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This Year in Australian Foreign Affairs: 2021

Published 11 Mar 2021
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke https://bit.ly/2ZsyTT3

We want to make it easier for interested Australians to access key official statements about the direction of Australian international policy. Current Events in Australian Foreign Policy will identify and collate important speeches, Parliamentary statements, press releases, and media interviews given by ministers and opposition spokespeople on foreign, trade, defence, and development assistance policy. It is the Australian official word we will be concerned with, rather than the views of foreign governments or commentators.

The Current Events segment will not analyse those statements. We have the rest of Australian Outlook and the Australian Journal of International Affairs to do that when necessary. But in a context in which the traditional media has fewer resources to devote to the reporting of government statements, and information on social media becomes easily scattered, this weekly section will provide interested readers with an authoritative link to the core statements of Australian foreign policy and a better foundation for the wider debate we need about Australia’s external engagement at a time of unparalleled change.

For the historians among you, we want to echo for a new age the tradition of earlier publications like Current Notes on International Affairs, and the Australian Foreign Affairs Record.

We hope you find it useful.

Allan Gyngell

National President, Australian Institute of International Affairs

15 January 

In a press conference on 7 January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the storming of the United States Capitol Building that day as “rather disturbing.” He stated that “we hope for a peaceful and stable transition of government to the new administration, elected by the American people.”

On 8 January, Morrison announced that international passenger caps in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia will be temporarily halved from 15 January “to manage the flow of returning Australians and other travellers who have potentially been exposed to the new [COVID-19] variants.” Morrison also announced further measures, including that international travellers to Australia must return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure and masks must be worn by passengers and air crew on flights and in airports.

On 10 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a joint statement with her counterparts from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, noting “serious concern at the mass arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong for subversion under the National Security Law.” This statement followed one made by Payne on 6 January, where she stated that “Australia has consistently expressed concern that the National Security Law is eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy, democratic principles and rule of law.”

Payne noted on 5 January “the UK Court’s decision in relation to the application to extradite Mr Julian Assange to the United States, which the Court has made on the grounds of his mental health and consequent suicide risk.” Payne further stated that “Australia is not a party to the case and will continue to respect the ongoing legal process.”

On 11 January, Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds released a joint statement noting the progress of Australian Defence Force personnel working on Operation Fiji Assist following Tropical Cyclone Yasa. This followed the ministers jointly announcing on 23 December that the Australian government will provide $4.5 million in humanitarian relief to Fiji following the cyclone.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton issued a joint Five Country statement on 13 January calling on the European Parliament to “protect children around the world by addressing the unintended consequences of the new European Electronic Communications Code.”

On 1 January, Tehan announced that Australian farmers and businesses will benefit from more tariff cuts “delivered by our network of free trade agreements.” Tehan noted that “The proportion of Australian trade covered by free trade agreements is around 70 per cent, up from around 27 per cent in 2013.”

New Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a joint statement with Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud on 5 January, announcing “more flexibility” to encourage student visa holders to “support Australian farmers struggling to find workers during COVID-19.” The increased flexibility means that student visa holders will be permitted to work more than the standard 40 hours per fortnight limit if they are working in the agriculture sector.

21 January 

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese delivered a major foreign policy speech at the Perth USAsia Centre on 20 January, where he spoke about US-Australia relations under a Biden administration. Albanese accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “pandering to President Trump and those who follow him in Australia.” He also urged the new Biden administration to make a “greater, more strategic effort” in Southeast Asia.

In an interview with Jim Wilson of 2GB on 18 January, Morrison repeatedly referred to the violence in the United States as “distressing” and condemned those who stormed the Capitol building, however he did not directly criticise Trump’s actions. He also stated that he “[looks] forward to working very closely with President Biden and his whole team.”

On 16 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, and Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced that the Australian government will support a further 20 facilitated commercial flights from locations around the world in order to help Australians overseas to return. The flights will run from January 31 to March 31 and will be targeted “to regions of most need and [those] not currently met by regular commercial operations.”

Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja noted on 19 January that HMAS Adelaide and its Australian Defence Force Contingent was to return the following day, following the completion of a three-week recovery operation in Fiji following Tropical Cyclone Yasa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) published the 2019-20 Consular State of Play on 18 January to give “a snapshot of the consular assistance provided by the Department … to Australians overseas during the last financial year.” The period, marked by the COVID-19 crisis, has demanded “the largest and most complex consular responses Australia has undertaken.”

29 January 

On 27 January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison met virtually with Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and elevated the Australia-Malaysia bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). Morrison and Muhyiddin agreed that the CSP will be “underpinned by three streams of cooperation: economic prosperity, society and technology, and defence and national security.”

Morrison virtually held the first Annual Leaders’ Talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc under the Australia-Vietnam Strategic Partnership on 21 January. The prime ministers “agreed to increase efforts to become top ten trading partners and to double bilateral investment” and welcomed “the acceleration of progress on the Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy … [which] will be finalised this year.”

On 27 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Attorney-General Christian Porter “welcomed” the extradition of Malka Leifer from Israel to Australia. Payne thanked the Israeli government, acknowledging that their cooperation “allowed us to reach this point.”

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds noted on 27 January that she had her first virtual meeting with United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Reynolds referred to the meeting as “a warm and productive discussion between trusted allies.”

Reynolds announced on 25 January that the Morrison government will invest $1 billion to “commence the early development of advance guided weapons to enhance Australia’s maritime security.” She stated that “These new capabilities will provide a strong, credible deterrent that will ensure stability and security in the region.” The investment is part of the government’s $183 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

On 21 January, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a joint statement congratulating United States President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration. Albanese and Wong said that “Australia needs to lead by example to work with the US to secure the region we want – one that is stable, prosperous and respects sovereignty.”

Albanese and Wong also welcomed the entering into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on 23 January, stating that “a Labor Government would work with our allies and partners [to rid the world of nuclear weapons] and would always act consistently with the US Alliance.”

5 February 

On 3 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the virtual Pacific Islands Forum Special Leaders Retreat “to discuss the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Morrison stated that “Australia is proud to be supporting our Pacific family to maintain a resilient, sustainable and secure region as we also manage the impacts of the pandemic at home.”

On 28 January, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese announced a cabinet reshuffle, including Brendan O’Connor as the new Shadow Minister for Defence and Madeleine King as the new Shadow Minister for Trade.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne expressed on 1 February that “the Australian Government is deeply concerned at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar”. Payne called on Myanmar’s military “to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully.”

On 2 February, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong called on the Government “to review Australia’s defence cooperation program with Myanmar” and to “work with allied and aligned countries to send a clear signal to Myanmar’s military leaders that their actions are a direct attack on Myanmar’s democratic transition and stability.”

Payne stated on 3 February that Australia is “deeply concerned by Russian authorities’ arrest and subsequent sentencing of Alexei Navalny.” She called on Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release”, and also noted concern about “the approach of Russian authorities against peaceful protestors and journalists detained in recent weeks.”

On 2 February, Payne and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds noted that more than 600 Australian Defence Force personnel who were deployed on Operation Fiji Assist in response to Tropical Cyclone Yasa returned to Australia.

19 February

On 15 February, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a press release on the launch of the Canadian-drafted Declaration Against the Use of Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations at the Human Rights Council. Payne noted that Australia “will continue to work with international partners against the practice of arbitrary detention” and commended Canada’s leadership of the initiative. She also stated that “Australia will hold countries to account for their international commitments and the obligation to comply with international laws and practices.” Payne also delivered a video message at the launch, in which she stated that “the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a pretext for reducing or removing access to justice and consular assistance for people in detention.”

Payne issued a statement on 11 February about Professor Sean Turnell, who has been detained in Myanmar since 6 February. She said that Australia’s ambassador to Myanmar was able to speak with Turnell following “extensive Australian Government advocacy for consular access to him.”

On 16 February, Payne announced that the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations 2021-2022 competitive grants round is now open. The foundation is “an important demonstration of the Government’s commitment to a constructive relationship with China based on mutual respect.” Payne stated that the foundation “is committed to supporting connections and practical cooperation with China and engaging Australia’s diverse community as part of this endeavour.”

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds issued a statement on 13 February noting that five Australian fire trucks are travelling to Papua New Guinea on board HMAS Choules after being donated by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to assist with local firefighting efforts. Reynolds said that Australia “welcomed this opportunity to acknowledge and thank PNG for their support 12 months ago during the Black Summer Bushfires.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) published the Australian statement delivered at the 29th Special Session of the Human Rights Council on Myanmar on 12 February. The statement noted that “Australia has serious concerns about the military coup in Myanmar and for its democratic transition … We strongly urge the military to engage in dialogue to support a return to civilian rule, and the reconvening of the National Assembly the Myanmar people so clearly want.”

DFAT also acknowledged the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the Philippines on 12 February, noting that “our enduring friendship is based on shared interests and values, supported by strong people-to people links. The relationship has developed into a mature partnership that seeks to advance our mutual interests through cooperation in trade, development, defence and security.”

26 February

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne virtually attended the third Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 18 February, alongside her American, Japanese, and Indian counterparts. Payne referred to the Quad as a “key pillar of Australia’s international agenda,” noting that it “[brings] together four like-minded democracies committed to respecting and upholding international rules and obligations.” She stated that “Quad countries work with ASEAN and through ASEAN-led architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit, to advance a stable and prosperous region.”

On 19 February, Payne and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack announced that Australia will seek re-election to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Council for the 2022-23 biennium, “to secure [our] voice at the world’s premier maritime forum.” Payne noted that “re-election will allow Australia to continue to build on decades of collaboration that has resulted in significant steps forward both environmentally and economically for our country and our regional partners.”

Payne released a statement on 18 February announcing the appointment of Roger Noble as Australia’s next ambassador for Counter-Terrorism. Noble was a major general and head of Military Strategic Commitments at Australian Defence Force Headquarters.

On 18 February, Payne announced the appointment of John Donnelly as Australia’s next high commissioner to Nigeria. Donnelly will also be accredited to Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Niger, and the Gambia.

Payne also announced the appointment of Nicholas Greiner as Australia’s next consul-general in New York on 18 February. Greiner was the federal president of the Liberal Party of Australia from 2017 to 2020 and premier of New South Wales from 1988 to 1992.

On 24 February as acting minister for Defence, Payne issued a statement announcing that Australia is deploying a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “in support of the international community’s goal of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea.” The aircraft will deploy on Operation ARGOS and will operate out of Kadena Airbase in Japan. Minister Payne said that “Australia is committed to the stability and security of our region and will continue to support sanctions on North Korea until it takes concrete steps towards denuclearisation.”

On 24 February, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Education Alan Tudge issued a joint media release announcing the five-year Study with Australia project, which will “showcase Australian education to new and existing learners worldwide.” Tudge stated that, “[of] course, we want international students back in Australia, but while international travel is limited, this initiative ensures students can stay connected to Australia and our world-leading education providers at a time when they need it most.”

Tehan also noted on 24 February that the UK and Australian Space Agencies have signed the Space Bridge Framework Agreement, which will “connect Australian and UK expertise in the space industry and showcase the strength of Australia’s space sector.”

5 March

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.”

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.”

12 March 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on 10 March about the upcoming Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’s (the “Quad”) first summit meeting, saying it is about “ensuring an open, independent, sovereign Indo-Pacific that enables all countries and nations within the Indo-Pacific to engage with each other, all of them, and to do that in a way which is good for their own citizens and good for the peace and prosperity of the region itself.” He also said, “[the Quad is] not a mini UN of four nations … This is about four like-minded countries coming together that have significant interests within the Indo-Pacific region, that has fantastic relationships with countries throughout the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that all of us can have the assurances about the peace and stability of the region.” The summit meeting will be held virtually on 12 March.

On 7 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a statement on Myanmar, following the military coup and “escalating violence and rising death toll.” Payne called for the “immediate release of [Australian] Professor Sean Turnell, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others who have been arbitrarily detained since 1 February.” Payne also noted that “Australia has been renewing its Myanmar policy settings” and has “undertaken extensive consultations with our international partners, particularly our ASEAN neighbours, Japan and India.” Moreover, Payne announced that Australia’s limited bilateral Defence Cooperation Program with Myanmar’s military “will be suspended.” She also stated that “Australia’s development program is being re-directed to the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor including the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities” and that humanitarian engagement will be “with and through non-government organisations, not with government or government-related entities, as is currently the case in some parts of the program.” Finally, Payne noted that “Australia’s autonomous sanctions regime already includes an arms embargo that prohibits supplying weapons to Myanmar and targeted sanctions on a number of individuals … We continue to review our sanctions regime.”

Payne gave a speech on 5 March at UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day event, where she noted that “[putting] women in our Indo-Pacific region and globally, front and centre, is a key to our economic recovery from COVID-19.” She also stated that “[over] the past 12 months, I’ve been honoured to engage – virtually – with Pacific women leaders in particular, with women foreign ministers from around the world to discuss our practical efforts to prioritise gender equality in the COVID-19 response … Women’s leadership and economic recovery go hand in hand.”

On 9 March, in her capacity as Acting Defence Minister, Payne issued a joint media release with Member for Leichhardt Warran Entsch on boosting maritime capacity in the Pacific. In the release, Payne and Entsch announced that TAFE Queensland has been awarded a $36 million contract to provide mariner training and support to the Navy crews of the Guardian-class Patrol Boats, as part of the Morrison government’s $2 billion Pacific Maritime Security Program. Under the program, Australia is replacing the existing Pacific patrol boats with 21 new Guardian-class patrol boats to 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste “to enhance regional maritime capability and capacity.” Payne said that the contract with TAFE Queensland is “designed to adapt and adjust, to meet the needs of our Pacific partners” and “will have significant strategic benefits in the Pacific.”

Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced on 8 March a new Ministerial Direction to guide decision-makers applying the character test to certain visa cancellation and refusal decisions. The direction “reinforces the Government’s intolerance for family violence by requiring decision-makers to consider family violence as a primary consideration when making visa determinations.” Hawke stated that “Being a member of the Australian community is a privilege and it comes with a responsibility to respect and abide by our laws … These changes align with the Australian community’s expectation that non-citizens who commit serious offences will not be permitted to enter or stay in Australia.”

19 March

On 12 March, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, comprised of the United States, Japan, India and Australia, held its first-ever leader-level summit. Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated in his opening remarks at the summit, that “[it] is the Indo-Pacific that will now shape the destiny of our world in the 21st Century.” The Quad leaders also issued a joint statement where they noted that they convened “to reaffirm our commitment to quadrilateral cooperation … and are united in a shared vision for the free and open Indo-Pacific.” The leaders committed to, among other things, joining forces to expand “safe, affordable and effective vaccine production and equitable access,” working to “strengthen the climate actions of all nations,” prioritising the role of international law in the maritime domain, “the complete denuclearisation of North Korea,” and restoring democracy in Myanmar.

Morrison responded to Mathias Cormann’s selection as the Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on 13 March, describing it as “the most senior appointment of an Australian candidate to an international body for decades.” He also referred to the OECD as “one of the world’s most important international economic institutions … [and] as the global economy recovers from COVID-19, the OECD’s role in shaping international economic, tax and climate change policy will be more critical than ever.”

