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Episode 75: Scott Morrison Goes to New Zealand

09 Jun 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
 The New Zealand and Australian flags flying next to each other at the Dedication of the Australian Memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Wellington, New Zealand. Source: Wiremu Stadtwald Demchick

Also discussed in this episode: the Samoan constitutional crisis, the Australian government’s closure of its embassy in Kabul, Belarus bringing down a commercial airplane, and the COVID-19 “lab leak theory.”

After some time away from the news, Allan and Darren have a lot to catch up on. This episode begins with PM Scott Morrison’s visit to New Zealand to meet his counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Allan provides his readout of the meeting, in which the leaders sought to affirm their shared interests and seemingly quash commentary that there are growing divisions in the relationship. Second on the list is an emerging constitutional crisis in Samoa, where a very close election result ended up in the courts, with the defeated incumbent not accepting the results. Is there anything Canberra can do? Third, the Australian government has announced the closure of its embassy in Kabul due to security concerns, perhaps no surprise given the ongoing troop withdrawals as the West tries to exit a 20-year war. But will the closure have a meaningful impact on Australian foreign policy?

Fourth, Darren offers his thoughts on the remarkable story in Belarus, where the government successfully forced a commercial airline flying between two European capitals to land so that it could arrest a dissident on board. Finally, Darren cannot resist but bring up the “lab leak hypothesis”, which is the possibility that COVID-19 leaked (accidentally) out of a lab in Wuhan, rather than jumping to humans from animals. Darren tries to set out why this hypothesis has transformed from fringe conspiracy theory to mainstream debate, one which the Biden Administration has publicly instructed its intelligence agencies to report on in the weeks ahead. How credible is the theory? Does it matter whether it’s correct? This is a deep rabbit hole and if listeners want follow Darren down it, some introductory links are in the show notes below.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for his help audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Joint statement: Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison, 31 May 2021:

PM Ardern and PM Morrison, Press Conference Transcript, Queenstown NZ, 31 May 2021:

Marise Payne, Tweet on Samoa election, 24 May 2021:

ABC News (Interview), “Samoa faces crisis after new PM sworn in outside parliament in a tent”, 25 May 2021:

Marise Payne, “Statement on visit to Afghanistan”, 10 May 2021:

Scott Morrison and Marise Payne, “Statement on the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan”, 25 May 2021:

Nicolas Wade, “Origin of COVID — Following the clues”, Medium, 3 May 2021:

Donald McNeil Jr, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Lab-Leak Theory*, Medium, 17 May 2021:

Katherine Eban, “The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins”, Vanity Fair, 3 June 2021:

Daniel Engber, “If the lab leak theory is right, what’s next?”, The Atlantic, 27 May 2021:

Tyler Cowen, “Why the lab leak theory matters” [with link to Ross Douthat Column], Marginal Revolution, 30 May 2021:

David Brophy, China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering, Latrobe University Press:

Tony Blair, “Without total change Labour will die” , The New Statesman, 11 May 2021:

Darren Lim and Nathan Attrill, “Australian debate of the China question: The COVID-19 case”, Forthcoming, Australian Journal of International Affairs, available at: