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16 July: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

16 Jul 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Kathryn Campbell announced as the new DFAT Secretary; the fifth anniversary of the South China Sea Abritral Award; more COVID-19 assistance to Fiji, Vietnam, and Samoa; a new Austrade office in the Netherlands; Exercise Talisman Sabre kicks off; and more.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 8 July the appointment of Kathryn Campbell AO CSC as the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade following the retirement of Frances Adamson AC. Campbell was formerly Secretary of the Department of Social Services. Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja congratulated Campbell on her appointment and noted that she “has an outstanding record of leadership and public service” and that they “look forward to working with [her]”. Minister for Trade Dan Tehan also noted that he wishes Campbell “the best of luck in her new role” and “[looks] forward to working with her again.”

On 12 July, Payne issued a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the South China Sea Arbitral Award on the arbitration between the Philippines and China. Payne noted that the decision found that China’s claim to “historical rights or maritime rights and interests established in the long course of historical practice in the South China Sea were inconsistent with [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].” She further stated that the Australian Government “has consistently called on the parties to the arbitration to abide by the Tribunal’s decision … adherence to international law is fundamental to the continuing peace, prosperity and stability of our nation.”

Payne, alongside Seselja and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton issued a joint media release on 13 July where they noted that Australia will deploy a second medical assistance team to Fiji “to support its response to the escalating COVID-19 crisis and protect the health and security of our close friends and neighbours.” The team will consist of 17 personnel from Australia and New Zealand, and will be in Suva for 28 days. Australia will also provide three fully-equipped ambulances, oxygen equipment, stretcher beds, and personal protective equipment.

On 14 July, Payne and Seselja announced that Australia will provide 1.5 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to Vietnam this year. The Ministers noted that the doses “will complement Australia’s existing $40 million package through which we are working in partnership with Vietnam on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Payne and Seselja delivered a statement on 9 July where they noted that Australia had delivered 10,000 AstraZeneca doses to Samoa. They stated that “we will continue to work in partnership with our Pacific family in responding to this pandemic.”

On 11 July, Tehan announced that he will travel to Singapore, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States “to strengthen Australia’s trading relationships and promote investment in Australia.” Tehan noted that these countries are “significant bilateral partners” and represent “around a quarter of Australia’s exports of goods and services.” He further stated that, “Australia’s success as a trading nation is built on the strength of our relationships with our trading partners … I will champion support for a functioning global rules-based trading system that is vital to the economic prosperity of our region.”

Tehan issued a media release on 12 July where he said that Australia is opening a new Austrade office in the Netherlands, to “strengthen the trading relationship with Europe”. He stated that “the Netherlands is Australia’s second largest export market in the EU and is a key entry point for Australian goods distributed across the continent … Austrade’s expanded presence in Europe will complement our Government’s work to negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union.”

On 14 July, Dutton delivered an address at the opening ceremony for Exercise Talisman Sabre, a biennial Australia-United States military exercise. Dutton stated that, “the value of our Alliance has been extolled by Presidents and Prime Ministers, past and present, but it is the actions of uniformed and civilian Australians and Americans who continue to exemplify our Alliance cooperation.” He also noted that forces from Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will also participate in this year’s Talisman Sabre. Military officers from France, German, India and Indonesia will also observe the exercise.

Morrison noted on 8 July that the Government has formally established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide “following approval by the Governor-General.” The inquiry will be led by Nick Kaldas APM, former Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force. Kaldas will be supported by The Hon James Douglas QC and Dr Peggy Brown AO.

On 8 July, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese referred to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide as “welcome news”. He noted that “it is encouraging that the investigation will enquire into systemic issues related to defence and veteran suicide”, but that it is “disappointing” that Labor was not consulted on the Terms of Reference or the appointment of commissioners.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong criticised the Government on 8 July for not expediting visas for Afghan interpreters and contractors who worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan. Wong stated that, “these people have had their lives threatened and whether they were directly employed or contractors of the Australian Government will not matter to the Taliban.”

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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