On 17 March, Morrison, along with Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced that Australia is supporting Papua New Guinea’s COVID-19 response following “a concerning spike in cases” in order to “help save lives and support our closest Pacific neighbour’s health system.” This includes providing 8,000 AstraZeneca vaccines from Australia’s stock, requesting 1 million of Australia’s contracted AstraZeneca vaccine doses to be gifted to Papua New Guinea, deploying a team of three AUSMAT health specialists to Port Moresby, and supplying PPE to the government, including 1 million surgical masks. Moreover, flights between Port Moresby and Cairns were suspended, and passenger capacity on flights between Port Moresby and Brisbane reduced by 25 percent. On 17 March, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong noted that Labor supports the announcement of these measures, following calls earlier in the week for the Morrison government to “speed up and step up the support it is providing to Papua New Guinea.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a joint statement with her New Zealand equivalent, Nanaia Mahuta, on 13 March about the electoral changes in Hong Kong passed on 11 March. The ministers stated that they are “deeply concerned that [these] changes … further undermine rights and freedoms and the high degree of autonomy guaranteed by China to Hong Kong until 2047 under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.” The ministers noted that the changes “run contrary to the ultimate aim of a Hong Kong Chief Executive elected through universal suffrage, weaken Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, and erode freedom of speech and association … This is a significant step which will further undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy.” They called on the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities to “uphold their commitments, allow genuine avenues for the people of Hong Kong to participate in their governance, and protect the role of the Legislative Council as a forum for the expression of diverse views and scrutiny of government.”

On 12 March, Payne and Seselja announced that the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine sharing initiative, has started rolling out the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Australia’s Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours, with Fiji, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines receiving vaccines so far. Payne and Seselja stated that, “there is no higher priority for Australia and countries in our region than access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.”

Payne issued a statement on 11 March marking ten years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, and paid the Australian government’s respects to “the Government and people of Japan, the first responders, and those who lost loved ones in this disaster.”

On 15 March, in her capacity as acting defence minister, Payne announced that two Royal Australian Navy ships, HMA Ships Anzac (III) and Sirius are conducting a two-month deployment throughout the Northeast Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. The group “will conduct a number of bilateral and multilateral activities, including participating in Exercise La Perouse, a French-led multilateral maritime exercise in the Northeast Indian Ocean.”

Payne also noted as acting defence minister on 11 March, alongside Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu Ishmael Kalsakau, that construction has commenced in Port Vila under the Cook and Tiroas Barracks Redevelopment project “to support the Vanuatu Police Force’s growth and capability development.”

On 15 March, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced that Australia will request that the World Trade Organization “establish a dispute settlement panel in the next phase of the process to resolve anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on Australian barley by China.” Tehan stated that this next step follows dispute settlement consultations in late January between Australia and China and that, “while there was constructive engagement on both sides, these consultations did not resolve our concerns.”

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese issued a joint statement with Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong on 17 March, calling on the Morrison government to “work with Lebanon and the international community to deliver an independent, impartial and transparent investigation into the explosion at Beirut Port on the 4th of August, 2020.”

26 March

On 23 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a joint statement on human rights abuses in Xinjiang with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta. The Ministers “[reiterated] their grave concerns about the growing number of credible reports of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xingjiang.” Moreover, the Ministers welcomed the recent announcement of sanctions on senior Chinese officials by the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, noting that they “share these countries’ deep concerns, which are held across the Australian and New Zealand communities.”

Payne announced several diplomatic appointments on 19 March: Paul Wojciechowski as Australia’s next Ambassador to AfghanistanSarah Kirlew as Australia’s next Consul-General in ChennaiDavid Yardley as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Kiribati, and Felicity Volk as Australia’s next Ambassador to Nepal.

On 18 March, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced the release of the Australian Trade and Investment Commission’s (Austrade) Why Australia: Benchmark Report 2021. Tehan noted that the data contained in the report “demonstrates the resilience of the Australian economy and the strength of our economic and health response to COVID-19 that cements our position as a world-leading destination for investment.”

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton announced on 22 March that the United Kingdom-based far-right extremist group, Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD), has been listed for the first time as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code. Dutton noted that “members of SKD have already been convicted of terrorist offences in the United Kingdom” and that “SKD’s active promotion and encouragement of terrorism has the potential to inspire extremists across the world, and the availability of SKD propaganda online throughout the pandemic has provided fertile ground for radicalisation.”

2 April

On 29 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a cabinet reshuffle, including Peter Dutton as the new Minister for Defence and Karen Andrews as the new Minister for Home Affairs. Previous Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds will be taking on the portfolio of Government Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Melissa Price, Minister for Defence Industry, will be returning to the Cabinet.

Morrison and Dutton issued a joint media release on 31 March announcing the acceleration of the creation of a $1 billion Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise. Dutton stated that, “This announcement builds on the agreement the Morrison Government achieved at AUSMIN last year to pursue options to encourage bilateral defence trade and to advance initiatives that diversify and harness our industry cooperation.”

On 30 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced that Australia has imposed targeted financial sanctions and travel bans “against a Russian individual and four Russian companies connected to the construction and operation of the Kerch Strait Railway Bridge linking Russia to the illegally annexed territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.” Payne’s announcement was made in coordination with Canada, and in alignment with actions taken by the United Kingdom and European Union. The subjects of the sanctions are set out in the Autonomous Sanctions (Designated Persons and Entities and Declared Persons – Ukraine) Amendment (No. 1) Instrument 2021, registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.

Payne also stated on 30 March that “Australia welcomes the joint inquiry into the Tigray conflict announced by the UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.” She also noted that Australia will provide $3 million to the World Food Programme “to help meet the needs of those most vulnerable.”

On 25 March, Payne said she was “deeply saddened by the news of the devastating fire in the Kutupalong Balukali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.” She announced an additional $10 million in emergency assistance from the existing humanitarian budget to those affected by the fire, noting that this support will be provided through the United Nations High commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme, and the United Nations Population Fund.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price, and Assistant Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie jointly acknowledged on 31 March the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. Price stated that, “[whether] it is defending Australia’s national interests or providing humanitarian and disaster relief here at home or around the globe, Air Force is so often a beacon of hope and living its motto: Per Ardua, Ad Astra – through struggle, to the stars.”

9 April 

On 6 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, welcomed the two-way Trans-Tasman travel bubble. The statement followed the New Zealand Government’s announcement that it will join the Safe Travel Zone between Australia and New Zealand. The announcement “will enable quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand” and follows Australia’s opening of a one-way Safe Travel Zone from New Zealand to Australia six months ago. In a press conference on 6 April, Morrison stated that the announcement is “the first of many steps to come … as we get back to a more normal position.”

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton stated on 5 April that the Royal Australian Navy ships HMAS Anzac and HMAS Sirius will join vessels from France, India, Japan and the United States for the French-led maritime Exercise La Perouse, in the Bay of Bengal from 5-7 April. Dutton welcomed the exercise, saying “Australia’s participation highlights the importance of building and maintaining strong navy-to-navy relationships in the region.”

On 6 April, Tehan launched the Services Exports Action Plan to boost Australia’s services exports “beyond education and tourism”. The plan “supports the international competitiveness of Australia’s world-class services businesses and helps them find new export partners, grow their business, employ more people, and capitalise on the opportunities offered by international markets.”

Tehan also launched the Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX) on 6 April. The AIBX will “provide businesses in both nations with market insights and connections to foster commercial partnerships that will help generate jobs and business opportunities in Australia and India.” It delivers on commitments in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the Government’s response to the India Economic Strategy. Tehan stated that, “AIBX presents opportunities to build on our close people-to-people ties and shared vision for a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

On 1 April Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck, announced that the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. Australian host cities include Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Payne stated that “the competition will champion the further development of women’s football in both [Australia and New Zealand], the Asia-Pacific region and globally.”

16 April

On 10 April, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Health Greg Hunt and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced that Australia will “soon start sharing doses of our Australian manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine with our neighbours.” The vaccine doses will initially be made available to Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, and in the coming weeks will be available to Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. At least 10,000 vaccines will be shared per week, and Australia will “scale up as required.” The Ministers also noted that they are “working to procure vaccines through the global market for our neighbours in the wider Pacific and Southeast Asia … Our region’s health security and economic recovery is intertwined with our own.”

On 9 April, Payne and Seselja stated that “Australia is working closely with the Government of Papua New Guinea to support its COVID-19 response, deploying a second team of health and medical specialists.” Since 13 March, five Royal Australian Air Force flights and four commercial flights have delivered “8,480 vaccines and related consumables, PPE, temporary triaging facilities, rapid COVID tests, medical equipment, and an ambulance.”

On 11 April, Payne and Seselja noted that Australia is “working in partnership with our close friend and Timor-Leste to support its recovery from the devastating Easter weekend flooding and its impact on COVID-19 preparedness.” Following a request for assistance from the Government of Timor-Leste, the Morrison Government is providing emergency relief of $7 million to the estimated 100,000 people affected by the flooding. This relief will include the provision of personal protective equipment, temporary shelter, critical household items, financial assistance, and assistance through the World Food Programme. The Ministers issued an update on the situation in Timor-Leste on 14 April where they noted that an Australian Medical Assistance Team and 27 tonnes of emergency relief, “including hygiene, shelter and food preparation kits” had arrived in Timor-Leste.

Payne, joined by Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, released the second Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2021-2031 on 12 April. In doing so they stated that they were “renewing [the Government’s] commitment to the full and equal participation of women and girls in peace and security arrangements.” The Plan identifies four outcomes that will guide Australia’s international peace and security efforts: “supporting women’s participation and needs in peace processes; reducing sexual and gender-based violence; supporting resilience, crisis, and security, law and justice efforts to meet the needs and rights of all women and girls; and demonstrating leadership and accountability for women, peace and security.”

Payne announced several diplomatic appointments on 14 April: Ms Penny Williams PSM as Australia’s next Ambassador to IndonesiaMs Rowan Ainsworth as Australia’s next Consul-General in Kolkata; and Mr Peter Truswell as Australia’s next Consul-General in Mumbai.

On 9 April, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews reflected on her virtual attendance at the latest Five Country Ministerial Meeting on 8 April alongside her counterparts from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. The Ministers “covered a range of important issues, including migration and borders, addressing foreign interference, cybercrime and countering child sexual exploitation and abuse.” In the communique from the Meeting, the Ministers agreed to: share best practices on effective border and migration measures in response to COVID-19; collaborate with other likeminded countries to shape international processes and standards to support a resilient international travel system; share experiences to combat foreign interference; actively support the Budapest Convention as the best tool to combat cybercrime; and to undertake a feasibility study regarding the potential to develop a specific, combined dataset of child sexual abuse material to more efficiently identify and safeguard victims and pursue offenders.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 14 April the commencement of new Austrade CEO Xavier Simonet. Tehan welcomed Simonet’s arrival and stated that “Austrade plays an important role in helping Australian businesses access international opportunities and securing investment to grow our industries.” Simonet “[acknowledged] the critical role Austrade is playing a world full of challenges … and opportunities.”

On 14 April, Tehan announced that he will travel to Europe and the United Kingdom for further Free Trade Agreement negotiations, to encourage investment in Australia, and to discuss vaccine supply. Tehan will discuss the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement with European Commission Vice President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement with Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss. He will also meet with ministerial counterparts in Germany, France and Brussels “to discuss vaccine production and the EU export restriction regime.” Finally, Tehan will co-chair the second Australia-France Trade and Investment Dialogue with Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness Franck Riester. Tehan stated that, “our negotiations will uphold our commitment to rules-based trade and investment liberalisation while protecting our national interest.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement following His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing on 9 April. Morrison stated that, “Prince Philip was no stranger to Australia, having visited our country on more than 20 occasions … Australians send our love and deepest condolences to Her Majesty and all the Royal Family. The Commonwealth family joins together in sorrow and thanksgiving for the loss and live of Prince Philip.” He issued a further statement on 10 April where he addressed Queen Elizabeth II, saying, “we … say to you as a Commonwealth, let us also now be your strength and stay, as you continue to endure, as you continue to serve so loyally and so faithfully, as you have done over so many generations.”

23 April 

On 15 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne jointly announced the withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan by September 2021. This mirrors the United States’ recent announcement, and according to the Ministers, it is “consistent with the Government’s policy … in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update to prioritise military resources on our region”. The Ministers also noted that 41 Australians have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan since 2001, and more than 39,000 Australians have served.

Morrison virtually delivered a speech on 15 April at the sixth annual Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, India, where he discussed the Australia-India relationship. He reflected on the Indo-Pacific region, the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and Exercise MALABAR, which Australia, India, Japan and the United States participated in last November. Morrison stated that, “Our region confronts some formidable challenges, and the pandemic has sparked a renewed appreciation amongst like-minded nations for each other and what we both can contribute, all of us can contribute, to our partnerships and to our region … Together, we carry the aspirations for the future. A region stable, a region prosperous with healthy people and a clean environment.”

Payne noted on 21 April that four arrangements between the Victorian state government and foreign national governments will be cancelled, due to inconsistency with Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020. These arrangements are:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and Training (Victoria) and the Technical and Vocational Training Organisation, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Islamic Republic of Iran, signed 25 November 2004;
  • The Protocol of Scientific Cooperation between the Ministry of Higher Education in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Training of Victoria, signed 31 March 1999;
  • The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative, signed 8 October 2018; and
  • The Framework Agreement between the Government of Victoria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China on Jointly Promoting the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, signed on 23 October 2019.

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, gave a speech at the Asia Society on 21 April as part of the Leaders on Asia program. Adamson outlined Australia’s three main regional engagement priorities over the next five years, which she stated “will be crucial for Southeast Asia”: recovery from COVID-19; commitment to the region’s resilience, as seen in the new $232 million Mekong-Australia Partnership; and building stronger relationships. She also referred to the coup in Myanmar as “catastrophic” and “one of the sharpest challenges our region faces … [it is] a security, political and humanitarian crisis that is not only catastrophic for the people of Myanmar, but imperils regional stability and enmires ASEAN in issues that divert attention from the priorities of economic recovery and strategic agency.”

On 15 April, Payne, Dutton and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a joint statement in which they “[joined] international partners to support the US statement of 15 April 2021 to hold Russia to account for its harmful cyber campaign against US software firm, SolarWinds.” The Ministers also noted that, “over the past 12 months, Australia has witnessed Russia use malicious activity to undermine international stability, security and public safety.”

Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced on 19 April that they will visit New Zealand from 21-23 April. During the visit, Payne will participate in the biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations and will meet with other senior New Zealand ministers and representatives, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Seselja will meet with New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, to discuss vaccine access and rollout coordination.

On 21 April, Payne announced the launch of Australia’s International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy, which sets out the goal of “a safe, secure and prosperous Australia, Indo-Pacific and world, enabled by cyberspace and critical technology.” In a speech on the same day as the launch, Payne stated that “technology companies today are significant global actors whose decisions and products shape economies, security, even geostrategic and foreign policy developments.” The Strategy is based on three key pillars of values, security and prosperity and is available here. The strategy contains a package to support cyber and critical technology resilience in the region, including:

  • Australia co-sponsoring a proposal to establish a new United Nations Program of Action for Responsible State Behaviour in Cyberspace;
  • An additional $20.5 million to strengthen cyber and critical technology resilience in Southeast Asia; and
  • A further $17 million to support neighbours in the Pacific to strengthen their cyber capabilities and resilience.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong responded to the launch of the International Cyber and Critical Technology Engagement Strategy on 21 April, stating that it “comes five months too late and falls short on real action to counter growing cyber threats.” Wong noted that “the strategy does not propose any new actions by the Morrison Government to tackle the billion-dollar wave of ransomware attacks Australian businesses are facing from international cybercrime groups.”

