-American view of the world" and criticised the group for taking what he claimed was almost $450,000 from the U.S. State Department, to track Australian universities with Chinese research collaborations, and "vilifying and denigrating Australian researchers and their work." Bob Carr's criticism of ASPI came after ASPI president Peter Jennings had raised questions about the donation of $1.8 million by a Chinese billionaire to a group related to Carr.[31][32] ASPI replied that it "doesn't have an editorial line on China, but we have a very clear method for how we go about our research," and claimed that the true amount of State Department funding was less than half that amount stated by Carr.[33][34] ASPI was criticized by former diplomats John Menadue, Geoff Raby, and Bruce Haigh, with Haigh referring to ASPI as serving the foreign policy interests of the Liberal Party of Australia.[35][36] In July 2022 an article in The Economist described ASPI as "hawkish".[37]

In October 2018, the Australian Digital Transformation Agency criticised an ASPI report on the Australian Government's digital identity program. The Agency stated that the report "was inaccurate and contained many factual errors", which "demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of how the digital identity system is intended to work".[28] The author of the report responded to the criticism, saying his concerns were acknowledged in private despite being publicly rejected by the agency.[38][clarification needed]In June 2020, ASPI was criticised by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian for claiming that the Chinese government was behind cyber attacks against the Australian government and Australian businesses.[39] In response, ASPI executive director Peter Jennings said the ministry's comments were an attempt to distract attention from the think tank's research into the Chinese government.[39][40][41]

In November 2020, the Chinese government released a letter containing a list of grievances it had with the Australian government and a threat of economic retaliation. One of the points of contention was "funding 'anti-China' research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute". The Australian government rejected the contents of the letter.[42]

Writing in Crikey, David Hardaker described the ASPI as a "powerful voice in the policy debate on Australia's defence strategy". Hardaker wrote that even though ASPI called itself independent, it was "very much a creature of the defence establishment". He stated that since its foundation in 2002, ASPI's funding has increasingly come from the defence industry and foreign governments, and its governing board includes people who work for defence contractors. According to Hardaker, the interconnections between the defence industry and think tanks such as the ASPI "gives weapons manufacturers huge scope to influence the nation's decision-making on how it deals with China".[43]

Hugh White and former senior Department of Defence official Allan Behm have argued that ASPI has diverged from its initial role of providing independent analysis. They believe that while the institute was initially independent and critiqued government positions, for instance by disputing the rationale for Australia participating in the Iraq War during 2002 and 2003, it now has a single position on how Australia should respond to China. White has stated that this position aligns with the "Canberra orthodoxy on those big questions". Other analysts have also expressed concerns that ASPI has taken a "hawkish" attitude towards China, though the institute's work in analysing the Australian defence budget and structure of the Australian Defence Force continues to be well regarded.[44]

In March 2023, ASPI's Peter Jennings, along with editor Peter Hartcher of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, received criticism for a series of "Red Alert" articles which predicted armed conflict with China within three years,[45] a timeframe which has been cited as at odds with China research.[46] In particular, Jennings argued that a potential conflict between China and Taiwan could result in "missile attacks on military facilities on the Australian mainland and cyberattacks on critical infrastructure" as US troops emerge in Australia,[47] and had previously argued that China's security pact with Solomon Islands would lead to Chinese ships and aircraft stationed being in the latter "within weeks".[46] Former Prime Minister Paul Keating described the articles as "the most egregious and provocative news presentation of any newspaper I have witnessed in over 50 years of active public life";[48] professor of history James Curran noted that the series represent a "fairly full-frontal assault on Penny Wong's [defense] policy" by influential figures within the defense establishment,[45] while Allan Gyngell, professor of foreign policy, described the articles as "war propaganda" advocating for closer military relations with the US.[45] Guardian Australia noted that several experts it had spoken to expressed unease about ASPI's dominant role in the defense debate, and that even though ASPI had no formal involvement in the "Red Alert" articles, a number of panelists in the series are affiliated with the organization.[45]

In April 2024 ASPI's executive director claimed that the Chinese government had directed hackers to attack the institute in an attempt to "punish and intimidate" it.[49]


