This week in Australian foreign affairs: Morrison addresses the ASPI Sydney Dialogue and announces the Blueprint for Critical Technologies, a new Consulate-General in India, NZ Foreign Minister Mahuta meets with Payne in Sydney, Tehan travels to Singapore, and more.
On 17 November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the inaugural Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Sydney Dialogue, where he announced Australia’s Blueprint for Critical Technologies. The Blueprint “sets out a vision for protecting and promoting critical technologies in our national interest” and aims to balance their economic opportunities with their national security risks. Morrison also announced the Blueprint’s accompanying Action Plan, which specifies Australia’s Critical Technologies List. The List features 63 critical technologies, including quantum technologies. Morrison also discussed the AUKUS trilateral security partnership with the United States and United Kingdom, which he referred to as being “about much more than nuclear submarines … [it] will see [the three nations] promote deeper information sharing; foster greater integration of security and defence-related science, technology, industrial bases and supply chains; and strengthen our cooperation in advanced and critical technologies and capabilities.” Morrison further noted that the Quad partnership with India, Japan and the United States is also helping to deepen Australia’s “technology partnerships”, in areas such as technical standards for advanced communications and AI, 5G deployment and diversification, and “detailed horizon scanning and mapping” of supply chain security.
Morrison delivered a speech via videolink at the Bengaluru Tech Summit on 17 November, where he announced that Australia will establish a new Consulate-General in Bengaluru, India, as well as an Australia-India Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy. Morrison noted that “Bengaluru is the world’s fastest-growing technology hub – of course we want to be part of it”. He further stated that Australia is “firmly commit[ted] to shaping the development and adoption of critical technologies internationally, including by working with trusted partners like India … the ties that bind our nations are indeed strong and abiding.” Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne further noted in a separate statement that the announcements “will expand our diplomatic presence in India to five diplomatic posts … deepening our engagement with Indian governments at all levels.” Payne stated that the announcements “will promote stronger investment opportunities and cutting-edge innovation in cyber, critical and emerging technologies. [They] will amplify Australia’s and India’s policy impact globally.”
On 12 November, Payne hosted her New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, in Sydney for the biannual Australia-Aotearoa New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. In a joint statement, the Ministers emphasised the importance of “an open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region of sovereign, resilient and prosperous states”, reaffirmed their intent to work together to preserve the liberal international order, and their shared goal of fostering “a sustainable regional balance where all countries – large and small – can freely pursue their legitimate interests.” They further expressed their “strong support” for an “open, rules-based trade based on market principles.” In a press conference, Payne also noted that the Ministers had discussed the role of AUKUS and the “complementary role that it will play to the extensive network and partnerships that Australia has in our region”, as well as “the need to reject and resist all forms of coercion, including economic coercion.”
Payne and Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, noted that the Morrison Government “welcomes the finalisation of the Paris Rulebook at COP26 in Glasgow” on 14 November. They also stated that “Australia’s emissions reporting and transparency is the gold standard and we expect all major emitters to display similar levels of transparency … Strong transparency and integrity standards are vital to ensuring carbon markets deliver real and verifiable emissions reductions.”
Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton issued a joint statement on anti-satellite weapons testing that was conducted by the Russian Defence Ministry 15 November. The Ministers noted that the test was “destructive” as it created “over 1500 pieces of long-lived debris in space that now threaten numerous satellites and the International Space Station.” Dutton stated that the test was “a provocative and dangerous act that demonstrated the threats to space systems are real, serious and growing … This test by Russia, combined with other recent counter-space weapons testing, calls into question Russia’s sincerity in promoting security in space.” Moreover, Payne stated that “Russia’s actions are not those of a nation committed to ensuring the peaceful use of space nor the prevention of an arms race in outer space.”
On 16 November, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, noted that the first workers under the Pacific Pathways Plan had arrived in Australia “to fill critical workforce gaps immediately without the need for quarantine.” 136 fully-vaccinated workers arrived from Solomon Islands to work in the “agriculture, meat processing, tourism and care sectors”across Australia.
Payne announced the recipients of the National Foundation for Australia-China grants on 17 November. The Foundation awarded over $4 million across 43 projects, in what Payne described as “an important demonstration of the Government’s commitment to invest in people-to-people ties and practical cooperation between Australia and China.” That same day, Payne also noted that $460,000 in grants has been awarded to 13 recipients through the 2021-22 Australia-Indonesia Institute grants program, in order to “strengthen cooperation between our two countries in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of our shared commitment to regional recovery.”
This week, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan travelled to Singapore to meet with his Singaporean counterpart, attend the Joint Indo-Pacific Economic Meeting, and attend the Bloomberg New Economy Forum. Tehan announced a new marketing campaign to attract more tourists from Singapore to visit Australia and reaffirmed Australia’s “close bilateral trade relationship and connectivity with Singapore.” On 17 November, Tehan met with his New Zealand, Singaporean, and US counterparts for the Indo-Pacific Economic meeting. The Ministers and Secretary discussed “opportunities to expand economic cooperation among like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific region in an open and inclusive manner, and the need to strengthen economic ties, improve connectivity, address climate change challenges, and support post-pandemic economic recovery.” While attending the Bloomberg New Economy Forum on 17 November, Tehan met with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to collaboration on supply chains, such as through continuing the work of the US-Australia Critical Minerals Working Group and cooperating on the establishment of new Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and traceability standards to ensure responsible resourcing of critical minerals.
On 12 November, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced that Afghan evacuees will have their existing visas extended for 12 months. Hawke stated that this decision will ensure “continued access to the full range of Government support services as they undertake the process of transitioning onto Australian permanent visas.” Moreover, Afghan evacuees will also be able to transition to offshore permanent protection visas, rather than onshore visas which would ordinarily apply to applicants already in Australia. Hawke noted that this legislative change “provides for access to a broader range of Government support and settlement services.” On 18 November, Hawke further announced that temporary humanitarian visas issued to Afghans who supported Australia’s mission to Afghanistan, and who remain there following the evacuation, will be extended on an “ongoing basis”. He noted that “Australia expects the Taliban to uphold its undertakings to allow Australians and Afghan visa holders to depart safely if they wish to do so. We continue to work with international partners to that end.”
Hawke noted on 12 November that New Zealand citizens “adversely impacted by COVID-19” and who are on a pathway to permanent residence will be able to claim an exemption from the income threshold requirement ordinarily required for this visa. The exemption measures were in place for the 2019-20 financial year have been extended to the 2020-21 financial year. Hawke stated that “the extension of these measures reinforces our strong relationship with New Zealand.”
On 17 November, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews and Minister for Education Alan Tudge jointly announced that the Morrison government has published updated guidelines to assist Australian universities in strengthening their resilience to foreign interference risks. Andrews noted that “these updated guidelines are more important than ever – with international students set to return to many Australian jurisdictions soon, we need to ensure our University campuses embody the free, open, transparent debate that is so vital to an Australian education, and to our way of life.”
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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