On 19 April, Wong delivered the Annual Lecture of the Australian Institute of International Affairs’ Tasmania Branch, where she discussed human rights in Australia’s foreign policy future. She reflected on the military coup in Myanmar and the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, referring to both as “harrowing developments.” Wong further stated that “[Australia] should speak out clearly and consistently in support of human rights. And where we can, we should act.” She also noted the reports of violations of international law in Xinjiang, China, and argued that the Morrison Government’s “slowness to act on this sends a regrettable message … that we are not committed.” Wong reflected on the foreign policy achievements of past Labor governments, and contrasted the Government’s approach as being “shallow and reflexive.”

30 April 

On 27 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced the temporary pausing of passenger flights from India and the provision of emergency medical supplies due to the nation’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Flights will be paused until at least 15 May, and Payne and Morrison have indicated that once flights resume, “vulnerable Australians” will be prioritised. Australia will provide medical supplies to India, including up to 3,000 ventilators, 500,000 P2/N95 masks, 100,000 surgical gowns, 100,000 goggles, 100,000 pairs of gloves and 20,000 face shields.

Morrison virtually attended the Leaders’ Summit on Climate on 22 April convened by United States President Joe Biden, where he stated that “Australia is on the pathway to net zero” and the investment of “around $20 billion to achieve ambitious goals that will bring the cost of clean hydrogen, green steel, energy storage and carbon capture to commercial parity.” At the Summit, Morrison also revealed a new $565.8 million commitment to “back low emissions international technology partnerships and initiatives by co-funding research and demonstration projects.” He stated that “[Australia will] work closely with our friends and neighbours to play our part in the global effort to cut emissions through technology while driving economic growth, creating jobs and pushing down energy costs.”

Morrison and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced on 28 April the investment of $747 million to upgrade four key training areas in the Northern Territory to “enable the Australian Defence Force to conduct simulated training exercises and remain battle ready.” The upgrades will be made to four key military training areas and weapon ranges, specifically Robertson Barracks, Kangaroo Flats, Mount Bundey, and Bradshaw. Morrison stated that, “working with the United States and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across Northern Australia.”

On 25 April, Payne issued a statement on the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting, held in Jakarta on 24 April. She noted that Australia welcomes the five points of consensus reached in the meeting on the situation in Myanmar, including the immediate cessation of violence, the provision of humanitarian assistance, and the commencement of constructive dialogue among all parties involved. Payne stated that “Australia sees ASEAN at the core of an open, stable and resilient Indo-Pacific. It has a critical role to play in charting a course out of the current crisis.” She also noted that Australia will provide $5 million to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar.

Payne virtually attended the 14th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women on 27 April, which “brought together Pacific decision-makers, development partners, research institutions and civil society organisations to discuss the challenges to gender equality in the region, including the impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls.” Following the conference, she announced Australia’s increase in support for regional gender equality through the new Pacific Women Lead program, which will be delivered with Pacific partners and will provide $170 million over 5 years. The program will “focus on women’s leadership and women’s rights including safety, health and economic empowerment.”

On 22 April, Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta met in Wellington for the biannual Australia-New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. The Ministers issued a joint statement on “the importance of promoting our shared interests in an open, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific” and reaffirming “their intent to work together to preserve the liberal international order that has underpinned stability and prosperity in the [Indo-Pacific] region.” They also welcomed progress on the Australia-New Zealand Single Economic Market agenda and reflected on the “closeness and importance” of the Australia-New Zealand relationship.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, along with his Indian and Japanese counterparts, announced the launch of the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) on 28 April. The Ministers issued a joint statement, noting that the SCRI will involve “sharing best practices on supply chain resilience” and “holding investment promotion events and buyer-seller matching events to provide opportunities for stakeholders to explore the possibility of diversification of their supply chains.” In a separate statement, Tehan stated that “Australia’s supply chains have generally proven resilient, but the pandemic has highlighted the need for greater international cooperation to strengthen supply chains.”

On 22 April, Tehan and his French counterpart Franck Riester issued a joint statement on Tehan’s visit to Paris for the 2nd session of the bilateral dialogue of Trade and Investment, held on 21 April. The Ministers “welcomed the continuing development of … economic and trade relations [between the two nations], despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.” They also reviewed bilateral trade investments and “opportunities in strategic fields, including critical minerals, renewable energy, hydrogen, space and agriculture.” The Ministers further affirmed their support for multilateral institutions, specifically the WTO, as key to ensuring rules-based governance of the international trade system. Finally, they “reaffirmed the importance of the ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the European Union.”

Tehan also visited Maldives on 25 April, where he met with Speaker of the People’s Majlis and former President Mohamed Nasheed and participated in a roundtable with his ministerial counterparts, “to discuss COVID-19 and the global economic recovery, trade and investment links, and collaboration on education, climate change and environmental challenges.”

On 22 April, Tehan announced that the Morrison Government has reached an agreement “that will ensure Australian wines can access the Canadian market on a level playing field,” following the settlement of Australia’s 2018 World Trade Organization challenge to Canadian wine measures. The settlement has resulted in Canada agreeing “to the phased removal of discriminatory measures imposed by the province of Quebec, which disadvantaged Australian wine producers.” Tehan referred to the agreement as “an important victory for Australian wine makers and rules-based global trade.”

7 May

On 30 April, Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced that under the Biosecurity Act 2015, anyone who enters Australia from India until at least 15 May “may incur a civil penalty of 300 penalty units, five years’ imprisonment, or both.” Hunt stated that “the Government does not make these decisions lightly” and that “it is critical [that] the integrity of the Australian public health and quarantine systems is protected and the number of COVID-19 cases in quarantine facilities is reduced to a manageable level.”

Payne and Hunt announced on 5 May that Australia delivered essential medical supplies to India on that day as part of the initial package of support to the Indian Government’s programme for combatting their current COVID-19 outbreak. The supplies were carried on a chartered Qantas flight and included 1056 ventilators and 43 oxygen concentrators, and will be distributed by the Indian Red Cross. Hunt stated that, “We are deeply passionate about supporting people in India, which is why we have reached out to support with medical supplies such as oxygen, ventilators and PPE. At the same time we are working on plans to resume travel from India to support Australians to get home.”

On 3 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced that she will visit London, Geneva and Washington over the next fortnight “to meet with a wide range of our close allies and partners to further Australia’s interests in the COVID-19 period and beyond.” This will include attending the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting in London, a major strategic discussion ahead of the G7 Leaders’ meeting in June. She will also travel to Washington for the Australian Government’s first ministerial, in-person consultations with the Biden Administration.

Payne, Hunt and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja noted on 5 May that Australia provided an initial delivery of 20,000 Australian-manufactured vaccines to Timor-Leste. The Ministers also mentioned that 10,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses will be delivered to Fiji over the course of the week.

On 4 May, Payne and Seselja issued a statement on the opening of two new diplomatic missions in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and French Polynesia. These openings bring Australia’s diplomatic network in the Pacific to nineteen missions, meaning that Australia now has official representation to every member of the Pacific Islands Forum. Claire Scott will be Australia’s first Consul-General in Papeete, and Brek Batley will be Australia’s first resident Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Payne also announced two other diplomatic appointments on 4 May: Emily Luck as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Samoa, and Adelle Neary as Australia’s next Consul-General in Chengdu.

On 29 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered an address at the United Israel Appeal Dinner in Sydney. Morrison stated that “we stand by like-minded friends, such as the Jewish people and the State of Israel, who is a great friend to Australia and we are a true friend of Israel. A country that is sovereign, that is independent and free … Australia is a proud and faithful friend.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan discussed the global tourism recovery with other G20 tourism ministers at a virtual forum on 4 May. Tehan stated that, “Australia continues to be active in strengthening international cooperation on COVID-safe travel initiatives to promote recovery in this crucial sector.” He also noted that in 2020, international arrivals fell by nearly 75 percent globally, representing an estimated loss of A$1.7 trillion in global tourism export revenue.

On 30 April, Tehan announced that an expert panel will provide advice to government and the tourism industryto “help drive the economic recovery of the tourism industry and ensure its long-term success.” Tehan appointed former federal Tourism Minister, Martin Ferguson, to lead the Reimagining the Visitor Economy Expert Panel over the next six months. The remainder of the panel will consist of: Leanne Coddington, Chief Executive Officer of Tourism and Events Queensland; Karyn Kent, Chief Executive of StudyAdelaide; Kate Lamont, owner of Lamont’s Wine and Food; and Juan Walker, owner and operator of Walkabout Cultural Adventures. The Terms of Reference for the panel can be found here.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, announced on 5 May that “owing to the ongoing unrest in Myanmar, Myanmar nationals currently in Australia on temporary visas may apply to extend their stay until it is safe to return home.” Hawke stated that, “Australia continues to strongly urge the Myanmar security forces to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against civilians, release those detained arbitrarily and engage in dialogue.”

On 29 April, Hawke, alongside Morrison and Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood, and more than 140 multicultural community leaders, discussed Australia’s travel pause with India and “the range of assistance that Australia is providing at this difficult time.” Hawke stated that, “the Government will now undertake a large scale program of engagements with Australia’s Indian community to hear their views and concerns regarding the evolving COVID-19 situation in India, provide updates, and convey the Australian Government support options that are available.​​”

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong stated on 30 April that “more action [is] required to assist India and the 10,000 Australians left stranded.” Wong called on the Government to “put in place a plan to get stranded Australians home as soon as possible by acting on safe, national quarantine” and to “work urgently to support Australians in India, including options to vaccinate Australians left behind in this high-risk situation, and provide extra financial support to those most vulnerable.”

On 30 April, Wong urged the Morrison Government to “stop its obstruction and instead work cooperatively to explore all options that ensure developing nations can access safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccines in a timely way, ahead of a meeting of the World Trade Organization today.”

14 May

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a statement on 12 May, where she said that “the Australian Government is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and unequivocally calls on all leaders to take immediate steps to halt violence, maintain restraint, and restore calm.” She further called on “all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that destabilise peace” and stated that “violence is no solution. Rocket attacks and indiscriminate acts that fuel the cycle of violence and bloodshed are never justified.”

On 7 May, Payne, alongside her Indian and French counterparts, delivered a joint statement on the first India-France-Australia Trilateral Ministerial Dialogue following their meeting in London on 4 May. The statement noted that, “India, France and Australia are committed to advancing their shared values and working together to achieve a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific.” India thanked France and Australia for their assistance in India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Ministers “agreed to enhance trilateral cooperation in confronting the challenges emerging from COVID-19.” The Ministers also “reviewed the outcomes of the first India-France-Australia Foreign Secretaries’ Trilateral Dialogue, held on 9 September 2020, which have progressed on three pillars: maritime safety and security, marine and environmental cooperation, and multilateral engagement.”

Payne visited Kabul, Afghanistan, on 10 May, where she met with HE President Ashraf Ghani, Minister for Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi, and Chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, HE Abdullah Abdullah. The discussions included “the challenges of COVID-19, the international troop withdrawal, support for a stable and secure Afghanistan, and our shared hopes for the ongoing peace negotiations.” Payne further noted that, “with the departure of the Australian Defence Force, the Australia-Afghanistan relationship is beginning a new chapter of our diplomatic relationship, established in 1969. We will continue our close friendship, and support our shared aspiration of peace, stability and prosperity.”

On 11 May, Payne and Minister for Trade Dan Tehan issued a statement on the 2021-22 Budget, which includes $4 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA), “with an ongoing focus on health security, stability and economic recovery in the Indo-Pacific, including $1.44 billion for the Pacific and $1.01 billion for Southeast Asia.” The Government has also announced “temporary and targeted measures to support the ODA budget” due to the impact of COVID-19 on the Indo-Pacific region. This includes an estimated $319 million in additional ODA in 2021-22. Moreover, Australia will provide $37.1 million over two years from 2020-21 for a COVID-19 support package for India. The Government will also invest $198.2 million over four years from 2021-22 “to support Australian exporters and businesses, deliver our Indo-Pacific priorities, and expand our advocacy and cooperation with partners internationally.”

Tehan and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced on 7 May that the Morrison Government has “helped arrange the delivery of urgently needed stocks of medical-grade ethanol to Fiji”, which is used in COVID-19 testing kits. Seselja also noted that “a batch of 10,000 Australian made vaccines touched down on a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flight last night along with more than two tonnes of medical supplies to bolster Fijis’s COVID-19 response.”

On 7 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that government-chartered repatriation flights from India will resume on May 15, after the completion of the current temporary ban on re-entry. The flights will arrive at the Centre for National Resilience at Howard Springs, with one flight per 7-9 days. Morrison stated that “the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage outside Australia’s borders and the temporary pause on flights continues to give our quarantine facilities time to reduce infection rates and reduce the risk of COVID escaping into the community.”

Morrison addressed the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce on 6 May, where he stated that, “We will not associate Australia with one-sided and contentious language that singles out Israel … I do not accept that anti-Semitism, cloaked in the language of human rights, serves any justified purpose nor the cause of peace.”

On 12 May, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price issued a joint statement on the 2021-22 Budget. Dutton stated that the Budget “continues to see sustained strong investment in Australia’s national security, building Defence capability and creating jobs, boosting Australia’s cyber resilience and supporting Australia’s sovereign defence industry.” The Budget includes a $59.2 million investment in Operation Resolute, “to support the whole-of-government effort in protecting Australia’s borders and offshore maritime interests through surveillance and response.”

Price announced the fifth edition of the Australian Defence Sales Catalogue on 7 May, “a key export marketing tool, showcasing Australia’s world-leading companies, products and services.” Price noted that the Catalogue “is aimed at foreign governments but also includes information on government support services available to Australia’s defence industry sector who may be seeking to maximise export opportunities.”

21 May

On 16 May, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Mitch Fifield, issued a statement on the “escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.” Fifield called on “all leaders” to “take immediate steps to halt the violence and exercise restraint, and to move without delay towards a sustainable peace.” He condemned “the relentless and indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas” and stated that “Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its people in accordance with international law.” Fifield further stated that “equally, the Palestinian people must be able to live peacefully.” He concluded by stating that “Australia strongly supports a two-state solution … where Israel and a future state of Palestine exist in peace and security within internationally recognised borders.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, announced on 19 May that Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, will end her term on 25 June 2021. Payne referred to Adamson as “one of Australia’s most accomplished and respected public servants and diplomats … [whose] intellect and experience are respected across government, business and the broader community.” Adamson has been appointed as the next Governor of South Australia and will commence this role in October 2021.

