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7 October 2022: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

06 Oct 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese hosts Sogavare in Canberra, Wong condemns North Korea’s missile launch over Japan, rejection of court ruling against Professsor Sean Turnell, Stephen Smith to be next UK High Commissioner, and more.

On 6 October, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosted Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in Canberra. Albanese noted that “Australia and Solomon Islands are part of the Pacific family and have a strong security partnership, based on decades-long policing and maritime cooperation.” He further stated that Australia is Solomon Islands’ “largest development partner” and that “our relationship with Solomon Islands is incredibly important.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong “strongly condemn[ed]” North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japanese territory on 4 October. She referred to the test as “a reckless and unacceptable act that threatens the security of our neighbours and partners and undermines the stability of the Indo-Pacific.” Wong urged North Korea to “change course, abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, and resume dialogue with the United States and the Republic of Korea”, and stated that Australia “will continue to work with our allies and partners, including the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea to address the threats posed by North Korea.”

On 29 September, Wong stated that the Australian Government “rejects” the court ruling in Myanmar against Australian Professor Sean Turnell and called for his immediate release. She noted that Professor Turnell was tried in a closed court, and that “Australia’s Chargé d’Affaires and consular officials in Myanmar made every effort to attend the verdict but were denied access to the court.” Wong further stated that Australia “will continue to take every opportunity to advocate strongly for Professor Turnell until he has returned to his family in Australia” and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) “will continue to provide consular assistance to Professor Turnell and his family for as long as required.”

Wong announced several diplomatic appointments on 30 September, noting that the appointments “strengthen Australia’s diplomatic capability and match people with the right qualifications and expertise to senior postings.” She further stated that the Government “is reversing the previous government’s approach and rebalancing appointments towards qualified senior officials”, while acknowledging that “in certain circumstances there is a clear advantage of Australia to be represented by people who have had distinguished careers beyond the public service, such as businesspeople and former parliamentarians.” Wong announced that Stephen Smith, who previously served in the Rudd and Gillard Governments as Minister for Defence, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister for Trade, will be the next High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, commencing “in early 2023”. She also announced six career diplomats to lead Australian overseas posts: Dr Simon Twisk as Ambassador to Argentina; Dr Axel Wabenhorst as Ambassador to Egypt; Melissa Kelly as Ambassador to Kuwait; Indra McCormick as Ambassador to Portugal; Tony Huber as Consul-General in Istanbul, Türkiye; and Andre Goledzinowski as Ambassador to Vietnam. In addition, Wong noted that Arthur Sinodinos will conclude as Ambassador to the United States in Februrary 2023, Will Hodgman will conclude as High Commissioner to Singapore in February 2023, Barry O’Farrell will conclude as High Commissioner to India in February 2023, and Mitch Fifield will conclude as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in June 2023. She stated that “a DFAT recruitment process will be carried out to appoint experienced public servants” to each of these positions.

On 2 October, Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus jointly announced additional targeted sanctions and travel bans on 28 Russian-appointed separatists, ministers and senior officials, in response to Russia’s “unilateral, illegal and immoral war on Ukraine.” Wong stated that “these additional sanctions reinforce Australia’s strong objection to the actions of President Putin and those carrying out his orders.” Wong and Dreyfus also noted that Australia has filed an intervention in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case brought by Ukraine against Russia, in support of Ukraine’s claims that Russia has violated the Genocide Convention. Dreyfus noted that the intervention “underscores our commitment to upholding fundamental rules of international law and the integrity of the Genocide Convention.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles attended the Trilateral Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Hawaii on 2 October with his United States counterpart, Lloyd J Austin, and his Japanese counterpart, Hamada Yasukazu. Marles stated that he “stand[s] amongst the closest of friends for Australia … at a time when the global rules-based order is being pressured in a way that we’ve not seen in many, many decades.” He referred to the fact that “China is seeking to shape the world around it in a way that we’ve not seen before, [creating] great challenges for Australia” and that “the bilateral alliance between the United States and Japan [is a] pillar of stability in the region.” Marles further stated that Australia’s strategic alignment with Japan and the United Sates “is built upon relationships of deep affection” and that the trilateral relationship will “only grow deeper and stronger.”

On 29 September, Marles noted that Australia’s “flagship regional engagement activity”, Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE), had commenced that week, involving visiting 14 countries over a two-month period. He stated that “Indo-Pacific Endeavour demonstrates Australia’s commitment to an open, inclusive and resilient region. This is where we live, and we are more secure when we work closely with our partners.” This year, IPE includes military exercises, workshops, training, sporting events and cultural activities across Southeast Asia and the Northeast Indian Ocean.

Marles visited Nauru on 3 October and met with Nauru’s newly elected President, Russ Kun. Marles noted that the visit “has highlighted Australia and Nauru’s close and enduring partnership – underpinned by our commitment to address challenges and achieve shared goals.” Of his meeting with Kun, Marles stated that the pair discussed “emerging priorities, challenges, and our common goals for a stable, sovereign, and resilient Pacific” and that “these engagements really drive home how all countries have a role to play in the international system to support prosperity and security.”

On 2 October, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts travelled to Chile and Peru “to promote Australia’s engagement with Latin America.” In Chile, Watts addressed the Universidad de Chile’s Institute of International Studies on 4 October, where he discussed “our unstable global circumstances [that] have exacerbated inequality”, “the rules-based international order [which] is being challenged”, climate change, and Australia’s First Nations foreign policy. While in Peru, Watts will lead Australia’s delegation to the 52nd General Assembly of the Organisation of American States, where Australia “will engage as a Permanent Observer.” He will also meet with “businesses operating in Chile and Peru to discuss opportunities to share knowledge and work toward solutions to meet our shared emissions reduction goals.”

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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