This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese meets with Truss and Trudeau, Wong leads the Australian delegation to the UN, EOIs open for the Ambassador for First Nations People, and more.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with his United Kingdom counterpart, Prime Minister Liz Truss, at her residence in Kent on 18 September. Albanese noted that “it was good to have our second face-to-face meeting but our first meeting since her rise to Prime Minister”, and that the conversation “was very positive and [the leaders] discussed a range of issues.” He stated that “we have such a close connection with Great Britain and it is one of continuity and that will continue to grow.”
On 18 September, Albanese also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while in London. In his opening remarks at the meeting, Albanese recognised the two nations’ “common values of human rights [and] of support for the international rule of law in our region.” He stated that “we have such similar economies and similar challenges but also opportunities of dealing with climate change and growing our economies, [including] growing good, sustainable jobs.”
Albanese announced on 21 September that Australia “will join other nations in endorsing the Leaders Pledge for Nature”, and that this “highlights Australia’s reinvigorated approach to protecting our environment and climate leadership and signals our solidarity with other world leaders in our commitment to taking strong action on the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.” He further noted the “urgency of the environmental challenges facing our planet”, and that Australia is “committed to being a leader in the global fight to solve [these challenges].”
From 19 to 24 September, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong is leading the Australian delegation to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Wong will “deliver Australia’s national statement outlining our commitment to strengthening the global rules based order, and demonstrating that Australia is a ready and able partner for all countries that seek a world that is peaceful, prosperous and where sovereignty is respected.” Wong will be joined by Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Patrick Dodson, who will “explain and advance the Government’s commitment to implement[ing] the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full”, as well as holding discussions “to listen and learn from the experiences of other countries and Indigenous representatives, as Australia moves to deliver a First Nations foreign policy.”Dodson noted that “First Nations experiences and practices can enrich our diplomacy and strengthen our relationships with other countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Wong, alongside Dodson and Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, announced on 21 September that the Australian Government “is seeking public expressions of interest from individuals to be considered for the Ambassador for First Nations People.” This is the first time that an Ambassador position as been open to a public expression of interest. The Ambassador will head an Office of First Nations Engagement within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “to listen to and work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” Wong stated that the Ambassador “will lead work to embed Indigenous perspectives, experiences and interests into our foreign policy, including to help grow First Nations’ trade and investment”, and that “this role will enhance our engagement in the Indo-Pacific region by fostering cooperation on shared interests.”
On 16 September, Wong, alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, noted in a joint media release that Operation KIMBA, Australia’s operation supporting Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) 2022 national election has now concluded. The operation followed the request of PNG’s Government and consisted of “advisory and capacity building assistance, voter awareness and material support, including printing and delivery of ballot papers.” The Australian Defence Force (ADF) “deployed more than 130 personnel and three aircraft to provide specialist planning, logistics and air support to the election.” Marles noted that “the ADF’s support to the elections is a natural extension of Australia’s longstanding relationship with PNG” and that “Australia’s relationship with PNG is based on our shared history and commitment to supporting the security and well-being of our Pacific family.”
Wong and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy issued a joint statement on 18 Septemberannouncing an additional $3 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the flooding in Pakistan. Wong and Conroy noted that the Government’s “deepest sympathies are with the families and communities that have been, and continue to be, greatly affected.” The support will be delivered through the World Food Program “to address emergency food and livelihoods needs, including for women and children who remain disproportionately affected.”
Conroy noted on 15 September that he travelled to the United Kingdom alongside four Pacific Heads of State and their delegations to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. He stated that “Australia was pleased to offer transport to 10 Pacific Island countries which are members of the Commonwealth and share Australia’s deep and historic connections to the organisation”, and that he had accompanied representatives from Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Conroy stated that the Government “is pleased to help facilitate Her Majesty’s wish that Pacific countries have the opportunity to join other Commonwealth nations to mourn the loss of the Queen and honour her life of duty and service.”
On 18 September, Conroy, alongside Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt, noted that the 2022 Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR) was hosted in Brisbane this past week. More than 3,000 delegates from over 40 Asia-Pacific countries attended the conference, which was hosted in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction(UNDRR). Conroy noted that “Australia’s hosting of this critical forum demonstrates our commitment to building climate and disaster resilience at home and with[in] our region to reduce the impact of future disasters.” He also announced that the Australian Government will provide an additional $50 million to DisasterREADY, “an existing regional disaster risk reduction program delivered through the Australian Humanitarian Partnership by trusted non-government organisations”, as well as $8 million to support WWF-Australia and Oxfam Australia “to support community climate and disaster resilience.” During the conference, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy Jenny McAllister also announced $9 million in funding to the UNDRR “as part of a new three-year partnership to help nations prepare for the impacts of disasters and climate change.”
Minister for Trade Don Farrell, alongside Assistant Minister Tim Ayres, announced on 20 September that ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand have “progressed negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA).” The Ministers described the AANZFTA as “a central pillar of Australia’s trade and investment relationship with ASEAN” and that the purpose of the upgrade is “to modernise the trade agreement, further reduce trade barriers and boost trade and investment in the region.” The Ministers further stated that Ayres led Australia’s delegation to this week’s negotiations in Cambodia.
While in Cambodia, on 16 September Ayres launched the $87 million Cambodia Australia Partnership for Resilient Economic Development (CAP-RED), “a five-year partnership built on more than a decade of Australian support to Cambodian architecture and infrastructure”. He noted that the partnership “was developed after comprehensive consultation with the public and private sectors on the best way to help the Cambodian economy recover after COVID-19” and that it will support the Cambodian Government to “develop policies that drive inclusive, resilient and sustainable economic growth.”
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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