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17 November 2023: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

16 Nov 2023
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese at PIF, Falepili Union with Tuvalu announced, Albanese attends APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, Marles in Indonesia, diplomatic announcements, Judge Charlesworth re-elected to ICJ, and more.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with Pacific Leaders at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum from 7 to 9 November. He announced that Australia will make “further investments to build the resilience of our Pacific partners”, beginning with a contribution of at least $350 million in climate infrastructure for the region, which will include $75 million for “a program for off-grid and community scale renewable energy in remote and rural parts of the Pacific.” Albanese also noted that Australia will contribute to the new Pacific Resilience Facility, a Pacific-built trust fund that will be established to invest in small-scale climate and disaster resilience projects, as well as the Green Climate Fund.

On 10 November, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister of Tuvalu Kausea Natano jointly announced the elevation of the bilateral relationship to “a more advanced, integrated and comprehensive partnership – the Falepili Union.” This came at the request of the Tuvalu Government, in order to “safeguard the future of Tuvalu’s people, identity and culture.” They noted that “Falepili is a Tuvaluan word for the traditional values of good neighbourliness, care and mutual respect” and that “these are the values that underpin our partnership and guide our commitments to each other.” The leaders signed a new bilateral treaty to give effect to the closer relationship, which will involve expanding the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project to reclaim land in Funafuti, a “special pathway for citizens of Tuvalu to come to Australia, with access to Australian services that will enable mobility with dignity”, and continued support from Australia to Tuvalu in response to major natural disasters. In a separate statement, Albanese stated that the Treaty also commits Australia to “provide assistance to Tuvalu in response to … military aggression” and both countries to “mutually agree any partnership, arrangement or engagement with any other State or entity on security and defence-related matters in Tuvalu … to allow for effective operation of Australia’s security guarantee.” Australia will also establish a dedicated intake, called a special mobility pathway, to allow Tuvaluans to come to Australia to live, work and study, with an initial cap of 280 Tuvaluans eligible per year.

From 15 to 17 November, Albanese travelled to the United States for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco. At the Meeting, Albanese sought to “advance Australia’s priorities of free and open rules-based trade in the region, supply chain resilience, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth.” He also discussed “environmental and sustainability issues with member economies” and exchanged views on “how economies of the region can collaborate to cut emissions and make the transition to a renewable energy future.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles travelled to Indonesia this week “to further practical cooperation in the Australia-Indonesia defence partnership.” Marles will meet with his counterpart, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, during his trip. He will also meet with other counterparts from the region who will be in Jakarta following the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, where Australia was represented by Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy. Marles noted that “our relationships across the region are vital to Australia’s security and prosperity and the Albanese Government will continue to prioritise our regional engagement.”

On 14 November, Marles and Conroy announced that Australia has signed the Security Agreement on the Protection of Classified Information with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) with European partners. The agreement “facilitates the exchange of classified information between Australia and OCCAR to support Defence equipment programs.” Marles noted that “Australia’s strategic relationship with Europe continues to grow, and this arrangement is a true reflection of our strategic and industrial ties”, and that “participation in OCCAR programs reflects the Albanese Government’s emphasis on cost-effective and efficient acquisition of complex Defence capabilities.”

This week, Conroy travelled to the Republic of Korea for the Republic of Korea–United Nations Command Member States Defence Ministerial Meeting, and to Indonesia to attend the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus. He then continued on to the 10th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Jakarta, which he described as “the region’s premier defence dialogue, bringing together 18 countries to discuss challenges facing the Indo-Pacific.”

