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The first ASEAN–Australia Special Summit held in Sydney in March 2018 led some Australian commentators to advocate for Australia to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Even if Australian membership could be made possible by changing the ASEAN Charter and achieving a consensus among ASEAN member states in favour of membership, it would not serve Australian interests in Southeast Asia as well as Australia’s current dialogue partner relationship with ASEAN.

Proponents of ASEAN membership overstate the importance of ASEAN to Australia, understate the benefits of the current dialogue partner relationship, which has room for enhancement, and do not fully address the likely policy constraints and financial costs of ASEAN membership. When it comes to ASEAN, Australia’s status quo dialogue partner relationship is more suitable than quixotic appeals for membership in ASEAN.

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