This week in Australian foreign affairs: sharing Australian-made AstraZeneca doses with our Pacific neighbours; supporting PNG and Timor-Leste; diplomatic appointments; the latest Five Country Ministerial Meeting; and more.
On 10 April, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced that Australia will “soon start sharing doses of our Australian manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine with our neighbours.” The vaccine doses will initially be made available to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, and in the coming weeks will be available to Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. At least 10,000 vaccines will be shared per week, and Australia will “scale up as required.” The Ministers also noted that they are “working to procure vaccines through the global market for our neighbours in the wider Pacific and Southeast Asia … Our region’s health security and economic recovery is intertwined with our own.”
On 9 April, Payne and Seselja stated that “Australia is working closely with the Government of Papua New Guinea to support its COVID-19 response, deploying a second team of health and medical specialists.” Since 13 March, five Royal Australian Air Force flights and four commercial flights have delivered “8,480 vaccines and related consumables, PPE, temporary triaging facilities, rapid COVID tests, medical equipment, and an ambulance.”
On 11 April, Payne and Seselja noted that Australia is “working in partnership with our close friend and Timor-Leste to support its recovery from the devastating Easter weekend flooding and its impact on COVID-19 preparedness.” Following a request for assistance from the Government of Timor-Leste, the Morrison Government is providing emergency relief of $7 million to the estimated 100,000 people affected by the flooding. This relief will include the provision of personal protective equipment, temporary shelter, critical household items, financial assistance, and assistance through the World Food Programme. The Ministers issued an update on the situation in Timor-Leste on 14 April where they noted that an Australian Medical Assistance Team and 27 tonnes of emergency relief, “including hygiene, shelter and food preparation kits” had arrived in Timor-Leste.
Payne, joined by Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, released the second Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2021-2031 on 12 April. In doing so they stated that they were “renewing [the Government’s] commitment to the full and equal participation of women and girls in peace and security arrangements.” The Plan identifies four outcomes that will guide Australia’s international peace and security efforts: “supporting women’s participation and needs in peace processes; reducing sexual and gender-based violence; supporting resilience, crisis, and security, law and justice efforts to meet the needs and rights of all women and girls; and demonstrating leadership and accountability for women, peace and security.”
Payne announced several diplomatic appointments on 14 April: Ms Penny Williams PSM as Australia’s next Ambassador to Indonesia; Ms Rowan Ainsworth as Australia’s next Consul-General in Kolkata; and Mr Peter Truswell as Australia’s next Consul-General in Mumbai.
On 9 April, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews reflected on her virtual attendance at the latest Five Country Ministerial Meeting on 8 April alongside her counterparts from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. The Ministers “covered a range of important issues, including migration and borders, addressing foreign interference, cybercrime and countering child sexual exploitation and abuse.” In the communique from the Meeting, the Ministers agreed to: share best practices on effective border and migration measures in response to COVID-19; collaborate with other likeminded countries to shape international processes and standards to support a resilient international travel system; share experiences to combat foreign interference; actively support the Budapest Convention as the best tool to combat cybercrime; and to undertake a feasibility study regarding the potential to develop a specific, combined dataset of child sexual abuse material to more efficiently identify and safeguard victims and pursue offenders.
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 14 April the commencement of new Austrade CEO Xavier Simonet. Tehan welcomed Simonet’s arrival and stated that “Austrade plays an important role in helping Australian businesses access international opportunities and securing investment to grow our industries.” Simonet “[acknowledged] the critical role Austrade is playing a world full of challenges … and opportunities.”
On 14 April, Tehan announced that he will travel to Europe and the United Kingdom for further Free Trade Agreement negotiations, to encourage investment in Australia, and to discuss vaccine supply. Tehan will discuss the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement with European Commission Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement with Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss. He will also meet with ministerial counterparts in Germany, France and Brussels “to discuss vaccine production and the EU export restriction regime.” Finally, Tehan will co-chair the second Australia-France Trade and Investment Dialogue with Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness Franck Riester. Tehan stated that, “our negotiations will uphold our commitment to rules-based trade and investment liberalisation while protecting our national interest.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement following His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing on 9 April. Morrison stated that, “Prince Philip was no stranger to Australia, having visited our country on more than 20 occasions … Australians send our love and deepest condolences to Her Majesty and all the Royal Family. The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and live of Prince Philip.” He issued a further statement on 10 April where he addressed Queen Elizabeth II, saying, “we … say to you as a Commonwealth, let us also now be your strength and stay, as you continue to endure, as you continue to serve so loyally and so faithfully, as you have done over so many generations.”
Isabella Keith is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is currently an intern at the AIIA National Office.
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