This week in Australian foreign affairs: Adamson’s National Press Club speech, COVID-19 assistance to Fiji and Tuvalu, WTO wine action against China, and more.
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Frances Adamson, addressed the National Press Club on 23 June. Adamson discussed the ‘value of diplomacy in the current moment’, her position as the first female Secretary of DFAT, and reflected on the Australia-China relationship. She referred to the Chinese government as ‘still dogged by insecurity, as much as driven by ambition [and] has a deeply defensive mindset perceiving external threats even as it pushes its interests over those of others.’ She further stated that ‘insecurity and power can be a volatile combination, more so if inadvertently mishandled.’
On 18 June, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Health Greg Hunt, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, jointly announced the deployment of an Australian Medical Assistance Team to assist Fiji’s response to the current COVID-19 outbreak. The deployment is in response to a request from the Government of Fiji, and the team will work with the Fijian Ministry of Health to provide immediate support.
Payne, Hunt and Seselja announced on 19 June that an Australia-facilitated charter flight delivered to Tuvalu 7,000 Australian-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines, as well as 4,800 doses allocated by New Zealand, as part of the COVAX Advance Market Commitment. Alongside the vaccines, Australia’s COVID-19 support to Tuvalu also includes the delivery of four laboratory fridges and medicines including antibiotics, pain relief, heart medication and paediatric and maternal medicines.
On 18 June, Payne announced that Australia will nominate Rosemary Kayess for re-election to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPFD). Kayess is the current Chair of the UNCRPD. Payne stated that ‘a continued Australian presence on the Committee will further strengthen Australia’s efforts on disability inclusion and rights for all people across the world.’
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud issued a joint statement on 19 June where they noted that Australia ‘will defend the interests of Australian wine makers by taking action in the World Trade Organization over China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine.’ The Ministers stated that this decision ‘was taken following extensive consultation with Australia’s wine makers’ and that ‘Australia remains open to engaging directly with China to resolve this issue.’
On 17 June, Tehan noted that the Australian and United Kingdom governments have finalised their Agreement in Principle, which provides scaffolding for the future Free Trade Agreement. Tehan stated that ‘when the agreement is finalised it will deliver the most comprehensive and liberal agreement outside our partnership with New Zealand … Australia will continue to work with the United Kingdom to deliver this gold-standard [Free Trade Agreement] that will benefit both countries and serve as a marker to our shared commitment to free trade.’
Tehan and Minister for Employment Stuart Robert announced on 18 July a new Simplified Trade System Implementation Taskforce which will ‘review international trade regulations and modernise outdated IT systems … to help Australian exporters boost productivity and save time and money’. The Taskforce will be led by Randall Brugeaud, who is currently the CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency.
On 23 June, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke stated that he had exercised his power under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to grant three-month Bridging Visas to three members of the Sri Lankan Murugappan family, who were formerly living on Christmas Island. Hawke noted that ‘under section 195A a Minister can intervene to grant a person a visa if it is in the public interest to do so.’
Hawke announced on 22 June the inclusion of 22 skilled occupations on the Priority Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL). The PMSOL ‘is developed in conjunction with the National Skills Commission to ensure a small number of critical occupations are filled to create Australian jobs and aid in Australia’s ongoing recovery from the impact of COVID-19.’ Some of the new occupations include civil engineer, chef, ICT security specialist, and medical laboratory scientist. Hawke noted that ‘existing skilled migration occupation lists will remain active and visas will still be processed, but priority will be given to those in occupations on the PMSOL.’
On 18 June, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews noted that Australia has committed $4.2 million to the Franco-Ivorian International Counter-Terrorism Academy. Andrews stated that ‘the Morrison Government is committed to keeping Australians safe from violent extremist groups that threaten the peace and cohesion of our society, and is proud to support international partners to do the same.’
Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester issued a statement on 19 June where he noted that a new initiative, the Peace Operations Training Environment Partnership, was launched earlier in the monththrough the Department of Defence. Chester stated that the initiative, an ‘innovative online learning platform,’ will ‘support the training and engagement for Australian and regional peacekeepers’ through providing ‘relevant, contemporary learning activities to support delivery of United Nations core and specialised training.’
Isabella Keith is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is currently an intern at the AIIA National Office.
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