On 14 May, Payne and Minister for Health Greg Hunt noted that flights facilitated by the Australian Government to return Australians from India have resumed. Payne stated that “these government-facilitated flights will be focused on returning Australian citizens, residents and families who have registered with our High Commission and consular offices within India and will prioritise the most vulnerable people.” The Ministers further noted that the plane will carry “further life-saving oxygen equipment to India to support its COVID-19 response.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs, Victoria, on 19 May, where he met with Hindu, Sikh, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayali and Indian and Sri Lankan community and temple leaders from across Victoria. Morrison likened multiculturalism to a garam masala, particularly “how it brings together all the different spices and the smells and the colours.” He also stated that “the tragedy we seen in particular in India, at the moment, and throughout the developing world is so hard … to see occurring.” Morrison also noted that he had spoken to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “just a few weeks ago”, and that Modi expressed his appreciation for “both the prayers and support that is coming from the community here in Australia.”

On 17 May, Morrison announced that he will visit New Zealand from 30-31 May to meet with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and to attend the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. Morrison stated that “Australia and New Zealand are family … [and have both been] world leaders in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced that on 19 May he had signed a new 10-year Partnership Arrangement with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The Agreement reaffirms “Australia’s commitment to practical programs supporting climate change resilience and adaptation, and protecting the vital ocean ecosystems of the Pacific.” Seselja stated that Australia is providing $16 million through the partnership for SPREP’s Pacific Ocean Litter Project.

On 15 May, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, French President Emmanuel Macron, and more than 50 other government and technology leaders on the third annual Christchurch Call. The Christchurch Call was initiated following the March 2019 Christchurch terror attacks “to help keep online spaces safe from terrorists and extremists.”

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong criticised Morrison for lying about Labor’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict on 14 May. Wong stated that Morrison claimed Labor did not believe in a two-state solution. She clarified that Labor is “committed to a just and enduring two-state solution, based on respect for human rights and consistent with international law.”

On 19 May, Wong gave a speech to launch Peter Hartcher’s book, Red Zone, which she referred to as an “important contribution to our national debate [about Australia-China relations]”. Wong stated that, “Morrison’s political opportunism on foreign policy is as unprecedented in Australian history as some of the foreign policy challenges themselves … the Liberals have always been awkward in Asia.” She urged Morrison to “talk less, do more” and engage in “more strategy, less politics” in his approach to foreign affairs.

28 May 

On 25 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced the temporary closure of the Australian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Ministers stated that the decision was made ‘in light of the imminent international military withdrawal’ which will create ‘an increasingly uncertain security environment where the Government has been advised that security arrangements could not be provided to support our ongoing presence.’ They further noted that Australia ‘will resume a permanent presence in Kabul once circumstances permit.’ The Embassy will close on 28 May, and as an interim measure Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials will visit Afghanistan ‘regularly from a residential Post elsewhere in the region.’ Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong argued that the Government ‘must outline the factors that led to this decision and whether it considered alternative options to manage the changing security environment’, and expressed disappointment that ‘there was no bipartisan consultation on this important decision.’

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Frances Adamson, delivered a speech at the Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory on 20 May to launch DFAT’s new Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda. Adamson stated that ‘in 2021, … the status of our indigenous people is a foreign policy issue.’ She referred to the Agenda as being ‘about elevating indigenous issues in our foreign policy, taking a more systematic approach that ensures we bring to bear the full capacity of Indigenous Australia in our work, while contributing to Australia’s reconciliation journey.’ The Agenda has four pillars: to shape the international system, and its norms and standards, to benefit indigenous people; to maximise the opportunities for Indigenous Australians and indigenous peoples everywhere in a globalised world; to promote sustainable development for all indigenous peoples; and to best utilise DFAT’s Indigenous staff and to make DFAT more culturally competent. Adamson aid that ‘DFAT’s challenge today, to be an authentically Australian foreign service, is to fully represent and serve our nation … We must continue to build Indigenous Australia into our diplomacy: its people, its languages, its cultures, and its history.’

Payne issued a statement on 21 May, where she stated that Australian citizen, Dr Yang Hengjun, will face trial in China on 27 May. Dr Yang has been detained since January 2019 on allegations of espionage. Payne stated that, ‘despite repeated requests by Australian officials, Chinese authorities have not provided any explanation or evidence for the charges facing Dr Yang.’ She also requested that Australian officials be permitted access to Dr Yang’s hearing on 27 May, ‘in line with China’s obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular agreement.’ Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong noted that Labor ‘strongly support[s] the Government’s advocacy for Dr Yang.’

On 20 May, Payne congratulated Dr Robert Floyd on his election as Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty Organization. Floyd is the first Executive Secretary elected from the Indo-Pacific and is currently the Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, which implements Australia’s treaty obligations relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Payne issued a statement on 24 May strongly condemning the interception of a Ryanair flight by the Belarusian Government and the subsequent arrest of Belarusian opposition blogger and passenger Roman Protasevich. She also stated that the Australian Government is ‘concerned by reports that the Belarusian Government allegedly grounded the flight on the false pretence of a security threat’, referring to this as an ‘unprecedented action’ that ‘put innocent lives of airline passengers at risk.’ Payne called for Protasevich’s immediate release and a full investigation into the event.

Along with Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, Payne announced on 20 May that Australia is providing an additional $52 million in targeted financing to assist the Government of Papua New Guinea in its response to COVID-19. The support will specifically assist in the health and education sectors.

Payne and Seselja also announced on 21 May that Australia will be providing $17.5 million in funding for COVID-19 emergency relief to Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, including $5 million to Bangladesh, $7 million to Nepal, and $5.5 million to Sri Lanka. The support will be ‘delivered by trusted on-the-ground partners’ including the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and the United Nations.

On 20 May, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, Mitch Fifield, issued a statement ‘wholeheartedly welcom[ing]’ the announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian people. Fifield reaffirmed Australia’s support of a two-state solution and stated that ‘peace is the only solution to this conflict.’

5 June 

On 31 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Queenstown, New Zealand for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting, their first in-person meeting since February 2020. The Prime Ministers issued a joint media statement where they discussed, among other issues, the COVID-19 response and recovery, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Pacific region, trans-Tasman cooperation, climate change, global trade, and Indo-Pacific security. They expressed ‘serious concern over developments in the South China Sea, including the continued militarisation of disputed features and an intensification of destabilising activities at sea.’ They further expressed ‘deep concern’ over developments in Hong Kong and the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and ‘called upon China to respect the human rights of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities and to grant the United Nations and other independent observers meaningful and unfettered access to the region.’

Ardern and Morrison also participated in a joint press conference on 31 May. Ardern stated that, ‘the trans-Tasman relationship … is New Zealand’s most important. We are family and the pandemic has underscored that.’ She further stated that the Prime Ministers discussed ‘Australia’s deportation policy and opportunities for people who move across the Tasman to access a pathway to citizenship … As with any family, we will have our disagreements from time to time, but those disagreements are still undertaken in the spirit of openness and ultimately friendship. We are much bigger than our differences and the last year has taught us that.’ Ardern also noted that she will be visiting Australia in July. Morrison stated that ‘we have pursued a very uniquely Anzac path … through COVID-19 … [and] we also must continue to pursue a very Anzac path through the many other challenges we face, [including] regional security.’

Morrison was asked during the joint press conference about Suhayra Aden, whose citizenship was revoked by Australia and who was deported to New Zealand. Morrison stated that, ‘Suhayra’s not an Australian citizen. But we have spoken today about her children and the pathway that they have eligibility for in Australia.’ Ardern stated that, ‘we … reiterate our ongoing view of the cancellation of citizenship, on issues of deportation. Prime Minister Morrison and I have had these exchanges before. He’s very clear on New Zealand’s view.’

On 28 May, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud issued a joint media statement where they announced that the Australian Government will ask the World Trade Organization (WTO) to establish a dispute settlement panel ‘to resolve concerns about anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed on Australia by China.’ Tehan and Littleproud stated that ‘Australia remains open to further discussions with China with a view to resolving this issue’ and that ‘the Government will continue to vigorously defend the interests of Australian barley producers using the established system in the WTO to resolve our differences.’ Moreover, the Ministers noted that the anti-dumping and countervailing duties on Australian barley ‘have effectively stopped Australia’s barley trade with China.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash acknowledged on 1 June the passing of James Crawford LLD, FBA, AC, SC, Judge of the International Court of Justice. Payne and Cash acknowledged Crawford’s service to the international community ‘in the peaceful resolution of disputes and the international rules based order.’ Crawford was elected as a Judge of the International Court of Justice in 2014, and also served as the Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission and as a Member of the United Nation’s International Law Commission.

11 June

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered an address to the Perth USAsia Centre on 9 June ahead of his attendance at the G7 Plus summit in the United Kingdom. Morrison’s speech centred on five core themes: supporting open societies, open economies and our rules based order; building sovereign capacity, capability and resilience; cooperating on global challenges; enabling renewed business-led growth and development; and demonstrating that liberal democracies work. Morrison stated that, ‘We are facing heightened competition in the Indo-Pacific region … Australia stands ready to engage in dialogue with all countries on shared challenges, including China when they are ready to do so.’ He also noted that ‘Australia is on the pathway to net zero [emissions] … we will get there through technology that enables and transforms our industries, not taxes that eliminate them and the jobs and livelihoods they support.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton virtually attended the Ninth Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations with their Japanese counterparts on 9 June. The Ministers issued a joint statement where they expressed concerns about the South China Sea and their ‘objections to China’s maritime claims and activities that are inconsistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.’  They also noted their shared concerns about ‘reported human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang’ and ‘recent moves that weaken Hong Kong’s democratic institutions’. The Ministers also urged North Korea ‘to abide by its obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions’ and ‘to end its human rights violations and immediate resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.’

On 4 June, Payne, Dutton and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on the delivery of COVID-19 supplies to India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The delivery includes an eight-tonne oxygen tank for India, and PPE donated by the Western Australian Government for Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Morrison, Payne and Seselja announced on 3 June that the Morrison Government will contribute an additional $50 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) ‘to ensure more people in our region and across the world have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.’ Australia has now committed a total of $130 million to COVAX AMC, which complements the $623 million Regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative which is assisting Australia’s Pacific and Southeast Asian neighbours to access and administer safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

On 9 June, Payne issued a statement on Australia’s ‘continued leadership’ on HIV/AIDS. She noted that Australia and Namibia co-facilitated the Political Declaration adopted at the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on HIV/Aids which ‘sets ambitious targets to guide the global AIDS response for the next five years.’ She further noted that Australia is also investing $11.65 million ‘to increase the availability and uptake of HIV testing and prevention services amongst key populations in the Indo-Pacific.’

Payne and Seselja noted on 8 June that the Government and the Australian Olympic Committee are working ‘in partnership’ to support over 170 Olympic and Paralympic athletes from eleven Pacific nations to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. With support from the Australian Government’s ‘PacificAus Sports’ program, Pacific teams and athletes ‘will be able to train and compete in qualification events, giving them the greatest opportunity to realise their Olympic and Paralympic dreams.’

On 4 June Minister for Trade Dan Tehan delivered a speech at the Australian Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Study Centre in Melbourne. Tehan referred to APEC as ‘an institution for troubled times’ and ‘a strong voice for economic openness and the free flow of critical medical supplies.’ He further stated that ‘it’s very much in Australia’s interests if we can get the United States to, once again, engage on the [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership]. Greater engagement with the USA through APEC will hopefully enable us to work constructively, and with respect to our principles, with China, as well.’ Tehan also noted that ‘Australia is supportive of a practical transition to renewable energy options – like other APEC economies, we’re resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement.’

Tehan also delivered a speech at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on 4 June to launch its 2021 National Trade Survey Report. He noted that ‘throughout the pandemic, global investment … in Australia dropped by nearly 40 per cent … we want foreign investment, we encourage foreign investment, and we understand the importance of foreign investment for innovation and job creation.’ Tehan stated that the eleventh round of trade negotiations with the European Union is currently being undertaken, and Australia is ‘looking at exploring other opportunities [for trade agreements] in the Indo-Pacific and also with more countries in Europe and Israel.’

18 June

Prime Minister Scott Morrison travelled to Cornwall, United Kingdom to attend the G7 Leaders’ Summit from 11 to 13 June at the invitation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In a media release on 10 June, Morrison stated that ‘there has never been a more important time for Australia to be at the table with the world’s largest liberal democracies and advanced economies.’ He further noted that the G7 Summit is his first travel outside the Indo-Pacific region since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 12 June, whilst at the G7 Summit, Morrison and Johnson met and ‘discussed a number of issues of mutual concern, including the Indo-Pacific region.’ The Prime Ministers ‘agreed that the strategic context in the Indo-Pacific [is] changing’.

Morrison announced on 15 June that he and Johnson had agreed ‘on the broad outlines of an Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement.’ The Agreement will result in ‘greater access to a range of high-quality products made in both countries as well as greater access for businesses and workers’. All tariffs on British imports will be ‘eliminated within five years’ and ’99 per cent of Australian goods … [will enter] the UK duty free when the agreement enters into force.’

On 17 June, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan reflected on the finalisation of the Australia-UK Agreement in Principle. Tehan noted that ‘free trade agreements are complex, legal documents and there is still much work to do to deliver our final agreement with the UK. When the agreement is finalised it will deliver the most comprehensive and liberal agreement outside our partnership with New Zealand.’

On 11 June, Morrison issued a statement announcing that Australia will commit at least 20 million vaccine doses as part of a ‘global G7 push to boost access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and pandemic preparedness in developing countries.’ Morrison noted that ‘COVID does not respect borders and the pandemic is not a problem confined to any one nation. That’s why we will commit to distributing at least an additional 20 million vaccine doses across our region.’

Morrison delivered a speech at the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce in London on 14 June. He noted that ‘we have to tend that garden of the liberal democracies of the world and we have to stand up for them in a way that ensures we demonstrate that they work and that they do bring peace and they do bring prosperity, and they do improve the wellbeing of the people all around the world.’ He also referred to reinforcing the Australia-UK trade relationship as ‘a great opportunity for this moment.’

On 15 June, Morrison spoke after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Morrison stated that ‘every element of [the French-Australia] partnership is about reinforcing the values and beliefs that we hold dearly … we are good friends, we are good partners, we share common goals and we share common values [including] liberty and affinity.’

Morrison addressed the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Council in Paris, France on 16 June. He stated that, ‘At this moment in history, international institutions like the OECD [which are] founded on liberal democratic market-based economic models and values … are more important than ever.’ Morrison further noted that ‘A carbon neutral economy, a net zero economy … is the future. That is the reality.’

On 13 June, Morrison released a joint statement with Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, where the leaders noted that they had ‘discussed their mutual commitment to ambitious action on climate change in line with the Paris Agreement, and to deeper collaboration and partnership towards achieving net zero emissions and keeping the 1.5 °C temperature goal within reach.’

Morrison issued a media release on 13 June where he announced the Declaration of Intent between the Government of Australia and the Government of Germany on the Australia-Germany Hydrogen Accord, which will create ‘new economic opportunities and jobs while reducing emissions.’ He noted that ‘international collaboration focused on technological innovation [is] key to getting new technologies like hydrogen to commercial parity.’ The Accord includes three major initiatives: establishing the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology Incubator, facilitating industry-to-industry cooperation on demonstration projects in Australian hydrogen hubs, and exploring options to facilitate the trade of hydrogen and its derivatives from Australia to Germany.