On 12 November, Minister for Foreign Affairs made several diplomatic appointment announcements, all of experienced public servants: Mr Glenn Miles as Australia’s next Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq; Ms Jenny Da Rin as Australia’s next High Commissioner to the Republic of Kenya; Ms Megan Jones as Australia’s next Ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Ms Tanya Bennett as Australia’s next Consul-General in Los Angeles; Ms Leilani Bin-Juda PSM as Australia’s next High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Ms Katy Stuart as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Niue; and Mr Ridwaan Jadwat as Australia’s next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Wong and Acting Attorney-General Michelle Rowland issued a statement on 10 November congratulating Judge Hilary Charlesworth on her re-election to the International Court of Justice, noting that the Government “is confident that Judge Charlesworth will continue to draw on her exceptional expertise and act in accordance with the highest standards of independence and integrity.” They also noted that “Judge Charlesworth has served as a member of the International Court of Justice since 2021 and is a world-leading jurist, as well as the first Australian woman to serve as a Judge of the Court in its 78-year history.”

On 12 November, Marles, Wong Rowland, Conroy and Minister for Sport Annika Wells jointly announced that Australia is supporting Solomon Islands to host a safe and successful 2023 Pacific Games through the $17 million Pacific Games Partnership and additional personnel deployments, at the request of the Solomon Islands Government. The funding will “leave a lasting legacy in Solomon Islands, including upgrades to seven schools and deeper ties with Australian sporting institutions.” Australia will also deploy around 100 additional Australian Federal Police personnel to join more than 50 colleagues already in the Solomon Islands as part of the Solomons International Assistance Force. The Ministers noted that “Australia has a long-term commitment to sports development in the Pacific and we are pleased to be assisting Pacific athletes and sporting institutions from across the region.” Marles further stated that “Australia and Solomon Islands have a deep and enduring history, and we’re proud to continue working together under our Bilateral Security Treaty, and with Pacific partners, to support the hosting of a safe and secure Pacific Games.

Wong and Conroy issued a joint statement on 16 November noting that the Australian Government will provide $600,000 in humanitarian funding following the recent earthquake in western Nepal, which was the largest since the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015. The funds “will be provided through existing multilateral and local partnerships to deliver emergency humanitarian supplies and life-saving protection and assistance.” The assistance will also “contribute to early reconstruction efforts to restore damaged public infrastructure, including health care facilities.”

On 14 November, Wong and Conroy also announced that the Parliament had passed legislation to provide additional support and benefits to eligible Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) holders and Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme families. The supports include access to Medicare, tertiary student loans while studying, family tax benefits and the Child Care Subsidy. The supports “will help visa holders and their families to make a valuable contribution in Australia, including strengthening people-to-people, cultural and business ties and helping to fill workforce shortages, including in rural and regional areas.” The Ministers emphasised that the Government “is listening to the Pacific family, and delivering on our commitment to improve mobility and migration opportunities, and building a more peaceful, stable and prosperous region.” Wong further noted that the Government “is delivering on its commitment to deepen our connections with the Pacific and Timor-Leste, and playing our part in a shared Pacific that is peaceful, stable and prosperous.”

Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to San Francisco this week to lead Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial trade talks. At the third in-person IPEF Ministerial Meetings, Farrell planned to “work with [his] counterparts to finalise a package of outcomes designed to lift and align trading standards, to build supply chain resilience, and promote clean energy investment so that trade flows more freely in the Indo-Pacific region.” At APEC, he sought to “champion Australia’s priorities of bolstering digital and services trade in our region, the economic empowerment of women and Indigenous Peoples, and advancing APEC’s work towards environmental and sustainability outcomes.”

On 16 November, Farrell confirmed Australia’s commitment to support Indonesia’s ambition to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), following his meeting with Indonesian Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan on the sidelines of APEC in San Francisco that day. He noted that “Australia and Indonesia are close friends and neighbours, and welcoming Indonesia to the OECD carries many benefits for all parties.” Farrell also stated that “Australia will contribute to Indonesia’s efforts to prepare for the OECD accession process, by supporting an economic survey of Indonesia through the OECD.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also a Research Assistant, Sessional Academic, and Honours student in Law at the Australian National University, with a focus on international law. Isabella attended the AIIA #NextGen study tour to South Korea last year, and was also a delegate to the AIIA’s Australia-Korea-New Zealand and Australia-United States-Japan Policy Forums. She can be found on Twitter here.

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