This week in Australian foreign affairs: additional support for Ukraine, Wong visits Brunei and Thailand, Australia joins ASAT test ban, Watts addresses Zionist Federation’s Biennial Conference, and more.
On 27 October, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Defence Richard Marles jointly announced additional support for Ukraine. Australia will provide “an additional 30 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles to Ukraine”, as well as “critical training to Ukrainian troops.” The critical training will be provided by a contingent of “up to 70 Australian Defence Force personnel”, who will deploy to the United Kingdom in January 2023 as part of Operation INTERFLEX, however they will not enter Ukraine. Albanese noted that “this is a [sic] not about Ukraine’s sovereignty, the brave people of Ukraine are defending international law, rules and norms.” Marles stated that “our soldiers will be part of a large training program in the United Kingdom to help prepare their Ukrainian mates for their struggle against Russia’s unwarranted and unlawful aggression.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to Brunei Darussalam and Thailand this week, to “further deepen [Australia’s] engagement with Southeast Asia.” She met with the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam in Brunei, as well as Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Dato Erywan and other cabinet ministers “to discuss a range of shared interests, including climate change and security.” While in Thailand, Wong met with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha “to discuss our cooperation on shared regional challenges, including climate action and COVID-19 economic recovery.” She also signed a Joint Plan of Action under the Strategic Partnership with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai. Moreover, Wong signed a new partnership agreement with Minister of Justice Somsak Thepsuthin “to support Thailand’s Centre of Excellence for countering human trafficking.”
On 27 October, Wong, alongside Marles and Minister for Industry Ed Husic, announced that the Australian Government has committed to “never conduct destructive, direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing, consistent with [Australia’s] role as a responsible actor in space.” Australia joins the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and the Republic of Korea in making this commitment. The Ministers noted that “the use of these missiles to destroy space objects is reckless, irresponsible and poses threats to space assets of all nations.” Marles stated that “destructive testing of direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles threatens the security of vital systems in space, which Australia and other nations depend on every day. With this pledge, the Government is demonstrating Australia’s commitment to act responsibly to protect our national security interests.”
Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell travelled to Queenstown, New Zealand on 29 October to meet with his New Zealand counterparts, Minister for Trade Damien O’Connor and Minister for Tourism Stuart Nash. The Ministers sought to “advance trans-Tasman cooperation under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER).” They discussed areas for cooperation, including “Indigenous cultural and economic connections; clean energy and climate change policy; and research, innovation and emerging technologies.” Moreover, they discussed the two nations’ “shared interests in tourism, including the nature of the challenges to the recovery of the tourism sector and making the industry more sustainable.” They also reiterated their commitment to the multilateral rules-based trading system, with the World Trade Organisation “at its core”.
On 31 October, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy visited Papua New Guinea “to deepen the relationship between our two nations.” He attended events commemorating the 80thanniversary of the Kokoda campaign, which he described as “an important part of our national stories and shared identity with PNG.” Conroy also met with Ministerial counterparts “across a range of portfolios” in order to “listen to how Australia can best support PNG’s priorities and consult on Australia’s new development policy.”
Conroy spoke at the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) National Virtual Conference on 27 October, where he “outline[d] how the Albanese Government is reinvigorating Australia’s international development program.” He discussed the reasons for the Government’s commitment to the Australian aid program, including as a way of “promot[ing] economic growth” and “lifting people out of poverty”, as well as “a key element in Australia’s foreign policy toolkit.” Conroy also noted that the Government “will consider options to improve our toolkit, including the findings of the DFAT-led Development Finance Review” and that they will “ensure the new policy has a robust performance and delivery framework to promote effectiveness, transparency and accountability.”
On 29 October, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts opened the Quad Counter-Terrorism Tabletop Exercise in Sydney, which brought together over 60 counter-terrorism experts from the US, Japan, India and Australia. The experts “shared counter-terrorism policy priorities and best practice, exchanged information on evolving terrorist threats, developed understanding of national [counter-terrorism] capabilities and increased awareness around the impact of emerging technologies.” Watts noted that “the terrorism threats facing our region are diverse and dynamic” and that they “are globally connected, enduring, and require a sustained and collective response.”
Watts also addressed the Zionist Federation of Australia’s Biennial Conference on 30 October, where he discussed Wong’s recent “decision to reaffirm Australia’s position on the status of Jerusalem.” He noted that the decision “was to restore Australia’s decades-old position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Watts stated that he “regret[s] the shift away from Australia’s longstanding position in 2018” and that “the timing of the news, falling during the High Holiday period, was deeply regrettable.” He further noted that “Australia’s commitment to Israel has not wavered in the slightest” and that Australia “remain[s] deeply committed to an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
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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