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9 October: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

09 Oct 2020
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand, 2020-21 budget comments, the Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting, and more.

From 5-7 October, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne visited Japan for the second foreign ministers’ meeting of the Quad. The Quad consists of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to working together and with regional countries to support COVID-19 recovery and “promote a stable, resilient and inclusive Indo-Pacific.”

Payne also visited Singapore from 8-9 October, meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to affirm Australia’s “strong friendship” with Singapore, as underpinned by the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Payne congratulated the people of New Caledonia on their second act of self-determination under the Noumea Accord on 4 October, recognising the choice made by New Caledonians to remain a part of France.

The 2020-21 Federal Budget was brought down on 6 October, along with the portfolio budget statements for the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence.

On 6 October, Payne commented on the 2020-21 budget, noting that the government will establish a $304.7 million COVID-19 Recovery Fund over two years as part of the Pacific Step-up, to help address the economic and social costs of the pandemic in the Pacific and Timor-Leste. Australia’s diplomatic network will also receive a further investment of $55.5 million for security upgrades, which will include security upgrades to embassies and residences.

On 6 October, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds reflected on the 2020-21 budget, noting that it “sees sustained strong investment in Australia’s national security, with a focus on regional security, building defence capability and creating jobs, boosting Australia’s cyber resilience, and supporting Australia’s sovereign defence industry.” Reynolds also noted that the budget delivers on the Morrison government’s commitment to grow the defence budget to two percent of GDP in the 2020-21 financial year.

Reynolds announced on 6 October that the Australian government is partnering with Vanuatu to “repair and upgrade the national government emergency radio network across Vanuatu.” The project will “significantly increase Vanuatu’s disaster preparedness and response capability.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 2 October that the Australian government is establishing a Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand. Passengers from New Zealand will be able to travel to Australia without quarantining from Friday 16 October, provided they have not been in an area designated as a COVID-19 hotspot in New Zealand in the preceding 14 days. There are currently no COVID-19 hotspots in New Zealand. The first stage of the Safe Travel Zone will apply to New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

This week, Payne also announced several appointments: Mr Philip Chronican to the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations Advisory Board; Mr Paul Griffiths as Australia’s next ambassador to Israel; Mr Will Nankervis as Australia’s next ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations; Ms Tiffany McDonald as Australia’s next high commissioner to Brunei Darussalam; Ms Elizabeth Ward as Australia’s next consul-general in Hong Kong; and Mr Bruce Edwards as Australia’s next ambassador to Ukraine.

Acting Minister for Immigration Alan Tudge released a statement on 7 October about Australia’s permanent migration program for 2020-21, which will focus on “supporting our economic recovery, growing Australian businesses, and creating jobs for Australians.” Tudge stated that the permanent migration program will remain at a cap of 160,000 places for 2020-21. This cap will be comprised of 79,600 places in the Skill stream, 77,300 in the Family stream, and 3,100 in the Child and Special Eligibility stream. Tudge estimated that two-thirds of permanent visas are expected to go to people already in Australia.

Isabella Keith is an intern at AIIA National Office.

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