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22 April: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

22 Apr 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Payne and Seselja on Solomon Islands and China’s security cooperation agreement, additional sanctions on Russia, and 80 years of diplomatic relations with the Netherlands.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint statement on 19 April on the signing of a security cooperation agreement between Solomon Islands and China. The Ministers noted that they “respect Solomon Islands’ right to make sovereign decisions about its national security” but that they were “deeply disappointed” by the signing of the agreement and “concerned about the lack of transparency” during the agreement’s development. They stated that they “continue to seek further clarity on the terms of the agreement and its consequences for the Pacific region.” Payne and Seselja welcomed recent statements from Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare that Australia is Solomon Islands’ “security partner of choice”, as well as his commitment that the nation “will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers.” They stated that they are “consulting the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency in a manner consistent with our regional security frameworks.”

In response to the signing of the cooperation agreement between Solomon Islands and China, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong gave an interview on 20 April where she referred to the outcome as “the worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific since the end of World War Two.” Wong argued that “on Scott Morrison’s watch, our region has become less secure and the risks Australia faces have become much greater … This government was warned of this security pact in August, and yet we have a security agreement signed in our region on [Morrison’s] watch.” She further stated that “what this deal signifies is that Australia is no longer … the nation to whom [Solomon Islands] turn[s] to meet their challenges in every instance.”

Payne announced additional sanctions on 14 Russian state-owned enterprises on 14 April. The new sanctions include defence-related entities including transportation company Kamaz, shipping companies SEVMASH and Untied Shipbuilding Corporation, and electronic component company Ruselectronics. She stated that Australia’s targeting of Russian state-owned enterprises is in coordination with “key partners” and “undermines [the enterprises’] capacity to boost the Russian economy.” Payne further argued that the sanctions “increase[e] the pressure on Russia and undercut [the enterprises’] ability to continue funding Putin’s war.”

On 17 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the 80th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between Australia and the Netherlands. He reflected on the “warm friendship” that the nations share, including “historic defence ties” forged during the Second World War and “strengthened most recently by our military partnership in Afghanistan.” Morrison further stated that “as we continue to pursue truth, justice and accountability for the downing of MH17, we also stand together in supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He noted that the strong bilateral trade relationship is “the foundation for our collaboration in other areas, such as the green economy and cyber security” and that the two nations “will cooperate to advance our mutual economic prosperity and stability”.

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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