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20 May: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

20 May 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: passing of PNG Deputy PM Sam Basil, further sanctions on Russian and Belarusian entities and individuals, joint statement on Afghan women and girls, and more.

On 17 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on the passing of Papua New Guinean Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil. The ministers expressed their “sincere condolences” and stated that “Australia remembers and honours Mr Basil with the deepest respect for his contribution to his country, and for his contribution to building lasting friendship and understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea.”

Payne announced further sanctions against 11 individuals and 12 entities from Russia and Belarus on 18 May. The new sanctions target “Russian purveyors of propaganda and disinformation who have sought to legitimise Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as security figures and entities who have supported the invasion.” Payne stated that “the Russian Government is driving a widespread disinformation campaign both within Russia and internationally” and that “President Putin has attacked freedom of speech and dissent in Russia to suppress factual reporting on its war against Ukraine and its egregious war crimes, and to damage perceptions of Ukraine and its international supporters.”

On 13 May, Payne issued a joint statement on increased restrictions on the human rights of Afghan women and girls with her equivalents from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Foreign Ministers noted that they “remain deeply concerned by the continued restrictions on girls’ access to education in Afghanistan” and called on the Taliban “to respect the right to education and adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students.” They stated that “we will continue to judge the Taliban on their actions, not their words.”

The Department of Defence issued a media release on 13 May on a Chinese naval vessel operating off the north-west Australian coast. Defence noted that they are “actively monitoring the current activities of the Chinese Intelligence Collection Vessel off the north-west coast of Western Australia with a combination of air and maritime capabilities.” The Department further stated that “Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to to do the same.”

Similarly on May 13, Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor noted that Labor “shares concerns” about the Chinese naval vessel. O’Connor stated that Labor “note[s] a concerning pattern of behaviour from the [People’s Liberation Army] Navy of intelligence ships entering Australia’s exclusive economic zone” and that he has had “a preliminary conversation with the Defence Minister, and have sought a more comprehensive briefing” on the matter.

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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