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13 August: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

13 Aug 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Morrison addresses the Australian American Leadership Dialogue and attends the Pacific Islands Forum, Payne announces new initiatives to strengthen the ASEAN-Australia relationship, Hilary Charlesworth nominated for election to the ICJ, and more.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a virtual address to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue on 11 August. He acknowledged that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance and the 20thanniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Morrison noted that “our alliance is central to our shared objective of a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific.” He further stated that he “welcome[s] President Biden bringing together the Leaders Climate Summit.” Moreover, Morrison said that the two nations’ “bilateral strategic cooperation must extend to economic matters [and] we should consider a regular Strategic Economic Dialogue between our most senior key economic and trade officials.”

On 6 August, Morrison virtually met with leaders from across the Pacific for the 51st Pacific Islands Forum. At the Forum, Morrison announced that Australia “will work with our Pacific family on vaccine certification, to ensure our region can safely reopen to international travel as soon as possible.” He also noted that Australia will also double the number of Pacific workers under the Pacific labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Programme, bringing in an extra 12,500 workers. Moreover, Australia also joined the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones Against Climate Change-Related Sea-Level Rise, which Morrison referred to as “ground-breaking”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a media release on 5 August where she advised that the Australian Government will “reform and modernise” Australia’s autonomous sanctions laws “to enable the imposition of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against the perpetrators of egregious acts of international concern.” Payne stated that the reforms “will expand upon Australia’s current country-based autonomous sanctions framework to specify themes of conduct to which sanctions could be applied, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, gross human rights violations, malicious cyber activity and serious corruption.” She noted that the Government plans to introduce amendments to the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 by the end of 2021 to enact these reforms.

On 7 August, Payne noted that Australia will enhance the ASEAN-Australia partnership through a new package of initiatives under Partnerships for Recovery. These initiatives include: One Health Scholarships for up to 40 students from ASEAN countries to undertake an online Graduate Certificate in One Health, hosting the first ASEAN-Australia Mental Health Experts videoconference and Youth Dialogue, and investing $5.2 million through the Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund to provide “lending and financial service to small and medium enterprises in Southeast Asia.” Australia will also provide an additional $6 million contribution to the UN Office for Project Services to support “vulnerable households in Myanmar” as well as additional PPE and technical experts to aid Myanmar’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, Payne launched the $5.5 million Australian Science and Technology for Climate Partnerships initiative “to address climate challenges with research-based solutions in the Indo-Pacific.”

Payne, alongside Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, announced that the independent Australian National Group has nominated Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM FASSA for election as a Judge of the International Court of Justice. The Australian National Group is a “body of eminent Australian jurists who serve as members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague”, and the Australian Government has supported their nomination. The election will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 5 November to fill the vacancy resulting from the passing of Judge James Crawford LLD FBA AC SC earlier this year.

On 11 August, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja noted that Australia is supplying 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Timor-Leste and Fiji this week. The doses are part of an expanded program of vaccine deliveries “to support our neighbours’ responses to outbreaks in their countries.” Australian Medical Assistance Teams have also been deployed to both nations. Payne and Seselja noted that “these deliveries are a significant step towards delivering on Australia’s commitment to share up to 15 million doses with the Pacific and Timor-Leste by mid-2022 to support health and economic recovery.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan acknowledged the release of the Unlocking Australia-India Critical Minerals Partnership Potential: India Critical Minerals Demand Report on 10 August. The report “identifies areas where Australia can enhance trade, investment and research partnerships with India across the critical minerals supply chain.” Tehan noted that “Australia and India, working with our likeminded partners, can foster and strengthen those supply chains.”

On 11 August, the Department of Defence issued a media release noting that Australian Defence Force personnel have completed Operation Solania, a two-week maritime and aerial surveillance operation supporting the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Island Chief. Operation Island Chief is one of four FFA maritime surveillance operations, held annually to “detect, deter report and/or apprehend potential illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing activity and vessels.” Commander of the Australian Army’s 1st Division Major General Jake Ellwood said the Operation has been an “outstanding success which has assisted [Australia’s] partners in securing and protecting fisheries and economic resources across our region.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Isabella’s research interests include international law and comparative constitutional law.

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