This week in Australian foreign affairs: Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s passing; Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics bid; Australia-Republic of Korea Senior Officials Policy Dialogue; and more.
On 26 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement expressing Australia’s “deep condolences” to the Somare family and the people of Papua New Guinea following the passing of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. Somare was prime minister of Papua New Guinea for 17 years across four separate terms. Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy also gave their condolences following Somare’s passing on 26 February, paying tribute to his “enormous contribution … to public life in Papua New Guinea and in the wider Pacific region.”
Morrison noted on 25 February that Brisbane is a “step closer” to hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032 after entering into “exclusive negotiations” with the International Olympic Committee. He stated that, “We saw how Sydney 2000 brought our nation together and took Australian sport to a new level, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do if we’re successful in hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games again in 2032.”
The inaugural Australia-Republic of Korea Senior Officials Policy Dialogue was held virtually on 25 February. The Australian delegation was led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Ridwaan Jadwat (First Assistant Secretary, Southeast Asia Division) and the Korean delegation was led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Park Jae-kyung (Director General ASEAN and Southeast Asian Affairs Bureau). The officials “discussed perspectives on regional developments, their priorities in Southeast Asia, engagement on ASEAN, the economic impact of COVID-19 on the region, regional health and economic recovery plans, maritime security and our engagement in the Mekong.”
On 24 February, the Australia-India-France Senior Officials’ Working Group virtually convened. Representatives from DFAT Gary Cowan (First Assistant Secretary, North and South Asia Division) and John Geering (First Assistant Secretary, Europe and Latin America Division) met with Shri Sandeep Chakravorty (Joint Secretary, Europe West) from India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Bertrand Lortholary (Director, Asia and Oceania) of France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. The officials reviewed their progress following the Foreign Secretaries’ Dialogue on 9 September 2020 and “discussed next steps to advance practical cooperation in maritime safety and security; on marine and environmental issues …; and in multilateral fora.”
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a press release on 1 March about the continued unrest in Myanmar following the 1 February coup. Wong argued that “the Australian government has still not made clear what it has done to oppose the recent actions of the Tatmadaw” and urged the Morrison government to “send a strong signal … that the bilateral relationship won’t return to business as usual until democracy is restored.”
On 28 February, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester marked the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army’s 120 years of service. Chester noted that “since 1901, the men and women of the Navy and Army have served with distinction, through war and peace, and more recently as part of major domestic operations.”
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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