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3 September: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

03 Sep 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: 70th anniversary of ANZUS, Singaporean vaccine swap, Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations, and more.

In a speech to Parliament on 1 September, Morrison acknowledged the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (the ANZUS Treaty). He referred to the treaty as ‘the foundation stone of Australia’s national security and a key pillar for peace and stability in our Indo-Pacific region.’ Morrison pledged ‘to renew and modernise our Alliance; to continue to be vigilant and strong; to build the economic strength for the peace and prosperity of all; and for a world order that favours freedom.’ Morrison also issued a statement on the anniversary of the treaty, where he noted that ‘our countries remain committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and helping our region to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.’

On 31 August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced that Australia’s vaccine rollout will be boosted by 500,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, following a dose swap deal with Singapore. Australia will gain access to 500,000 Singaporean doses now, and in December, Australia will supply 500,000 doses to Singapore. Morrison stated that he ‘would like to convey [his] special appreciation to Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, for our direct engagement over this arrangement, and his Government for their support, highlighting how two governments can work together and manage vaccine stocks before they expire.’

Payne, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, virtually met with their Singaporean counterparts on 27 August for the 12th Meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee. The Ministers discussed their shared commitment to strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and their shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region ‘that is consistent with the principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN Centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, good governance, a rules-based framework, and respect for sovereignty and international law.’ The Ministers also recognised the need for new capacities to address climate change and their good cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ‘significant deepening’ of their bilateral defence relationship. They also expressed concerns about the ‘death toll and continued violence in Myanmar’ as well as the ‘rapidly evolving and dangerous situation in Afghanistan.’

On 30 August, Payne and Dutton virtually met with their French counterparts for the Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations. The Ministers reflected on the strength of their strategic partnership and agreed to publish a report on the Australia-France initiative, ‘AFiniti’, ‘to highlight the depth and breadth of cooperative activities.’ They also reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation during COVID-19 and the ‘importance of strengthening the immediate global response to address climate change and environmental degradation.’

On behalf of Australia, Payne jointly released a statement on 30 August with 94 other nations on Afghanistan evacuation travel assurances. The statement noted that ‘we have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authori[s]ation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.’

On 26 August, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja announced that Australia will deliver more than 400,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam. The delivery is the first instalment towards Australia’s commitment of 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses to be shared with Vietnam in 2021.

Tehan virtually attended the India-Australia Trade Talks with his Indian counterpart on 26 August. The Ministers ‘appreciated the progress made in three rounds of talks between the chief trade negotiators of both sides and discussed the way forward for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).’ They also agreed to begin consultations on ‘the potential opportunities and impacts of an interim agreement as a pathway to a full CECA.’

On 30 August, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced the formation of the Advisory Panel on Australia’s Resettlement of Afghan Nationals. The panel will be co-chaired by humanitarian settlement expert Paris Aristotle AO and Commonwealth Coordinator-General Migrant Services Alison Larkins. The panel is a group of ‘of highly regarded Australian-Afghan community leaders and refugee and settlement experts’ and was formed with the purpose of supporting the provision of 3,000 additional humanitarian places for Afghan nationals and ensuring appropriate settlement and integration supports.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O’Connor issued a joint statement on 1 September where they announced that, if elected, the Labor Government will conduct a Defence Force Posture Review. The Review will be the first since 2012, and ‘would ensure the Australian Government is considering both strategic posture and whether Australian Defence units, assets, and facilities are prepared for the military to take action in a timely way.’

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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