On 10 June, Morrison announced that Australia and Singapore will ‘establish a $30 million partnership to accelerate the deployment of low emissions fuels and technologies like clean hydrogen to reduce emissions in maritime and port operations.’ Morrison noted that ‘[Australia is] working with partners around the world to make clean energy more affordable and reliable. We are positioning Australia to succeed by investing now in the new technologies that will support jobs and industries into the future.’

Morrison issued a joint statement with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 10 June on the sixth Australia-Singapore Annual Leaders’ Meeting. The Prime Ministers recognised that a ‘strong, cohesive, and responsive ASEAN is vital to the region’s success and recovery’ and ‘reaffirmed their shared commitment to maintain and promote peace, security and stability in the region’.

On 13 June, Morrison released a statement on the Japan-Australia relationship, specifically the countries’ ‘determination to further [collaborate] on efforts to achieve decarbonisation and a net zero emissions future.’

Morrison issued a statement on 14 June announcing that Australia has joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, an international alliance of 60 countries ‘committed to forging a global deal to conserve 30 per cent of the world’s land and sea’.

On 15 June, Morrison addressed the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Conference. He stated that, ‘the oil and gas sector is a major contributor to Australia’s prosperity – always has, always will be’ and that ‘in Australia, we will lead the world in these heavy industry and oil and gas sectors to ensure that we can reduce emissions, be a successful part of the new energy economy and secure Australia’s prosperity all at the same time.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and their German counterparts, issued a joint statement on the second Australia and Germany 2+2 Security Policy Consultations between Foreign and Defence Ministers on 10 June. The Ministers met virtually and ‘committed to intensifying their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific … in support of an open, inclusive and resilient region.’ They reaffirmed the centrality of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, discussed the importance of working together on COVID-19 recovery, and reaffirmed their support for multilateral institutions including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. Moreover, Payne and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas signed a new Australia-Germany Enhanced Strategic Partnership. The Partnership ‘lifts the bilateral relationship to a new level and commits Australia and Germany to a broader strategic alignment and joint support for the multilateral system and its institutions.’

On 16 June, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a media release on the signing of a new agreement between the Solomon Islands and Australia under the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. Australia is funding the construction of a 22km transmission system ‘to deliver renewable energy generated by the Tina River Hydropower Project to Honiara.’ Payne noted that the deal is ‘a vital part of the region’s economic recovery post COVID-19’ and that the renewable energy produced will enable the Solomon Islands to meet 100 per cent of their international commitment for emissions reduction under the Paris Agreement.

Dutton delivered an address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference on 10 June, where he noted that the Indo-Pacific region ‘is far more complex and far less predictable than at any time since the Second World War.’ He noted several factors that have contributed to this, including ‘intensified strategic competition’, ‘nations modernising and building up their militaries’, ‘the emergence of new and disruptive technologies which are changing the nature of warfare’, and ‘the increased prevalence of … “grey-zone” activities which fall short of armed conflict, but … are designed to irritate, intimidate and injure other countries’.

On 16 June, the Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston, spoke for the second time with the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military, Vice Senior General Soe Win. Johnson expressed ‘Australia’s deep concern at the situation in Myanmar and reiterated Australia’s call for the immediate release of Professor Sean Turnell.’ He further ‘underlined the importance of, and Australia’s support for, ASEAN’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.’

Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a statement on 15 June about his decision to allow the Sri Lankan ‘Biloela family’ currently in held detention to reside in the Perth Community. He noted that ‘in making this determination I am balancing the government’s ongoing commitment to strong border protection policies with appropriate compassion in circumstances involving children in held detention.’ Hawke further stated that ‘importantly, today’s decision does not create a pathway to a visa … the Government’s position on border protection has not changed. Anyone who arrives in Australia illegally by boat will not be resettled permanently. Anyone who is found not to be owed protection will be expected to leave Australia.’

25 June

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Frances Adamson, addressed the National Press Club on 23 June. Adamson discussed the ‘value of diplomacy in the current moment’, her position as the first female Secretary of DFAT, and reflected on the Australia-China relationship. She referred to the Chinese government as ‘still dogged by insecurity, as much as driven by ambition [and] has a deeply defensive mindset perceiving external threats even as it pushes its interests over those of others.’ She further stated that ‘insecurity and power can be a volatile combination, more so if inadvertently mishandled.’

On 18 June, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Health Greg Hunt, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, jointly announced the deployment of an Australian Medical Assistance Team to assist Fiji’s response to the current COVID-19 outbreak. The deployment is in response to a request from the Government of Fiji, and the team will work with the Fijian Ministry of Health to provide immediate support.

Payne, Hunt and Seselja announced on 19 June that an Australia-facilitated charter flight delivered to Tuvalu 7,000 Australian-manufactured COVID-19 vaccines, as well as 4,800 doses allocated by New Zealand, as part of the COVAX Advance Market Commitment. Alongside the vaccines, Australia’s COVID-19 support to Tuvalu also includes the delivery of four laboratory fridges and medicines including antibiotics, pain relief, heart medication and paediatric and maternal medicines.

On 18 June, Payne announced that Australia will nominate Rosemary Kayess for re-election to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(UNCRPFD). Kayess is the current Chair of the UNCRPD. Payne stated that ‘a continued Australian presence on the Committee will further strengthen Australia’s efforts on disability inclusion and rights for all people across the world.’

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud issued a joint statement on 19 June where they noted that Australia ‘will defend the interests of Australian wine makers by taking action in the World Trade Organization over China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on Australian wine.’ The Ministers stated that this decision ‘was taken following extensive consultation with Australia’s wine makers’ and that ‘Australia remains open to engaging directly with China to resolve this issue.’

On 17 June, Tehan noted that the Australian and United Kingdom governments have finalised their Agreement in Principle, which provides scaffolding for the future Free Trade Agreement. Tehan stated that ‘when the agreement is finalised it will deliver the most comprehensive and liberal agreement outside our partnership with New Zealand … Australia will continue to work with the United Kingdom to deliver this gold-standard [Free Trade Agreement] that will benefit both countries and serve as a marker to our shared commitment to free trade.’

Tehan and Minister for Employment Stuart Robert announced on 18 July a new Simplified Trade System Implementation Taskforce which will ‘review international trade regulations and modernise outdated IT systems … to help Australian exporters boost productivity and save time and money’. The Taskforce will be led by Randall Brugeaud, who is currently the CEO of the Digital Transformation Agency.

On 23 June, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke stated that he had exercised his power under section 195A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to grant three-month Bridging Visas to three members of the Sri Lankan Murugappan family, who were formerly living on Christmas Island. Hawke noted that ‘under section 195A a Minister can intervene to grant a person a visa if it is in the public interest to do so.’

Hawke announced on 22 June the inclusion of 22 skilled occupations on the Priority Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL). The PMSOL ‘is developed in conjunction with the National Skills Commission to ensure a small number of critical occupations are filled to create Australian jobs and aid in Australia’s ongoing recovery from the impact of COVID-19.’ Some of the new occupations include civil engineer, chef, ICT security specialist, and medical laboratory scientist. Hawke noted that ‘existing skilled migration occupation lists will remain active and visas will still be processed, but priority will be given to those in occupations on the PMSOL.’

On 18 June, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews noted that Australia has committed $4.2 million to the Franco-Ivorian International Counter-Terrorism Academy. Andrews stated that ‘the Morrison Government is committed to keeping Australians safe from violent extremist groups that threaten the peace and cohesion of our society, and is proud to support international partners to do the same.’

Minister for Defence Personnel Darren Chester issued a statement on 19 June where he noted that a new initiative, the Peace Operations Training Environment Partnership, was launched earlier in the monththrough the Department of Defence. Chester stated that the initiative, an ‘innovative online learning platform,’ will ‘support the training and engagement for Australian and regional peacekeepers’ through providing ‘relevant, contemporary learning activities to support delivery of United Nations core and specialised training.’

2 July

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 27 June proposed changes to the Ministryto be recommended to the Governor-General. In the foreign affairs space, among other changes, Member for Calare Andrew Gee will join the Cabinet and will replace Darren Chester as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel.

On 23 June, Morrison noted that Australia and Solomon Islands have held a “ground-breaking ceremony” in the Shortland Islands for the Western Border and Patrol Boat Outpost. Morrison referred to the ceremony as marking “the next phase of the Australia and Solomon Islands infrastructure and security partnership.” He further noted that, “Australia is proud to be working closely with Solomon Islands to promote economic development and stability in the region, and strengthen and protect its Western Border … The project will boost Solomon Islands’ capacity to respond to natural disasters, deliver health programs in the Western Border area and provide a foundation for economic growth in the region.” Prime Minister of Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare described the two nations as being “joined by the waves of peace, cooperation, prosperity and mutual respect.”

In response to a Parliamentary question asked on 15 June by Senator James Paterson, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne outlined Australia’s approach to working with partners to address current regional and global challenges to security and stability. Payne stated that “we know that Australia’s future prosperity and security depends on a Pacific region that is stable, open and free but supported by cooperation between sovereign nations. We are working with allies and partners to maintain and expand a resilient region in which sovereign states make decisions which are free from coercion, interference or aggression.” She stated that Australia’s approach to achieving this goal is through working closely with “all countries that share this vision”, such as through “reinforcing traditional alliances” with the United States and the United Kingdom, through regional groups such as ASEAN, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Quad, and “innovative partnerships” such as the Australia-France-India and Australia-Indonesia-Timor-Leste trilateral partnerships.

On 27 June, Payne announced that the Australian Government is providing a further $34.7 million to support the World Food Programme (WFP)’s work to address the risk of food insecurity. The funding will specifically support those in Myanmar, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. Payne further noted that “with Australia’s assistance, WFP will continue to monitor food security across the Pacific, given the region’s vulnerability to price shocks and the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

Payne and Minister for International Development Zed Seselja issued a statement on 26 June about the political situation in Samoa. The Ministers noted that the Australian Government “acknowledges the declaratory statement by the Samoan Court of Appeal that its ruling of 2 June 2021 does not prevent the convening of Parliament.” Payne and Seselja urged all parties to cooperate, “with a view to convening the parliament and enabling the formation of a government.” They also noted that this year Australia and Samoa mark 50 years of diplomatic relations.

On 26 June, Payne and Seselja announced that Australia and Fiji are teaming up for a new sports partnership through the PacificAus Sports program “that will capture the heart and spirit of Vuvale between our two countries.” The partnership will support men and women’s rugby teams to enter Australia’s Super W competition and the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition. Payne stated that, “while the health security of our near neighbours remains a critical priority, sport will help facilitate the region’s cultural and economic recovery and help our countries stay connected.”

Payne announced several diplomatic postings on 25 June: Dr Helen Cheney is Australia’s next High Commissioner to Nauru; Andrea Gleason is Australia’s next Consul-General in Honolulu; Mark Donovan is Australia’s next Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and will also be accredited to Bahrain, Oman and Yemen; and Dr Justin Lee is Australia’s next High Commissioner to Malaysia. Payne also issued a statementannouncing the appointment of Helen Stylianou as Australia’s next Ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, and announced that she has extended the appointment of Professor Andrew Campbell as Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research until 31 July 2023.

On 30 June, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Seselja noted that trade ministers from the Pacific virtually met that day for the first time since the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) entered into force on 13 December 2020. Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and New Zealand are Parties to the Agreement, while the remaining signatories that are yet to ratify are Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Tehan said the PACER Plus was an important part of Australia’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific, and Seselja noted that the meeting discussed the delivery of the $25 million development and work program, co-funded by Australia.

Tehan announced on 24 June that the Morrison Government will introduce legislation to enable Export Finance Australia (EFA) to provide equity finance in certain circumstances “to finance transactions that serve Australia’s national interests and priorities.” Tehan noted that equity power would “enable EFA to better support overseas infrastructure development and export-linked Australian businesses in sectors of economic significance.” Moreover, the reforms will align Australia with other countries such as the United States, China, Japan, Canada, and South Korea, “which are already making equity investments in our region to support their development and commercial objectives.”

On 30 June, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews noted that Australia’s participation in Operation Redback XV, a week-long Malaysia Coast Guard led exercise to strengthen maritime security in our near region, concluded the previous day. Andrews stated that “while Australia’s strong border protection measures [have] suppressed Australia’s maritime people smuggle threat, the Government remains vigilant and focused on protecting our borders.” The fifteenth iteration of Operation Redback focused on the Malaysia Coast Guard and the Australian Border Force’s ability to undertake “strategic communication as a deterrent to maritime people smuggling adventures.” Andrew stated that “Redback XV marks another milestone in the significant and ongoing relationship between Australia and Malaysia.”

9 July

On 6 July Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan virtually hosted the inaugural Indonesia-Australia Economic, Trade and Investment Ministers’ Meeting with their Indonesian counterparts. The meeting “highlighted ways in which Australia and Indonesia worked together closely and productively over 2020-21 in the context of rapidly responding to COVID-19.” Tehan stated that Australia and Indonesia “share many interests in the World Trade Organization, APEC and ASEAN,” and that he “[looks] forward to a closer partnership to progress our mutual priorities.” Frydenberg noted that the meeting “[marked] an important development in our economic, trade and investment relationship, which is more significant now as we look to strengthen our cooperation in supporting economic recoveries, both in our own countries and across the region,” and that “there are opportunities for deeper collaboration between our two nations on key global and regional challenges.”

Tehan announced on 1 July that Australia is providing $2.5 million to Vietnam under the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Grant. The grant will fund 28 small-scale projects “to create economic opportunities and deepen business cooperation.” The projects include: scaling up the “technology of organic food production, certification, and trade between Vietnam and Australia”; providing female entrepreneurs with “valuable international education”; and helping Australian business to “grow and diversify their exports and supply chains to Vietnam”. Tehan stated that “Australia is working with Vietnam to grow our trade relationship, with an aim to become top ten trade partners and double investment. Strengthening our trade relationship will create jobs and opportunities in both countries.”

On 1 July, Tehan, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter issued a joint statement where they announced that Australia and the United States will commence negotiations on a bilateral Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA). This will build on over 60 years of space collaboration, with the aim of “turbocharging growth in Australia’s civil space sector”. The TSA is designed to “reduce launch costs and open the door to increased collaboration with major US companies.” Payne noted that “Australia is committed to expanding our collaboration [with the US] including supporting NASA’s mission to put the first woman and the next man on the Moon.”

Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja, announced on 6 July that Australia will share up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with partners in the Pacific and Timor-Leste by mid-2022. This follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s commitment at the G7 Summit to sharing at least 20 million vaccine doses with countries in the Indo-Pacific. The Ministers noted that Australia has already shared more than half a million vaccine doses with partners in the Pacific and Timor-Leste since March, and the partnership “builds on [Australia’s] support to the COVAX facility”.

On 6 July at the Indo-Pacific Business Summit hosted by the Indian Ministry for External Affairs, Payne announced the first recipients of the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program. She noted that the AIIPOIP “reiterates Australia’s strong commitment to working with close regional partners in delivering an open, inclusive, resilient, prosperous and rules-based maritime order.” The grants support the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, which Payne signed with India’s Minister for External Affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in June 2020.

