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17 September: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

17 Sep 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Morrison off to DC; statements on 9/11; Payne and Dutton visit Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and India; and more.

On 14 September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that he will travel to Washington, D.C. from 21-24 September for the first face-to-face Quad Leaders’ Meeting. Morrison stated that “reconvening this important group reinforces our commitment to the Indo-Pacific COVID-19 recovery, and our efforts towards peace, prosperity and stability in our region.”

Morrison released an opinion piece to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. He noted that “September 11 reminds us that we can never take our peace, our freedom and our way of life for granted” and referred to the event as “an attack on free peoples everywhere.” Morrison further stated that Australia commits “to continue to stand with our partners and allies – especially the United States – as we work together for a world that favours freedom.”

On 9 September, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton delivered a joint statement with their Indonesian counterparts after attending the Seventh Indonesia-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers 2+2 Meeting in Jakarta. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to deepening cooperation under the five pillars of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: “our economic and development partnership, connecting people, securing our shared interests, maritime cooperation, and Indo-Pacific stability and prosperity.” They discussed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and recognised the “strong ongoing cooperation” in response.

Payne and Dutton issued a joint media release on 11 September with their Indian counterparts, after the Inaugural India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The Ministers welcomed the elevation of the India-Australia relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020 and “noted with satisfaction the progress made in deepening bilateral cooperation in political, economic, security and defence related matters.” They also “reiterated the importance of advancing their shared objective of an open, free, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region, in line with India’s increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region through the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative and Australia’s Indo-Pacific approach and Pacific Step-Up.” Payne further noted that Australia and India are launching the second round of their Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership grants program. This round of the program “seeks proposals that focus on strengthening understanding of ethical frameworks, developing best practice and encouraging development of technical standards on critical technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence.”

On 13 September, Payne and Dutton issued a joint statement with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea, following the Fifth Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 Meeting in Seoul. The Ministers reaffirmed their “strong cooperative relations in a wide range of sectors, underpinned by the shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights and rule of law, as well as mutual respect, trust and close people-to-people ties, and a commitment to an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” They further discussed cooperation on COVID-19 recovery, defence and security.

Morrison, Hunt and Payne announced that an additional one million Moderna doses have been secured from European Union member states “to further bolster Australia’s vaccination programme” on 12 September. The doses have been sourced from “surplus vaccines destined for Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal and Bulgara”. Payne stated that the agreement “further demonstrates the important role our diplomats play and the strength of Australia’s bonds with European nations and the European Union.”

On 14 September, Payne, alongside Minister for Employment Stuart Robert and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced the first stage of reforms to Australia’s labour mobility programs. The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) will be “easier to access, protect worker welfare, and better meet the workforce needs of regional Australia.” The Ministers noted that the initial stage of reforms include a “single streamlined application process for both the PLS and SWP offering more flexibility and less red tape.” Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong argued that the changes “fail to address the most critical issues that the schemes are currently facing,” including “the vulnerability of Pacific workers to mistreatment” and “the urgent need for … a national quarantine system.”

Payne, alongside her MIKTA counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey, issued a statement on the situation in Afghanistan on 10 September. The Ministers expressed their “deep concern with the unfolding situation” and that they “continue to monitor developments closely.” They further condemned “the evil and calculated terrorist attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport” and called on the Taliban to “observe international humanitarian law.”

On 13 September, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews virtually delivered a speech at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on “the road from 9/11”. Andrews stated that “the road from 9/11 has not reached its end – it never will. It is a road that will continue to wind and turn. We may yet see some familiar places along the way, and there will no doubt be fresh challenges ahead. But over the past 20 years, the overwhelming majority of Australians have come together to reject terrorist ideologies … we’ve kept each other safe from mass casualty attacks … and we’ve bult a strong framework for managing the threat. I have full confidence that the next 20 years will only see more of the same.”

Andrews and Robert issued a media release on 13 September detailing the appointment of Accenture to deliver the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) as “the next step in preparation for reopening Australia to international travel at scale.” Andrews noted that the DPD “will support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders, by providing digitally-verified COVID-19 vaccination details.”

On 15 September, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced that he had signed a new Australia-Bangladesh Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Tipu Munshi. Tehan stated that “the Morrison Government is working to energise and expand the trade relationship between Australia and Bangladesh, to support jobs and business opportunities in both countries.”

Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a media release on 14 September which detailed additional flexibility to citizenship applications for all distinguished talent visa holders and athletes in the Australian Commonwealth Games team. Hawke stated that “the unique work and travel demands on some of our most highly distinguished prospective Australians should not preclude them from making the cut.”

On 13 September, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese published an opinion piece in the Australian which noted that Labor will “make climate central to the US alliance.” Albanese argued that “Australia’s action on climate change will shape whether our interests prosper in partnership with our neighbours and our US ally. On coming to office, I will make comprehensive US-Australia co-operation on climate change a hallmark of our alliance.”

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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