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29 January: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

29 Jan 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Morrison’s meetings with the Malaysian and Vietnamese prime ministers, Malka Leifer’s extradition, and more.

On 27 January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison met virtually with Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and elevated the Australia-Malaysia bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). Morrison and Muhyiddin agreed that the CSP will be “underpinned by three streams of cooperation: economic prosperity, society and technology, and defence and national security.”

Morrison virtually held the first Annual Leaders’ Talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc under the Australia-Vietnam Strategic Partnership on 21 January. The prime ministers “agreed to increase efforts to become top ten trading partners and to double bilateral investment” and welcomed “the acceleration of progress on the Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy … [which] will be finalised this year.”

On 27 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Attorney-General Christian Porter “welcomed” the extradition of Malka Leifer from Israel to Australia. Payne thanked the Israeli government, acknowledging that their cooperation “allowed us to reach this point.”

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds noted on 27 January that she had her first virtual meeting with United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Reynolds referred to the meeting as “a warm and productive discussion between trusted allies.”

Reynolds announced on 25 January that the Morrison government will invest $1 billion to “commence the early development of advance guided weapons to enhance Australia’s maritime security.” She stated that “These new capabilities will provide a strong, credible deterrent that will ensure stability and security in the region.” The investment is part of the government’s $183 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

On 21 January, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a joint statement congratulating United States President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration. Albanese and Wong said that “Australia needs to lead by example to work with the US to secure the region we want – one that is stable, prosperous and respects sovereignty.”

Albanese and Wong also welcomed the entering into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 23 January, stating that “a Labor Government would work with our allies and partners [to rid the world of nuclear weapons] and would always act consistently with the US Alliance.”

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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