Payne issued a statement on 7 July noting that she had spoken with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, and had confirmed that Australia would provide immediate health support to Indonesia as it responds to a “significant surge” in COVID-19 cases. The package includes: $12 million for oxygen-related and other medical equipment, over 40,000 rapid antigen test kits, and 2.5 million AstraZeneca doses this year.

On 4 July, Seselja noted that he will visit Papua New Guinea and the Philippines from 4 to 9 July, in his first visit to the region as Minister for International Development and the Pacific. He stated that in Papua New Guinea, he will meet senior ministers in the Marape administration and “representatives of the business and church communities.” Seselja said that the visit “will aim to deepen our already strong bilateral relationship and take forward our cooperation on health security and infrastructure.” In the Philippines, Seselja plans to meet with Government leaders and “key development assistance partners delivering Australia’s COVID-19 support programs on the ground.”

16 July 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on 8 July the appointment of Kathryn Campbell AO CSC as the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Tradefollowing the retirement of Frances Adamson AC. Campbell was formerly Secretary of the Department of Social Services. Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja congratulatedCampbell on her appointment and noted that she “has an outstanding record of leadership and public service” and that they “look forward to working with [her]”. Minister for Trade Dan Tehan also noted that he wishes Campbell “the best of luck in her new role” and “[looks] forward to working with her again.”

On 12 July, Payne issued a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the South China Sea Arbitral Award on the arbitration between the Philippines and China. Payne noted that the decision found that China’s claim to “historical rights or maritime rights and interests established in the long course of historical practice in the South China Sea were inconsistent with [the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea].” She further stated that the Australian Government “has consistently called on the parties to the arbitration to abide by the Tribunal’s decision … adherence to international law is fundamental to the continuing peace, prosperity and stability of our nation.”

Payne, alongside Seselja and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton issued a joint media release on 13 July where they noted that Australia will deploy a second medical assistance team to Fiji “to support its response to the escalating COVID-19 crisis and protect the health and security of our close friends and neighbours.” The team will consist of 17 personnel from Australia and New Zealand, and will be in Suva for 28 days. Australia will also provide three fully-equipped ambulances, oxygen equipment, stretcher beds, and personal protective equipment.

On 14 July, Payne and Seselja announced that Australia will provide 1.5 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to Vietnam this year. The Ministers noted that the doses “will complement Australia’s existing $40 million package through which we are working in partnership with Vietnam on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Payne and Seselja delivered a statement on 9 July where they noted that Australia had delivered 10,000 AstraZeneca doses to Samoa. They stated that “we will continue to work in partnership with our Pacific family in responding to this pandemic.”

On 11 July, Tehan announced that he will travel to Singapore, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States “to strengthen Australia’s trading relationships and promote investment in Australia.” Tehan noted that these countries are “significant bilateral partners” and represent “around a quarter of Australia’s exports of goods and services.” He further stated that, “Australia’s success as a trading nation is built on the strength of our relationships with our trading partners … I will champion support for a functioning global rules-based trading system that is vital to the economic prosperity of our region.”

Tehan issued a media release on 12 July where he said that Australia is opening a new Austrade office in the Netherlands, to “strengthen the trading relationship with Europe”. He stated that “the Netherlands is Australia’s second largest export market in the EU and is a key entry point for Australian goods distributed across the continent … Austrade’s expanded presence in Europe will complement our Government’s work to negotiate an ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union.”

On 14 July, Dutton delivered an address at the opening ceremony for Exercise Talisman Sabre, a biennial Australia-United States military exercise. Dutton stated that, “the value of our Alliance has been extolled by Presidents and Prime Ministers, past and present, but it is the actions of uniformed and civilian Australians and Americans who continue to exemplify our Alliance cooperation.” He also noted that forces from Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will also participate in this year’s Talisman Sabre. Military officers from France, German, India and Indonesia will also observe the exercise.

Morrison noted on 8 July that the Government has formally established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide “following approval by the Governor-General.” The inquiry will be led by Nick Kaldas APM, former Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Police Force. Kaldas will be supported by The Hon James Douglas QC and Dr Peggy Brown AO.

On 8 July, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese referred to the establishment of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide as “welcome news”. He noted that “it is encouraging that the investigation will enquire into systemic issues related to defence and veteran suicide”, but that it is “disappointing” that Labor was not consulted on the Terms of Reference or the appointment of commissioners.

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong criticised the Government on 8 July for not expediting visas for Afghan interpreters and contractors who worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan. Wong stated that, “these people have had their lives threatened and whether they were directly employed or contractors of the Australian Government will not matter to the Taliban.”

23 July

On 21 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will host the 2032 Olympics for the third time and Paralympics for the second time after Brisbane secured the International Olympic Committee vote. Morrison said that the announcement “marks an important leap forward for Australia as we look toward major events that lock in economic growth and social benefits that will echo for years to come.” Morrison delivered an address to the International Olympic Committee earlier that day, where he stated that, “our hope is that the benefits of the Games will extend beyond Australia … Hosting the 2032 Games would provide a foundation to expand programs that provide sporting opportunities for [our Indo-Pacific neighbours].”

Morrison attended the APEC Virtual Informal Leaders’ Meeting on 17 July. In his addressto the meeting, noted that “we cannot have a recovery [from the COVID-19 pandemic] without a free and open Indo-Pacific. And that means respect for the rule of law. It means regional stability and security. It means the region being able to operate free of coercion and influence.” Morrison also stated that “it’s an urgent issue to ensure that the WTO’s appellate body is restored and fully functional … the WTO plays an absolutely essential role in policing the rules of world trade and ensuring that no country can be subject to economic coercion.” In a media statement about the meeting, he noted that “it is a critical time for Australia to engage with regional partners to promote free trade facilitation, in particular for vaccines and essential goods; build momentum for strengthening the multilateral trading system; and secure a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”

On 19 July, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton delivered a joint statement where they announced that Australia joins international partners in attributing malicious cyber activity to China. The Ministers noted that “the Australian Government has determined that China’s Ministry of State Security exploited vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange software to affect thousands of computers and networks worldwide, including in Australia.” They further stated that “China must adhere to the commitments it has made in the G20, and bilaterally, to refrain from the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and his Japanese counterpart, Mr Kajiyama Hiroshi, co-chaired the third Japan-Australia Ministerial Economic Dialogue in Tokyo on 15 July. In a joint statement, the Ministers noted the “growing strength of the Special Strategic Partnership between the two countries; a partnership characterised by shared values and a commitment to a free, open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific to meet evolving challenges, including recovery from the devastating impacts of COVID-19.”

On 16 July, Tehan issued a media release following meetings with Japanese Government and tourism industry stakeholders, where he “[promoted] Australian tourism and [discussed] the importance of a strong two-way travel market between the countries.” Tehan stated that the Morrison Government “is working to strengthen our relationships, and broaden our appeal, with the Japanese people.”

Payne issued a joint media release with her Belgian, Malaysian, Dutch and Ukrainian counterparts to acknowledge the seventh anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July. The Ministers said that “it is imperative that we remain steadfast in our commitment to pursuing truth, justice and accountability.”

On 21 July, Australia and the Republic of Korea held the seventh Australia-ROK Joint Economic Committee meeting via video link. This was the “first such meeting since both sides agreed to re-energise the forum at the 2019 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministers Meeting.” The Australian delegation was led by Acting Deputy Secretary Indo-Pacific Group, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Elly Lawson. The Korean delegation was led by Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Seong-ho Lee. Australia and Korea “noted the importance of continuing to strengthen multilateral institutions, including the G7+, G20 and the WTO, and exchange information on [the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] and [the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership].”

30 July

On 23 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the decision of Samoa’s Court of Appeal, which recognised the validity of Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party’s swearing in on 24 May and declared the party Samoa’s new Government. Morrison congratulated incoming Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and noted that he “looks forward to working closely with her government to strengthen our longstanding partnership.” He further commended “the institutions of the Samoan Government and the Samoan people for their patience and for allowing the democratic, constitutional and legal processes to take their proper course.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne virtually attended the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting chaired by Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe. In a mediarelease issued on 28 July, Payne noted that the meeting “focused on how our region is working together in responding to COVID-19 and strengthening our shared economic recovery.” The Ministers also “agreed to progress a Joint Statement on Blue Pacific Leadership in Pre-Pandemic and Pre-Disaster Planning”, put forward by Tuvalu.

On 23 July, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley welcomed the World Heritage Committee’s rejection of the proposed UNESCO In Danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef. Ley noted “the support of an overwhelming majority of nations at the 44thsession of the World Heritage Committee which has tonight backed Australia’s concerns over the UNESCO assessment process for the Great Barrier Reef.” The decision follows Ley spending one week in face-to-face meetings in Europe to “detail Australia’s position to Committee members”.

The Department of Defence issued a media release on 23 July on the progress of Exercise Talisman Sabre, noting that forces from the seven participatory nations will conduct amphibious training. Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom will all take part. Commander Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, Major General Jake Ellwood, stated that “this is the culminating activity we’ve been working towards throughout the year. It’s the final test of our ability to operate as a joint force in a contested environment across land, sea, air, space, and cyber.”

On 27 July, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke announced that pharmacists will be included in the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List. Hawke noted that, “the Morrison Government will support pharmacies across Australia, including through skilled migration, as supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses increases over the coming weeks.”

6 August

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne noted on 4 August that she will participate in the ASEAN-Australia Post Ministerial Conference, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. She stated that “our partnership with ASEAN is vital as we deal together with the health and economic challenges brought on by COVID-19 … It is crucial that recovery is guided by the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN centrality, transparency, inclusivity, good governance and respect for international law.”

On 29 July, Payne announced that Australia will invest $180 million in the Global Partnership for Education over the next five years, to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education across the Indo-Pacific. She noted that “education and skills in the Indo-Pacific are more critical than ever as we seek to build stability and drive economic growth.”

Payne announced on 4 August that Kerin Ayyalaraju will be Australia’s next Ambassador to Denmark. Ayyalaraju will also be accredited to Iceland and Norway. Payne also issued a statement noting that Rachael Moore will be Australia’s next High Commissioner to Tonga.

On 4 August, Payne recognised the anniversary of the Beirut Port explosion in a statement delivered to the Senate. She stated that “Australia will continue to play its part in helping Lebanon with humanitarian assistance, meaningful reforms, better governance, and genuine accountability.”

Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on 2 August where they noted that a $68 million financing package has been provided to Fiji Airports by the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. Payne noted that, “this partnership between the Australian Government and industry responds to the needs of Fiji and underscores the importance of the entire region working together to overcome shared challenges.”

On 1 August, the Department of Defence acknowledged the official conclusion of Exercise Talisman Sabre, after three weeks of training with military personnel from seven nations. Commander Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, Major General Jake Ellwood, stated that, “Australia and the United States came together with the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Republic of Korea to challenge ourselves at sea, on land, in air, and across the information/cyber and space domains.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 31 July that former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will travel to India in early August to meet with Indian ministers and business leaders. Tehan stated that Abbott’s visit will “progress our significant economic and trade relationship under the comprehensive strategic partnership.”

On 30 July, Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price delivered a joint statementalongside Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau. The Ministers acknowledged Vanautu’s receipt of its new Guardian-class Patrol Boat, the twelfth vessel delivered under the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program. Price stated that, “the new Guardian-class Patrol Boat will provide a boost to Vanuatu’s sovereign maritime capabilities and is another tangible demonstration of our security partnership.”

13 August

Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a virtual address to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue on 11 August. He acknowledged that this year marks the 70thanniversary of the ANZUS Alliance and the 20thanniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Morrison noted that “our alliance is central to our shared objective of a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific.” He further stated that he “welcome[s] President Biden bringing together the Leaders Climate Summit.” Moreover, Morrison said that the two nations’ “bilateral strategic cooperation must extend to economic matters [and] we should consider a regular Strategic Economic Dialogue between our most senior key economic and trade officials.”

On 6 August, Morrison virtually met with leaders from across the Pacific for the 51stPacific Islands Forum. At the Forum, Morrison announced that Australia “will work with our Pacific family on vaccine certification, to ensure our region can safely reopen to international travel as soon as possible.” He also noted that Australia will also double the number of Pacific workers under the Pacific labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Programme, bringing in an extra 12,500 workers. Moreover, Australia also joined the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones Against Climate Change-Related Sea-Level Rise, which Morrison referred to as “ground-breaking”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a media release on 5 August where she advised that the Australian Government will “reform and modernise” Australia’s autonomous sanctions laws “to enable the imposition of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against the perpetrators of egregious acts of international concern.” Payne stated that the reforms “will expand upon Australia’s current country-based autonomous sanctions framework to specify themes of conduct to which sanctions could be applied, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, gross human rights violations, malicious cyber activity and serious corruption.” She noted that the Government plans to introduce amendments to the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 by the end of 2021 to enact these reforms.

On 7 August, Payne noted that Australia will enhance the ASEAN-Australia partnership through a new package of initiatives under Partnerships for Recovery. These initiatives include: One Health Scholarships for up to 40 students from ASEAN countries to undertake an online Graduate Certificate in One Health, hosting the first ASEAN-Australia Mental Health Experts videoconference and Youth Dialogue, and investing $5.2 million through the Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund to provide “lending and financial service to small and medium enterprises in Southeast Asia.” Australia will also provide an additional $6 million contribution to the UN Office for Project Services to support “vulnerable households in Myanmar” as well as additional PPE and technical experts to aid Myanmar’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Finally, Payne launched the $5.5 million Australian Science and Technology for Climate Partnerships initiative “to address climate challenges with research-based solutions in the Indo-Pacific.”

Payne, alongside Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, announced that the independent Australian National Group has nominated Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM FASSA for election as a Judge of the International Court of Justice. The Australian National Group is a “body of eminent Australian jurists who serve as members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague”, and the Australian Government has supported their nomination. The election will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 5 November to fill the vacancy resulting from the passing of Judge James Crawford LLD FBA AC SC earlier this year.

On 11 August, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja noted that Australia is supplying 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to Timor-Leste and Fiji this week. The doses are part of an expanded program of vaccine deliveries “to support our neighbours’ responses to outbreaks in their countries.” Australian Medical Assistance Teams have also been deployed to both nations. Payne and Seselja noted that “these deliveries are a significant step towards delivering on Australia’s commitment to share up to 15 million doses with the Pacific and Timor-Leste by mid-2022 to support health and economic recovery.”

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan acknowledged the release of the Unlocking Australia-India Critical Minerals Partnership Potential: India Critical Minerals Demand Report on 10 August. The report “identifies areas where Australia can enhance trade, investment and research partnerships with India across the critical minerals supply chain.” Tehan noted that “Australia and India, working with our likeminded partners, can foster and strengthen those supply chains.”

On 11 August, the Department of Defence issued a media release noting that Australian Defence Force personnel have completed Operation Solania, a two-week maritime and aerial surveillance operation supporting the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Island Chief. Operation Island Chief is one of four FFA maritime surveillance operations, held annually to “detect, deter report and/or apprehend potential illegal, unregulated or unreported fishing activity and vessels.” Commander of the Australian Army’s 1st Division Major General Jake Ellwood said the Operation has been an “outstanding success which has assisted [Australia’s] partners in securing and protecting fisheries and economic resources across our region.”