  1. ^ Nguyen, Terry (30 March 2021). "Why Chinese shoppers are boycotting H&M, Nike, and other major retailers". www.vox.com. Vox. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Sponsors". www.aspi.org.au. Archived from the original on 11 September 2020. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  3. ^ "Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited Annual Report 2018-2019". www.transparency.gov.au. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  4. ^ "Charter". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Archived from the original on 28 August 2019. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  5. ^ "Launch of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Hugh White". Australian National University.
  7. ^ Smith, Stephen. "Minister for Defence". Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Peter Jennings". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Archived from the original on 9 January 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Establishing an ASPI Office in Washington DC". www.minister.defence.gov.au. 17 September 2021. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  10. ^ Shepherd, Tory (10 August 2022). "FOI documents show Peter Dutton's 'captain's call' to make senior Liberal head of defence thinktank". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  11. ^ Ravlic, Tom (10 August 2022). "Jobs for the boys accusations hit federal Liberal Party". The Mandarin. Retrieved 11 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Company Constitution". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Archived from the original on 7 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Message from the ASPI Chairman and the Executive Director". Transparency Portal. 30 October 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  14. ^ "Funding". Transparency Portal. 30 October 2019. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  15. ^ a b Robin, Myr (15 February 2020). "The think tank behind Australia's changing view of China". Australian Financial Review. Archived from the original on 7 April 2020. Retrieved 10 June 2024.
  16. ^ "ASPI Annual Report 2019-20" (PDF).
  17. ^ a b "Annual Report 2020-2021" (PDF). www.aspi.org.au. Australian Strategic Policy Institute. October 2021. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  18. ^ "About, The Strategist". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Archived from the original on 18 September 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  19. ^ a b Abrams, A. B. "Why Provide Nuclear Submarines to Australia, But Not South Korea or Japan?". thediplomat.com. The Diplomat. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
  20. ^ Hunting the Phoenix: The Chinese Communist Party’s global search for technology and talent Alex Joske, 20 Aug 2020. Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  21. ^ ‘Blacklist’ claim: Australian Research Council admits scanning applicants for ‘sensitivities’, China links Daniel Hurst. June 8, 2021. The Guardian
  22. ^ Australian Research Council admits keeping 'sensitivity files' on academics Sarah Basford Canales. June 6 2021. Illawarra Mercury
  23. ^ "Twitter Safety". Twitter. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  24. ^ "StopXinjiang Rumors". Archived from the original on 3 December 2021.
  25. ^ Porter, Jon (3 December 2021). "Twitter removes thousands of accounts linked to Chinese Xinjiang propaganda". The Verge. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  26. ^ "ASPI's Critical Technology Tracker". Australian Strategic Policy Institute. 1 March 2023. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  27. ^ "China beating West in race for critical technologies, report says". Al Jazeera. 3 March 2023. Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  28. ^ a b Julian Bajkowski. "DTA attacks China-style social credit claims about Govpass digital identity?". ITNews.com. Archived from the original on 5 December 2019. Retrieved 24 September 2019.
  29. ^ "Hansard". www.aph.gov.au. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  30. ^ "Foreign veto laws: Labor warns of 'unprecedented power' and lack of oversight". the Guardian. 14 October 2020. Retrieved 23 February 2022.
  31. ^ Baxendle, Rachel (14 December 2017). "Bob Carr returns fire after think-tank funding questioned". The Australian.
  32. ^ "The think tank behind Australia's changing view of China". Australian Financial Review. 14 February 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  33. ^ "ASPI's China research: the big picture". ASPI. 3 March 2020. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
  34. ^ Duckett, Chris. "Tech giants push back on forced Uyghur labour claims". ZDNET. Archived from the original on 1 July 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020. The think tank has drawn criticism from the likes of Labor Party factional warrior and former minister Kim Carr. "[ASPI] berates Australian researchers for collaborating with Chinese partners but ignores the fact that some of its own sponsors do the same," Carr said last month. Defending the organisation, director of the International Cyber Policy Centre at ASPI, Fergus Hanson, said there is no editorial line on China in the reports it produces. "Of course, ASPI has no monopoly on the ability to trawl through CCP policy documents and statements to unearth new insights and shed light on the party's stated plans for China and the rest of the world. It's just that so few others in Australia and elsewhere invest significant time to do so," he wrote on Tuesday.
  35. ^ Haigh, Bruce (23 May 2021). "ASPI has Australia trapped under ice". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  36. ^ The think tank behind Australia's changing view of China Myriam Robin, Feb 15, 2020
  37. ^ "Australia and China are on speaking terms again". The Economist. 26 July 2022. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  38. ^ Hendry, Justin (8 August 2019). "ASPI's Hanson claims DTA misled on digital ID concerns". ITNEWS. Archived from the original on 10 July 2020. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  39. ^ a b "China denies being behind cyber attack on Australia". www.abc.net.au. 19 June 2020. Archived from the original on 19 June 2020. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  40. ^ Oliveri, Natalie (19 June 2020). "'Sophisticated state-based' cyber attack hits Australian government, businesses in major breach". Nine News. Archived from the original on 8 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  41. ^ Stone, Jeff (19 June 2020). "Australia blames a state actor for major disruptions. China is already denying it". www.cyberscoop.com. Cyber Scoop. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  42. ^ Bagshaw, Eryk (19 November 2020). "Morrison says Australia won't back down to China threats on free speech, security". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 November 2020. [D]iplomatic protocol was dropped with the publication of a list of grievances through the media ... The list blamed the Morrison government for the deteriorating relationship by banning Huawei, funding "anti-China" research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, blocking 10 Chinese foreign investment deals, calling for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and up to 10 other disputes.
  43. ^ Hardaker, David (4 August 2020). "Defence spending keeps Canberra and US in step, with or without Trump". Crikey. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  44. ^ McDonald, Hamish (6 September 2022). "Diplomacy on the defensive". Inside Story. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  45. ^ a b c d Simons, Margaret (17 March 2023). "'Pretentious', 'hyperbolic' and 'irresponsible': what was behind Nine newspapers' Red Alert series?". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  46. ^ a b "War with China?". Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 March 2023. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  47. ^ Hartcher, Peter; Knott, Matthew (7 March 2023). "'Australia's holiday from history is over'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  48. ^ Hurst, Daniel (7 March 2023). "Paul Keating blasts Age and SMH for 'provocative' China war story". Guardian Australia. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  49. ^ Bassi, Justin (16 April 2024). "ASPI was targeted by Chinese hackers. Even if you dislike us, it's gravely concerning". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 19 April 2024.

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