This week in Australian foreign policy: an Australia-Japan summit, concern about China’s new security law, and a WHO Independent Panel on COVID-19.
Following a virtual summit on 9 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a joint statement reflecting “their commitment to leadership in combating COVID-19 and building a prosperous, open and stable post-COVID-19 world, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region.” In particular, they shared concerns about China’s imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong, called on North Korea to commit to dialogue towards complete denuclearisation, and expressed serious concern about recent developments in the South China Sea.
On 9 July, the prime minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, and Attorney-General Christian Porter expressed the Australian government’s “deep concern” about China’s imposition of a new national security law on Hong Kong and announced steps to suspend Australia’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong. The prime minister also announced new visa arrangements enabling Hong Kong passport holders to remain in Australia and providing additional pathways to permanent residency.
The minister for foreign affairs and the minister for health, Greg Hunt, welcomed the World Health Organization director-general’s announcement that, following a resolution of the World Health Assembly, an Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response will evaluate the world’s response to COVID-19. The panel will be co-chaired by the former prime minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark.
The prime minister also announced further caps on international arrivals into Australia in response to the pandemic on 9 July.
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong criticised the reported decision to cut a further 60 staff from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, arguing that it “raises serious questions about [the] Government’s ability to deliver for Australia’s interests in an increasingly complex world.” Wong contrasted these cuts with the announcement on 1 July that the government would invest $270 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade the Australian Defence Force in its 2020 Defence Strategic Update.
Isabella Keith is an intern at AIIA National Office.
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