20 August

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, issued a media statement on 16 August about Afghanistan. The Ministers stated that the “situation on the ground in Kabul, as in the rest of Afghanistan, is evolving rapidly.” They noted that the Australian Government’s priority is the safety of the 130 Australian citizens in the country.Moreover, the Ministers called on the Taliban to cease all violence against civilians and to adhere to international humanitarian law. Australia was also signatory to a joint statement with 63 other nations about Afghanistan, which stated that “the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity. We in the international community stand ready to assist them.”

On 17 August, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced that “no Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire.” Hawke further noted that Afghan citizens who are currently in Australia on temporary visas “will be supported by the Australian Government.”

Hawke further noted on 18 August that the Australian Government has allocated an initial 3,000 humanitarian places to Afghan nationals. He stated that “these 3,000 humanitarian places come on top of the 8,500 Afghans Australia has already successfully resettled since 2013 via our existing humanitarian program. The Government anticipates that this initial allocation will increase further over the course of this year.”

On 15 August, Morrison and Payne announced that one million additional doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine had been secured for Australia from Poland. Morrison said that he wanted to “personally thank Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki [of Poland] and his government for their generous support of Australia’s COVID-19 response during this challenging time.” Payne noted that Australian diplomats are “working hard to identify opportunities to secure additional vaccine doses.”

On 13 August, Payne issued a statement on Australian journalist Cheng Lei’s detention in China. Payne acknowledged that Cheng Lei has been detained for one year and that the Australian Government “remains seriously concerned about [her] detention and welfare and has regularly raised these issues at senior levels.” Moreover, Payne noted that “there remains a lack of transparency about the reasons for Ms Cheng’s detention.” The Australian Government is continuing to provide consular assistance to Ms Cheng and her family.

Senior officials from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States Department of State met by videoconference on 12 August. Topics discussed at the Quad Senior Officials’ Meeting included access to vaccines in the Indo-Pacific, concerns about the crisis in Myanmar, cooperation on climate change, and reiterated their support for the principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

On 12 August, the Department of Defence announced that the Australian Defence Force and the United States Armed Forces will partner to develop a new precision missile capability “to further interoperability and modernise both militaries.” The collaboration has been cemented by a recent Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Army and the United States Military which “[commits] to increasing the lethality, range and target engagement of the baseline missile in development.”

27 August 

On 23 August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a speech in the House of Representatives about Afghanistan. Morrison stated that, “the situation on the ground in Kabul and across Afghanistan is dangerous and changing rapidly … Our priority is the safe and orderly departure of Australian citizens, permanent residents and visa holders, including formerly locally engaged Afghan employees.” He further said, “I know many of you are asking a simple question, was it worth it? Yes, it was. We did the right thing. You did the right thing. As with any war, of course, there are errors and miscalculations, and history won’t shy away from that, and neither will we, as a free people.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne delivered a statement to the Senate on 23 August regarding Afghanistan. She noted that Australia must “consider how we combat terrorism from here … There is a real risk of which we are acutely cognisant that if terrorist bases are once again established in Afghanistan this will morally energise and materially support terrorists closer to our shores.” Moreover, Payne stated that Australia makes “no premature commitments to engage with an Afghan administration that is Taliban led … We are also very clear that the Taliban has seized power by force, not through the support of the Afghan people.”

On 23 August, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong similarly addressed the Senate on Afghanistan. Wong stated that “the mission did not end the way we wanted or hoped. We should face that reality squarely. These issues demand responsible and sober engagement.” She further called on the Morrison Government to evacuate all Australians and Afghans that supported Australian operations, and to fast-track visas and evacuations for the family members of Australian citizens and permanent residents. Wong argued that “the Morrison-Joyce government’s offer of 3000 visas is insufficient. Australia did not use its full refugee quota last year, and we have over 13,000 places available every year.”

Payne issued a joint statement on 24 August alongside 68 other countries on Afghanistan women’s and girls’ human rights. The statement noted “deep concern” about “reports of serious human rights violations across Afghanistan … [especially] reports of a reduction in rights and access to services and public spaces for Afghan women and girls.” It further expressed that “the protection of Afghan women’s and girls’ human rights must ben an integral part of the political solution.”

On 24 August, Payne delivered a statement to the Human Rights Council’s 31st Special Session on serious human rights concerns and the situation in Afghanistan. She noted Australia’s “concern about recent reports of new threats of forced and early marriage” and called on the Taliban “to facilitate and allow the safe and orderly departure of those who wish to leave the country.”

Payne, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud, and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke, issued a media release on 23 August on the establishment of the Australian Agriculture Visa. The visa “responds to workforce shortages in the agriculture and primary industry sectors” and will be available to workers in the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors. It will be open to applicants “from a wide range of countries negotiated through bilateral agreements.” The Ministers noted that regulations to enable the creation of the visa will be in place by the end of September 2021, and that “the program will be operated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, building on the strong outcomes from Pacific labour mobility programs.”

On 23 August, Payne and Minister for Trade Dan Tehan virtually met with their Filipino counterparts for the fifth Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM). The Ministers noted that 2021 marks the 75thanniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations, and agreed to work towards the elevation of bilateral relations from a Comprehensive Partnership to a Strategic Partnership in “the near future”. Other topics discussed include the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of security and defence cooperation, commitments to human rights, the establishment of a Philippines-Australia Maritime Dialogue mechanism, and shared concerns about the continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea.

Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja jointly announced on 22 August that 13,000 COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Kiribati. The doses are in addition to essential medical equipment and supplies already delivered to Kiribati under the Essential Services and Humanitarian Corridor program.

On 23 August, Tehan and Minister for Industry, Christian Porter, issued a joint media release announcing that the Government has given regulatory approval for a commercial rocket launch in South Australia. Taiwanese company tiSPACE will conduct a test flight of its Hapith I rocket from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex. Porter noted that “space is a significant global growth market that will support Australia’s economic future through big investment, new technologies and job growth across multiple industries.” Tehan stated that “Australia has an opportunity to become a key player in the rapidly expanding global space launch market, which will bring investment, jobs and innovation to our nation.”

The Department of Defence (DoD) issued a statement on 19 August noting that the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy have signed a new Joint Guidance for the Australia-India ‘Navy to Navy’ relationship. Chief of the Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, said “we are proud to sign a new shared vision for working even closer with the Indian Navy to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity in our region.”

On 23 August, the DoD noted that the Royal Australian Navy will join India, Japan and the United States for Exercise MALABAR 2021 off the coast of Guam. Vice Admiral Noonan said that Australia’s participation in the exercise would “strengthen our collective ability to contribute to regional security.” This year’s Exercise MALABAR will involve a range of maritime operations, including live firings and anti-submarine warfare operations.

The DoD issued a media release on 20 August stating that Australia and Solomon Islands are deepening cooperation on explosive ordinance disposal, with a $15 million package of infrastructure works, equipment, and training announced. Australian Defence Force experts will “work closely with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force” in order to “design a tailored training package, focused on advanced skills and instructor training, as well as training for new officers.”

3 September

In a speech to Parliament on 1 September, Morrison acknowledged the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (the ANZUS Treaty). He referred to the treaty as ‘the foundation stone of Australia’s national security and a key pillar for peace and stability in our Indo-Pacific region.’ Morrison pledged ‘to renew and modernise our Alliance; to continue to be vigilant and strong; to build the economic strength for the peace and prosperity of all; and for a world order that favours freedom.’ Morrison also issued a statement on the anniversary of the treaty, where he noted that ‘our countries remain committed to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and helping our region to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.’

On 31 August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced that Australia’s vaccine rollout will be boosted by 500,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses, following a dose swap deal with Singapore. Australia will gain access to 500,000 Singaporean doses now, and in December, Australia will supply 500,000 doses to Singapore. Morrison stated that he ‘would like to convey [his] special appreciation to Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, for our direct engagement over this arrangement, and his Government for their support, highlighting how two governments can work together and manage vaccine stocks before they expire.’

Payne, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, virtually met with their Singaporean counterparts on 27 August for the12th Meeting of the Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee. The Ministers discussed their shared commitment to strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and their shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region ‘that is consistent with the principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN Centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, good governance, a rules-based framework, and respect for sovereignty and international law.’ The Ministers also recognised the need for new capacities to address climate change and their good cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ‘significant deepening’ of their bilateral defence relationship. They also expressed concerns about the ‘death toll and continued violence in Myanmar’ as well as the ‘rapidly evolving and dangerous situation in Afghanistan.’

On 30 August, Payne and Dutton virtually met with their French counterparts for the Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations. The Ministers reflected on the strength of their strategic partnership and agreed to publish a report on the Australia-France initiative, ‘AFiniti’, ‘to highlight the depth and breadth of cooperative activities.’ They also reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation during COVID-19 and the ‘importance of strengthening the immediate global response to address climate change and environmental degradation.’

On behalf of Australia, Payne jointly released a statement on 30 August with 94 other nations on Afghanistan evacuation travel assurances. The statement noted that ‘we have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authori[s]ation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.’

On 26 August, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja announced that Australia will deliver more than 400,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam. The delivery is the first instalment towards Australia’s commitment of 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses to be shared with Vietnam in 2021.

Tehan virtually attended the India-Australia Trade Talks with his Indian counterpart on 26 August. The Ministers ‘appreciated the progress made in three rounds of talks between the chief trade negotiators of both sides and discussed the way forward for an early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).’ They also agreed to begin consultations on ‘the potential opportunities and impacts of an interim agreement as a pathway to a full CECA.’

On 30 August, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke announced the formation of the Advisory Panel on Australia’s Resettlement of Afghan Nationals. The panel will be co-chaired by humanitarian settlement expert Paris Aristotle AO and Commonwealth Coordinator-General Migrant Services Alison Larkins. The panel is a group of ‘of highly regarded Australian-Afghan community leaders and refugee and settlement experts’ and was formed with the purpose of supporting the provision of 3,000 additional humanitarian places for Afghan nationals and ensuring appropriate settlement and integration supports.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O’Connor issued a joint statement on 1 September where they announced that, if elected, the Labor Government will conduct a Defence Force Posture Review. The Review will be the first since 2012, and ‘would ensure the Australian Government is considering both strategic posture and whether Australian Defence units, assets, and facilities are prepared for the military to take action in a timely way.’

10 September

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, and Minister for Health Greg Hunt jointly announced on 3 September that four million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses will arrive in Australia from the United Kingdom. The Ministers described the arrangement as ‘a historic partnership between the Australian and United Kingdom governments.’ Australia will receive four million doses in September, while Australia will send four million Pfizer doses to the United Kingdom ‘from Australian supplies in late 2021’. Morrison stated that ‘Australia has no greater friend than the UK and I would like to thank the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his deep commitment to Australia and his personal and direct engagement on this partnership agreement.’

On 6 September, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg delivered a speech at the Australian National University on ‘building resilience and the return of strategic competition.’ Frydenberg stated that ‘Australia will always choose partnerships ahead of conflict, wherever we can. However, heightened strategic competition is the new reality we face.’ He further noted that ‘China’s trade actions carry a cost to both Australia and China’ and that both nations would be ‘better off if markets were allowed to operate freely.’ Frydenberg advised that Australian businesses ‘should always be looking to diversify their markets, and not overly rely on one country’ in what he referred to as a ‘China plus’ strategy.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton addressed the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia on 8 September. He stated that ‘[Chinese Communist Party] spokespersons … [have] become increasingly bellicose over recent years’ and that the Party has become ‘increasingly coercive, driven by a zero-sum mentality.’ Dutton further stated that ‘the times in which we live have echoes of the 1930s’ and the present regional environment is ‘far more complex and far less predictable than at any time since the Second World War.’ He noted that ‘Australia wants a positive and constructive relationship with China, but the onus is now on the CCP to demonstrate – through words and deeds – that China will contribute to the Indo-Pacific’s stability, not to continue to undermine it.’

On 8 September, Payne and Dutton issued a media release on their upcoming joint visit to Indonesia, India, the Republic of Korea, and the United States. The trip will ‘advance Australia’s relationships with our close friends and strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region’. Payne stated that ‘among the most pressing issues for discussion was cooperation on our region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensuring the recovery takes place in a way that reflects our values and principles.’ Dutton noted that ‘the visits are an important opportunity to build on already strong defence relationships, particularly with the United States on the 17th anniversary of the ANZUS alliance.’ The Ministers will participate in the first Australia-United States Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN) with the Biden Administration, as well as bilateral 2+2 meetings with their counterparts in each country.

Payne and her Papua New Guinean counterpart Soroi Marepo Eoe virtually co-chaired the 28th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum on 2 September. Also in attendance were Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, and Minister for International Development Zed Seselja, as well as their Papua New Guinean counterparts. The Ministers ‘discussed priorities for implementing [the] Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership’ and noted their shared commitment to ‘meeting current economic, development and security challenges, particularly those posed by COVID-19.’

On 2 September, Australia delivered 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Indonesia, as the first instalment of Australia’s commitment to share 2.5 million AstraZeneca doses with Indonesia in 2021. Payne noted that ‘Australia is working closely with Indonesia and other partners across our region to improve equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, helping to save lives and support our shared economic recovery from the pandemic.’

The MIKTA partnership, comprising Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia, issued a statement on 8 September about the natural disasters in Turkey and other parts of Europe in July and August 2021. Payne and her MIKTA counterparts ‘extend[ed] [their] deepest sympathies and condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.’ They also ‘reaffirm[ed] the collective will for urgent global climate action’.

On 6 September, Tehan delivered a speech to the Foreign Correspondents Association on ‘developments and emerging issues in Australia’s trade and related industries with the countries of the Indo-Pacific and further afield.’Tehan noted that Australia’s trade ‘with many of our major trading partners has remained healthy, despite demand and price impacts related to COVID, as economic recovery in those markets has supported trade.’ He further stated that ‘President Biden’s elevation of the Quad partnership between Australia, the United States, Japan and India to a leader-level forum has sent a great signal through the pandemic.’

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke chaired the Ministerial Forum on Multicultural Affairs with his State and Territory counterparts on 8 September. The Forum met to discuss Commonwealth, State and Territory support ‘for the resettlement of Afghan nationals in response to events in Afghanistan.’ The Ministers ‘committed to work together in partnership’ and noted the ‘strong desire of the Australian community to support the successful settlement of people newly arrived from Afghanistan.’

On 5 September, the Department of Defence announced that the Northern Territory is hosting the fourth iteration of the biennial AUSINDEX maritime warfare exercises between the Royal Australian Navy and the Indian Navy. Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, noted that ‘each time our nations come together we develop further maritime interoperability by exercising more involved warfare serials demonstrating our strong commitment to an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.’ Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti said the exercise would ‘build on the recent navy-to-navy warfare training that was conducted during Phase One of Exercise MALABAR 21 off Guam’.

The Department of Defence issued a statement on 6 September acknowledging that more than 2000 troops from the Australian Defence Force and United States Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) had completed Exercise Koolendong, a ‘high-end live-fire warfighting exercise’ at Bradshaw Field Training Area in the Northern Territory.’ Commander 1st Brigade Brigadier Ash Collingburn said the Exercise ‘confirmed the ability of United States and Australian forces to quickly respond to crises in the region if needed.’ Commanding Officer MRF-D Colonel David Banning noted that the Exercise ‘demonstrated that the US and Australia alliance was as strong as ever’ and that it ‘has never been more important as we look ahead to our shared strategic challenges in the region.’

