This week in Australian foreign affairs: Wong’s statement on Cheng Lei, Australia-India Council grant recipients announced, DFAT designates gold as an “import sanctioned good” for Russia, anniversary of the fall of Kabul, and more.
On 13 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statement acknowledging that it has been two years since Australian citizen Cheng Lei was detained in China. Wong noted that Cheng has not had any contact with her family since her detention and faced a closed trial on 31 March this year, of which she is yet to learn the outcome. She stated that since Cheng’s detention in August 2020, the Australian Government “has consistently called for basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international laws” and that they “will continue to support Ms Cheng and her family, and to advocate for Ms Cheng’s interests and wellbeing.”
Wong announced this year’s Australia-India Council (AIC) grant recipients on 15 August. Recipients include a space start-up exchange, research identifying drought-resilient chickpeas, and a disability-inclusive virtual healthcare pilot. In her statement, she also acknowledged the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and the 30th anniversary of the AIC. Wong noted that “the AIC has helped advance Australia’s foreign policy and trade interests [by] strengthening the people to people and institutional bonds between Australia and India.” She further stated that “the grants program is key to fostering understanding and encouraging collaboration between our two countries.”
On 15 August, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a statement noting Wong’s intention to designate gold as an “import sanctioned good” for Russia under subregulation 4A(3) of the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011. This is in addition to other goods already designated under the Autonomous Sanctions (Import Sanctioned Goods – Russia) Designation 2022, including coal, petroleum oil, and tar.
Wong issued a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles on 15 August acknowledging the anniversary of the fall of Kabul. The Ministers noted that their thoughts “are with the people of Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan community in Australia and around the world.” They also acknowledged the contributions of more than 39,000 members of the Australian Defence Force, including the 41 Australian soldiers who died on operations in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Ministers stated that the Australian Government “is committed to standing by those who helped Australia, including by supporting former locally engaged employees to apply for visas and re-settle in Australia” and that it is “considering its response to recommendations from the Senate inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.” They further noted that Australia will offer 31,500 places to Afghan nationals under the Humanitarian Program and Family stream of the Migration Program over four years, and that “Afghan citizens continue to be prioritised for processing within Australia’s Humanitarian Program.”
On 17 August, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced that Australia has joined the Global Cross-Border Privacy Rules (Global CBPR) Forum, “a multilateral initiative which aims to better facilitate the flow of data across borders.” The Forum “will establish a certification system to help companies demonstrate compliance with internationally recognised data privacy standards” and builds on the APEC CBPR formed in 2011. The Ministers stated that “the Albanese Governmentencourages interoperability and cooperation between economies to help bridge differences in data protection and privacy frameworks” and that they “support the development of an open and reliable digital trade environment, that strengthens consumer and business trust in digital transactions, and promotes global trade by facilitating the secure flow of data.”
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh issued a statement on 15 August during a visit to Sandakan in Malaysia for Sandakan Memorial Day. He noted that “the bonds of friendship between Malaysia and Australia are strong, and nowhere are they better demonstrated than through the commitment of the local community and the Malaysian Government in recognising this sad chapter in our shared history.” Keogh also delivered a commemorative addresswhile in Sandakan, where he reflected on stories of Australians who became prisoners of war of Japan.
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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