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19 February: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

19 Feb 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: the Declaration Against the Use of Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, Payne’s statement on Sean Turnell, and more.

On 15 February, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a press release on the launch of the Canadian-drafted Declaration Against the Use of Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations at the Human Rights Council. Payne noted that Australia “will continue to work with international partners against the practice of arbitrary detention” and commended Canada’s leadership of the initiative. She also stated that “Australia will hold countries to account for their international commitments and the obligation to comply with international laws and practices.” Payne also delivered a video message at the launch, in which she stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a pretext for reducing or removing access to justice and consular assistance for people in detention.”

Payne issued a statement on 11 February about Professor Sean Turnell, who has been detained in Myanmar since 6 February. She said that Australia’s ambassador to Myanmar was able to speak with Turnell following “extensive Australian Government advocacy for consular access to him.”

On 16 February, Payne announced that the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations 2021-2022 competitive grants round is now open. The foundation is “an important demonstration of the Government’s commitment to a constructive relationship with China based on mutual respect.” Payne stated that the foundation “is committed to supporting connections and practical cooperation with China and engaging Australia’s diverse community as part of this endeavour.”

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds issued a statement on 13 February noting that five Australian fire trucks are travelling to Papua New Guinea on board HMAS Choules after being donated by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to assist with local firefighting efforts. Reynolds said that Australia “welcomed this opportunity to acknowledge and thank PNG for their support 12 months ago during the Black Summer Bushfires.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) published the Australian statement delivered at the 29th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Myanmar on 12 February. The statement noted that “Australia has serious concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and for its democratic transition … We strongly urge the military to engage in dialogue to support a return to civilian rule, and the reconvening of the National Assembly the Myanmar people so clearly want.”

DFAT also acknowledged the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the Philippines on 12 February, noting that “our enduring friendship is based on shared interests and values, supported by strong people-to people links. The relationship has developed into a mature partnership that seeks to advance our mutual interests through cooperation in trade, development, defence and security.”

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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