Australian Outlook

In this section

4 March: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

04 Mar 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: statements on Ukraine, funding for Australia’s space sector, Australia to host the Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum with the International Energy Agency, and more.

On 24 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a media statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Morrison and Payne stated that “there is no justification for this aggression, whose cost will be borne by innocent Ukrainians.” They further noted that “Vladimir Putin has fabricated a feeble pretext on which to invade. Russia’s disinformation and propaganda has convinced no one.” In the statement, Morrison and Payne announced that Australia will place financial sanctions on “an additional 25 persons and four entities who have been responsible for the unprovoked and unacceptable aggression” and “restrictions on Australians investing in a further four financial institutions.” They also noted that Australia will continue to “work with like-minded countries on further consequences for Russia.” That same day, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong similarly condemned the invasion of Ukraine, noting that “all Australians stand with the people of Ukraine, and are united in condemnation of Russia’s shameful act of aggression.”

Morrison, Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced the provision of lethal military equipment to Ukraine in a further statement on 28 February. They noted that Australia will provide US$3 million to NATO’s Trust Fund “as an immediate measure” for Ukraine for non-lethal military equipment and military supplies, and that “details of Australia’s contribution of lethal military equipment are being worked through with our partners and will be announced soon.” The statement also stated that the Australian Government “strongly supports the announcements made by the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States on further restrictive economic measures”, including the removal of select Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments messaging system.

On 1 March, Morrison and Payne issued an additional press release on Australian support to Ukraine. They announced that Australia will provide “around $70 million in lethal military assistance to support the defence of Ukraine, including missiles and weapons” as well as “a range of non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies in response to a specific request from the Ukrainian Government.” Morrison and Payne noted that Australia will also commit $35 million in “immediate humanitarian assistance”, which will deliver shelter, food, medical care, and water. In a statement on the topic of the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong noted that Labor “will approach [the issue] in a bipartisan way, understanding the need for additional support to Ukraine” and reaffirmed that “strong and comprehensive measures are required to push back against Russia’s invasion.”

Morrison announced on 1 March that Australia will co-host the Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum with the International Energy Agency in Sydney in July. Morrison said that co-hosting the Forum shows “Australia’s commitment to clean energy development across the region” and that “the Forum is a chance to share [Australia’s] expertise with neighbours across the region.”

On 25 February, Morrison issued a statement announcing $65 million in funding to expand Australia’s space sector, and that the Government has “instructed the Australian Space Agency to embark on a mission to put an Australian astronaut back into space.” The funding will go towards the development of “up to three new or existing spaceports or launch sites across Australia” and towards the Australian Space Agency “to procure and provide spaceflights and services for the Australian space sector.”

Payne met with the President of the Republic of Nauru, Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, in Sydney on 25 February. Aingimea and Payne issued a joint media statement announcing Australia-Nauru cooperation on critical transport infrastructure, through Australia’s provision of a $40 million grant finance package to Nauru. Payne noted that the investment “is a practical demonstration of Australia’s commitment to supporting critical infrastructure in our region” and will support the re-surfacing of Nauru’s runway, the provision of air traffic equipment, and will enable “climate-resilient upgrades to sections of the Nauru ring road.”

On 27 February, Payne visited Vientiane, Laos, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Laos-Australia diplomatic relations. In a media release, she announced $16 million in funding for the Laos-Australia Institute “to continue our support for the delivery of highly skilled professionals into the Lao labour market”, as well as $15 million for improved water resources management, and $10 million through the Mekong-Australia Partnership to support the Lao Government’s “public financial management reform efforts.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 1 March the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to hear China’s claims regarding Australia’s anti-dumping and countervailing measures on stainless steel sinks, railway wheels, and wind towers. This step follows consultations held in June 2021 and China’s initial request to establish a panel on 25 January 2022. Tehan stated that Australia’s trade remedies system is “independent, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based” and noted that “Australia will robustly defend this matter before [the] WTO panel.” He reaffirmed Australia’s support for the rules-based multilateral trading system and that Australia “remains ready to resolve this matter through further discussions with China.”

On 24 February, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke hosted a Ukrainian-Australian Community Roundtable “to discuss Australia’s participation in the international response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked actions.” He noted that he received “valuable feedback” during the discussions, “particularly about the types of support community leaders believe is most necessary and relevant” and that this feedback “will be considered during our ongoing planning.”

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.

This article is published under a Creative Commons License and may be republished with attribution.