This week in Australian foreign affairs: Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat, Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, Payne on Myanmar, and more.
On 3 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the virtual Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat “to discuss the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Morrison stated that “Australia is proud to be supporting our Pacific family to maintain a resilient, sustainable and secure region as we also manage the impacts of the pandemic at home.”
On 28 January, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese announced a cabinet reshuffle, including Brendan O’Connor as the new Shadow Minister for Defence and Madeleine King as the new Shadow Minister for Trade.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne expressed on 1 February that “the Australian Government is deeply concerned at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar”. Payne called on Myanmar’s military “to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully.”
On 2 February, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong called on the Government “to review Australia’s defence cooperation program with Myanmar” and to “work with allied and aligned countries to send a clear signal to Myanmar’s military leaders that their actions are a direct attack on Myanmar’s democratic transition and stability.”
Payne stated on 3 February that Australia is “deeply concerned by Russian authorities’ arrest and subsequent sentencing of Alexei Navalny.” She called on Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release”, and also noted concern about “the approach of Russian authorities against peaceful protestors and journalists detained in recent weeks.”
On 2 February, Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds noted that more than 600 Australian Defence Force personnel who were deployed on Operation Fiji Assist in response to Tropical Cyclone Yasa returned to Australia.
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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