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5 August: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

05 Aug 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Defence Strategic Review announced; Wong to travel to Cambodia for the ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum; Latvian embassy in Canberra to open; and more.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issued a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles on 3 August announcing the Defence Strategic Review. The Review “will examine force structure, force posture and preparedness, and investment prioritisation, to ensure Defence has the right capabilities to meet our growing strategic needs.” Albanese and Marles appointed former Minister for Defence, Professor the Hon Stephen Smith, and former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK AFC, to lead the review. The Review and its recommendations will be delivered in “early 2023.” Albanese noted that “this work will help ensure that the Australian Defence Force is well positioned to meet the nation’s security challenges over the next decade and beyond.” Marles stated that the 2020 Defence Strategic Update “identified that changes in Australia’s strategic environment are accelerating more rapidly than predicted in the 2012 Force Posture Review”, which “necessitates an immediate analysis of where and how Defence assets and personnel are best positioned to protect Australia and its national interests … Exploring how our capabilities can better integrate and operate with the United States, the United Kingdom and other key partners will also be an important element of the Review.”

On 3 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced that she would travel that night to Cambodia to attend the ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Wong noted that she “look[s] forward to meeting with regional leaders and ministers to continue to deepen the Australian Government’s engagement with Southeast Asia.” In her ASEAN meetings, she will “underline Australia’s commitment to ASEAN centrality, furthering cooperation through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in areas of shared interest including combatting climate change, building health security, and advancing the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.” At the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum, Wong “will outline Australia’s vision for the region and our positions on the Myanmar crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Wong noted on 2 August that she welcomed her Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs to Australia this week for the opening of Latvia’s first embassy in Canberra. Wong stated that the bilateral relationship is one “based on strong people-to-people links and the pursuit of common interests.” Wong and Rinkēvičs “will discuss [their] shared interest in supporting Ukraine and holding Russia to account for its unilateral, illegal and immoral aggression against the Ukrainian people”, as well as “the urgent challenge of climate change and … how an Australia-EU free trade agreement can accelerate our clean energy transition.”

On 28 July, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, Kiribati, Nauru and the United States issued a joint media statement noting that they had signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding for the East Micronesia Cable project. Australia, Japan and the United States are “collaborating to facilitate effective funding arrangements” for the project. Senior officials representing the six countries met virtually on 26 July at the inaugural Project Executive Board meeting, where they discussed “the importance of coordination and information sharing in order to deliver internet connectivity and improve access to digital technologies for sustainable development.”

Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced further visa support for Ukrainians on 28 July. Giles noted that the Government is providing “access to additional visa pathways” for Ukrainians and their immediate family members in Australia. He stated that since February, the Government has granted over 8,600 visas to Ukrainians in Ukraine, and “hundreds more” to Ukrainians elsewhere in the world, 3,800 of whom have now arrived in Australia. Giles said that “we want to ensure this cohort, both onshore and offshore, can continue to reside in the Australian community for as long as they need, through a range of short and long term visa pathway options” and that “visas for Ukrainians will also continue to be processed as a priority.”

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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