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7 June 2024: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

07 Jun 2024
By Dr Adam Bartley

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Marles addresses Shangri-La dialogue; non-Australian citizens can now join the Australian Defence Force; Wong travels to Solomon Islands to meet with new government; Farrell in Singapore to support IPEF agreements, and more.

On 1 June, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles addressed the Shangri-La dialogue in support of the rules-based order. He remarked that the attempt to frame the new era of strategic competition as “East vs West, North vs South or democracy vs autocracy” only obscured issues and tensions more than they sought to clarify them. The “global rules-based order is not just a “Western project.” Many thinkers from China, India, Africa and from across the Global South have been central to its formation,” he stated. Marles also touched upon Russia’s war against Ukraine and Russia and China’s deepening bilateral partnership. “China’s support for Russia raises important questions about the role it intends to play as a global actor. As China steps up to a larger role it must accept, like all great powers, that there will be much greater scrutiny on the way it uses its strength and which countries it chooses to partner with. Acceptance of such restraints is the key to any successful and durable international order.” Marles also called out China’s behaviour in the South China Sea against Philippine vessels, and the People’s Liberation Army’s behaviour vis-à-vis Australian navy vessels in the region.

In a joint media release with Minister for Defence Personnel and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh on 4 June, Marles announced that the Australian Defence Force had opened recruitment to non-Australian citizens. “Defence is expanding the eligibility criteria to enable more people to join the ADF, including permanent residents who have been living in Australia for 12 months. Under this expanded criteria, from July 2024, eligible New Zealanders who are living in Australia can apply to join the ADF. Additionally, from January 2025, eligible permanent residents from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada will also be able to apply to join the ADF.” The National Defence Strategy has outlined the need for Defence to recruit, retain, and grow a highly specialised and skilled workforce.

On 6 June, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong joined Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy to announce the extension of support to “Papua New Guinea’s health system, by providing antivenom doses and training for PNG healthcare workers.” As part of the agreement, “CSL Seqirus will provide an annual donation of up to 600 vials of Australian-made antivenom to PNG. St John Ambulance will distribute antivenoms to more than 65 healthcare clinics, train healthcare workers in snakebite patient management and collect epidemiological data to improve snakebite care in PNG.” Since 2018, the statement reads, “the partnership has helped save over 2,000 lives, provided almost 3,000 doses of antivenoms for venomous snakes and marine creatures, and delivered training to 1,500 healthcare workers.”

In a media release on 4 June, Wong called on parties to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza. Australia supports US President Joe Biden’s “ceasefire proposal and we are pleased to see growing international support, including from G7 leaders.” “Australia is working with countries that support peace to press all parties to agree to the terms immediately,” the statement reads, noting further that “[c]ivilians must be protected, the catastrophic humanitarian situation must be addressed, and the hostages must be released.”

Wong travelled to the Solomon Islands on 5 June to meet members of the newly elected Solomon Islands Government. Her announcement on 4 June stated that she will meet with “Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele, Foreign Minister Peter Shanel Agovaka, and other Cabinet ministers to listen to their priorities and discuss our shared vision for the bilateral relationship.” Additionally, Wong “will visit Mbokona Community High School to see how Australian investment is strengthening education outcomes in Solomon Islands, and meet with Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme workers to hear about the economic opportunities PALM is bringing to Solomon Islands.”

Also on 4 June, Wong’s office released a statement on the 35th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests. The statement reads: “In Tiananmen Square, 35 years ago, the world witnessed the use of brutal force against student protesters in Beijing. We remember the tragic events and loss of life on 4 June 1989, along with the international community. As we have consistently said, Australia remains concerned about ongoing restrictions on freedom of association, expression and political participation in China.” The statement further calls on China “to cease suppression of freedoms of expression, assembly, media and civil society and to release those detained for peacefully expressing their political views.”

Minister for Trade and Tourism and Special Minister of State Don Farrell announced on 5 June that he will travel to “Singapore to sign three landmark Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) agreements and lead a delegation of senior Australian investors who manage over $2 trillion in assets.” The delegation will be the “first Investment Mission as part of Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.” There, Farrell will “join IPEF ministers to sign the IPEF Fair Economy Agreement, the IPEF Overarching Agreement, and the IPEF Clean Economy Agreement. These three agreements, in addition to the previously signed IPEF Supply Chain Agreement, will help facilitate investment to strengthen economic ties and support the region’s transition to net-zero,” the statement reads. Farrell will also meet with President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong,” as well as “US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and hold the third annual Australia-US Strategic Commercial Dialogue.”

Dr Adam Bartley is the managing editor for AIIA’s Australian Outlook and weekly columnist for The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and resident fellow at the Elliot School for International Affairs, the George Washington University. Adam also has positions as post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation RMIT University  and as program manager of the AI Trilateral Experts Group. He can be found on Twitter here.

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