This week in Australian foreign policy: Morrison’s phone call with Trump, concerns about Russian intrusion into COVID-19 vaccine development, and changes to international student visas.
On July 17, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at a press conference about a “very good discussion” he had with United States President Donald Trump earlier that morning. Morrison referred to Australia’s “very respectful and very mutual partnership with the United States,” and mentioned that the leaders discussed “global economic issues” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 22 July, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Home Affairs, Australian Signals Directorate, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre released a joint statement expressing the Australian government’s concern “over reports of global malicious cyber intrusions,” as detailed in the unsealing of indictments that day by the US Department of Justice. This followed a joint statement by the same group on 17 July declaring Australia’s support for the release of the Joint Cyber Security Advisory by the US, UK, and Canada, which “details malicious cyber activity by Russian actors targeting organisations involved in COVID-19 vaccine development.”
Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge announced on 20 July changes to student visa arrangements “to ensure Australia remains a priority destination for international students as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.” These changes include recommencing granting international student visas and allowing current international students to count online study while overseas towards the Australian study requirement for a post-study work visa.
On 21 July, the Department of Defence announced that an Australian Defence Force Joint Task Group is currently conducting a trilateral exercise with Japan and the US in the Philippine Sea, on the way to participate in “Exercise Rim of the Pacific” in Hawaii.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced on 17 July that Australia has launched “a new international research program to help address the growing rate of zoonotic diseases across South-East Asia and the Pacific.” The Research for One Health Systems Strengthening Program will consist of a $10.2 million investment in research into zoonotic diseases over the next three years.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price announced on 17 July that Australia is leading the way in the Asia-Pacific for maintenance of the Royal Australian Air Force’s new F-35 fighter jets, the first F-35 undergoing routine maintenance in Queensland. Price described this as a “world first” as this maintenance is the first of its type to ever be completed outside the United States.
Isabella Keith is an intern at AIIA National Office.
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