17 September

On 14 September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that he will travel to Washington, D.C. from 21-24 September for the first face-to-face Quad Leaders’ Meeting. Morrison stated that “reconvening this important group reinforces our commitment to the Indo-Pacific COVID-19 recovery, and our efforts towards peace, prosperity and stability in our region.”

Morrison released an opinion piece to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. He noted that “September 11 reminds us that we can never take our peace, our freedom and our way of life for granted” and referred to the event as “an attack on free peoples everywhere.” Morrison further stated that Australia commits “to continue to stand with our partners and allies – especially the United States – as we work together for a world that favours freedom.”

On 9 September, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton delivered a joint statement with their Indonesian counterparts after attending the Seventh Indonesia-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers 2+2 Meeting in Jakarta. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to deepening cooperation under the five pillars of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: “our economic and development partnership, connecting people, securing our shared interests, maritime cooperation, and Indo-Pacific stability and prosperity.” They discussed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and recognised the “strong ongoing cooperation” in response.

Payne and Dutton issued a joint media release on 11 September with their Indian counterparts, after the Inaugural India-Australia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. The Ministers welcomed the elevation of the India-Australia relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020 and “noted with satisfaction the progress made in deepening bilateral cooperation in political, economic, security and defence related matters.” They also “reiterated the importance of advancing their shared objective of an open, free, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region, in line with India’s increasing engagement in the Indo-Pacific region through the Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative and Australia’s Indo-Pacific approach and Pacific Step-Up.” Payne further noted that Australia and India are launching the second round of their Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership grants program. This round of the program “seeks proposals that focus on strengthening understanding of ethical frameworks, developing best practice and encouraging development of technical standards on critical technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence.”

On 13 September, Payne and Dutton issued a joint statement with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea, following the Fifth Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 Meeting in Seoul. The Ministers reaffirmed their “strong cooperative relations in a wide range of sectors, underpinned by the shared values of freedom, democracy, universal human rights and rule of law, as well as mutual respect, trust and close people-to-people ties, and a commitment to an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.” They further discussed cooperation on COVID-19 recovery, defence and security.

Morrison, Hunt and Payne announced that an additional one million Moderna doses have been secured from European Union member states “to further bolster Australia’s vaccination programme” on 12 September. The doses have been sourced from “surplus vaccines destined for Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal and Bulgaria”. Payne stated that the agreement “further demonstrates the important role our diplomats play and the strength of Australia’s bonds with European nations and the European Union.”

On 14 September, Payne, alongside Minister for Employment Stuart Robert and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced the first stage of reforms to Australia’s labour mobility programs. The Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) will be “easier to access, protect worker welfare, and better meet the workforce needs of regional Australia.” The Ministers noted that the initial stage of reforms include a “single streamlined application process for both the PLS and SWP offering more flexibility and less red tape.” Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong argued that the changes “fail to address the most critical issues that the schemes are currently facing,” including “the vulnerability of Pacific workers to mistreatment” and “the urgent need for … a national quarantine system.”

Payne, alongside her MIKTA counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey, issued a statement on the situation in Afghanistan on 10 September. The Ministers expressed their “deep concern with the unfolding situation” and that they “continue to monitor developments closely.” They further condemned “the evil and calculated terrorist attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport” and called on the Taliban to “observe international humanitarian law.”

On 13 September, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews virtually delivered a speech at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on “the road from 9/11”. Andrews stated that “the road from 9/11 has not reached its end – it never will. It is a road that will continue to wind and turn. We may yet see some familiar places along the way, and there will no doubt be fresh challenges ahead. But over the past 20 years, the overwhelming majority of Australians have come together to reject terrorist ideologies … we’ve kept each other safe from mass casualty attacks … and we’ve bult a strong framework for managing the threat. I have full confidence that the next 20 years will only see more of the same.”

Andrews and Robert issued a media release on 13 September detailing the appointment of Accenture to deliver the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) as “the next step in preparation for reopening Australia to international travel at scale.” Andrews noted that the DPD “will support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders, by providing digitally-verified COVID-19 vaccination details.”

On 15 September, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced that he had signed a new Australia-Bangladesh Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Tipu Munshi. Tehan stated that “the Morrison Government is working to energise and expand the trade relationship between Australia and Bangladesh, to support jobs and business opportunities in both countries.”

Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a media release on 14 September which detailed additional flexibility to citizenship applications for all distinguished talent visa holders and athletes in the Australian Commonwealth Games team. Hawke stated that “the unique work and travel demands on some of our most highly distinguished prospective Australians should not preclude them from making the cut.”

On 13 September, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese published an opinion piece in the Australian which noted that Labor will “make climate central to the US alliance.” Albanese argued that “Australia’s action on climate change will shape whether our interests prosper in partnership with our neighbours and our US ally. On coming to office, I will make comprehensive US-Australia co-operation on climate change a hallmark of our alliance.”

24 September

On 16 September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside his British and American counterparts Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, announced the establishment of the AUKUS trilateral security partnership between the three nations. The leaders stated that the establishment of AUKUS is “guided by our enduring ideals and shared commitment to the international rules-based order” and that they are “resolv[ing] to deepen diplomatic, security, and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, including by working with partners, to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.” They announced the first initiative under AUKUS, “a trilateral effort of 18 months … to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.”

Morrison noted on 16 September in an address following the AUKUS announcement that “Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capacity … [a]nd we will continue to meet all our nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” He referred to the AUKUS partnership as “a partnership that seeks to engage, not to exclude. To contribute, not take. And to enable and empower, not to control or coerce.” In response, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese stated that he “looks forward to the strengthened cooperation with our close allies” but that “today’s announcement is the single biggest admission of failure on the part of the Morrison-Joyce Government over its $90 billion Future Submarines program.”

On 16 September, Morrison, Payne and Dutton issued a joint media statement which stated that AUKUS “will build on the three nations’ longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties, and will enable the partners to significantly deepen cooperation on a range of emerging security and defence capabilities, which will enhance joint capability and interoperability.” The first initiative under AUKUS is the acquisition by Australia of nuclear-powered submarine technology, which are intended to be built in South Australia. This means that Australia “will no longer proceed with the Attack class conventional submarine program with Naval Group [and the Government of France].” Other initial efforts under AUKUS will focus on “cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities.”

Morrison met with President Biden in New York on 22 September ahead of the first in-person Quad Leaders’ Meeting. Biden stated that “the United States has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia.” Morrison noted that “the United States and Australia have always shared a partnership that is about a world order that favours freedom, and that’s why we’ve always stood together.” He thanked Biden for his “leadership and focus on the Indo-Pacific region”, to which Biden noted that “our partnership is in line with all the other democracies in the world.”

On 22 September, Morrison delivered a joint media statement on 22 September with his counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey (‘MIKTA’) reaffirming their “belief in and commitment to open societies, democratic values, and multilateralism.” The leaders stated that the COVID-19 pandemic is “a powerful reminder of the imperative for a strong, responsive and effective multilateral system”. They further noted that MIKTA will “continue efforts to promote and support a multilateral system – with the United Nations at its core – that is effective, open and transparent and accountable to member states.”

Payne and Dutton attended the 31st Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2021) with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington D.C. on 16 September. In their joint statement, they referred to their “unbreakable” alliance as “an anchor of stability” whose “focus” is the Indo-Pacific. The statement noted that “the United States and Australia will continue to advance peace, security, and prosperity to ensure an open, inclusive, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.” It also stated that “in the face of challenges spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and growing threats to security and stability, our friendship remains steadfast and resolute.”

On 21 September, Payne announced that Australia will invest $25.6 million over four years to the United Nations’ Junior Professional Office Program to assist young Australian professionals in gaining “real world experience at international institutions critical to Australia’s interests”. She noted that “the investment will give Australians a greater presence in global institutions and help ensure that Australia has the international influence we need to protect our national interests, sovereignty and values.”

Dutton issued a statement on 17 September which announced that the Government will fund the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) to establish an office in Washington, D.C. to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS treaty. ASPI has also recently recognised its 20th anniversary, and Dutton referred to it as providing “independent contestability in policy advice on defence and strategic policy issues.” Dutton further stated that “ASPI is well-respected in Washington for the calibre of its research, particularly on Indo-Pacific security matters, cyber security and on the US-Australia alliance.”

On 22 September, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan addressed the National Press Club on the topic of “Economic statecraft in a challenging time”. Tehan stated that “geostrategic competition is taking place in the economic realm as fiercely as it is in all others.” He noted that “all countries are vulnerable to having trade used against them. The best protection lies in more trade not less; being more open and having even stronger economic partners.” Tehan referred to Australia’s economic statecraft as “principled, proactive and, where necessary, patient … Patience has been essential in our dealings with our largest trading partner, China.”

Tehan issued a joint statement with his New Zealand counterpart Damien O’Connor, following a virtual meeting on 20 September to advance trans-Tasman cooperation under the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER). The Ministers referred to CER as “one of the most comprehensive trade agreements in the world” which “underpins the integration of the New Zealand and Australian economies.” They also reflected on the importance of free movement between the two nations, their commitment to the multilateral rules-based trading system, and the role that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is playing to manage the impacts of COVID-19.

On 16 September, Tehan noted that Australia has requested that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) establish a dispute settlement panel “to adjudicate anti-dumping duties imposed on Australian wine by China.” Tehan stated that “Australia supports the rules-based trading system” and that this next stage of the WTO dispute resolution process “[follows] consultation between Australia and China.” He further noted that “Australia remains ready to resolve this matter directly through discussions with China.”

Tehan, alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure Barnaby Joyce, announced on 20 September the commitment of $183.65 million to maintain Australia’s sovereign international aviation capacity. The Ministers noted that the additional support “will ensure airlines and airports are ready to respond to increased demand once border restrictions are eased.” Joyce noted that “it’s important that the sector continues operating now, to maintain the flow of exports and imports and bring Australians home from overseas.”

On 20 September, Tehan welcomed Peru becoming the eighth Party to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). He stated that “Peru is a fast-growing, dynamic economy offering Australian exporters a gateway to Latin America and the CPTPP will support trade with Peru growing beyond our existing bilateral agreement.” Tehan also noted that Brunei, Chile and Malaysia “will join the CPTPP once their respective domestic ratification processes are complete.”

1 October

On 24 September, Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his counterparts from India, Japan and the United States for the first in-person ‘Quad’ summit. In the communique following the summit, the leaders stated that ‘[t]ogether, we recommit to promoting the free, open, rules-based order, rooted in international law and undaunted by coercion, to bolster security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.’ They reflected on their ‘considerable progress’ in tackling challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and ‘critical and emerging technologies.’ The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the ‘complete denucleari[s]ation’ of North Korea, an end to violence in Myanmar, and further implementation of the ASEAN Five Point Consensus.

Morrison virtually addressed the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September, where he reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged the need to ‘prevent future pandemics’ and noted that Australia ‘supports the calls for a stronger, more independent World Health Organization, with enhanced surveillance and pandemic response powers.’ Morrison also noted that ‘Australia called for an independent review [into the origins of COVID-19], and sees understanding the cause of this pandemic, not as a political issue, but as being essential, simply, to prevent the next one.’ He reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to an international rules-based order and to ‘[playing] our part in meeting the global challenge of climate change.’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne published an opinion piece on 27 September in response to widespread media commentary on the new AUKUS strategic alliance. She argued that AUKUS must be viewed in the context of the various other ways that Australia engages with ‘our region and the world’, including the Quad, ASEAN, and the Pacific Islands Forum. She noted that ‘China as a major power is asserting itself and pressuring the system of rules that enjoys broad international support and provides broad international benefit … The rising intensity of this competition need not provoke us into despair or paralysis: it means that there are new risks and opportunities and that passive spectatorship is not an option.’

Payne issued a joint media release with Attorney-General Michaelia Cash which announced that Australia has signed the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (‘the Singapore Convention’). The Convention ‘establishes a uniform framework for the enforcement of international commercial agreements resulting from mediation.’ Payne noted that ‘[s]igning the Convention demonstrates Australia’s support for enhanced simplicity, certainty and autonomy for parties in commercial disputes.’

On 30 September, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja revealed that the number of Pacific and Timorese workers ‘ready to take up jobs’ in regional Australia has doubled from 27,000 to 55,000 in recent weeks. This follows ‘major recruitment drives in several Pacific countries and Timor-Leste.’ The Ministers noted that ‘with many Pacific nations recording no community transmission of COVID-19, Pacific labour mobility remains the most significant source of temporary migrant labour for the upcoming harvest season.’

Payne noted on 29 September that Australia will stand for re-election to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council at the Plenipotentiary Conference in Bucharest, Romania. She said that the re-election campaign ‘will focus on our efforts to build global connectivity, particularly in the Pacific and other developing states, by sharing Australia’s domestic experience in improving connectivity in remote locations. Australia’s campaign will also reflect our strong commitment to promoting liberal-democratic values in key international standard-setting organisations like the ITU.’

On 24 September, Payne issued a media release which noted that Australia stands in solidarity with the European Union’s statement denouncing malicious cyber activity against its member states. She stated that ‘Australia is committed to cooperating with our international partners, including the EU, to deter and respond to malicious cyber activities, in accordance with existing international law and norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. The rule of law applies online, just as it does offline.’

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 28 September that he will shortly travel overseas to ‘boost trade and investment opportunities and represent Australia at multilateral engagements.’ He will visit Indonesia, India, the United Arab Emirates, France, Italy, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Tehan will attend the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting, the G20 Trade Ministers’ Meeting, a WTO mini-ministerial meeting, the AIBX 2021 Business Leaders Forum, and meetings with his ministerial and trade counterparts. He will also meet with various businesses and tourism industry representatives.

On 29 September, Tehan announced the launch of the Blueprint for Trade and Investment with Indonesia. He noted that the Blueprint ‘will help Australian companies grow their commercial links and develop new opportunities within the Indonesian market following the commencement of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in 2020.’ Tehan further stated that ‘as strategic partners and the two largest economies in Southeast Asia, the Indonesia- Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and supporting Blueprint complements and supports our shared interest in fostering a secure and prosperous region.’

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a joint media release with Nauruan President Lionel Rouwen Aingimea announcing the signing of a memorandum of understanding ‘to establish an enduring regional processing capability in Nauru.’ The Ministers noted that the memorandum ‘demonstrates both countries’ continued commitment to countering maritime people smuggling.’ Andrews stated that ‘this is a significant step for both our countries and I thank President Aingimea for his ongoing commitment to regional leadership in stamping out the threat of maritime people smuggling.’

8 October

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan issued a joint media release with his Indian counterpart on 1 October announcing the formal resumption of negotiations on the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. The Ministers made this announcement following the 17th India-Australia Joint Ministerial Commission meeting, where they also discussed ‘resolution of tax-related issues faced by Indian software firms in Australia, ensuring increased two-way trade and the 12th Ministerial Conference of the WTO scheduled to be held at the end of this year.’

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, noted the 30th anniversary of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, otherwise known as the Madrid Protocol. The Australian Government joined leaders from other Antarctic Treaty nations to mark the anniversary. The Ministers noted that the Treaty is ‘a historic pact to protect the Antarctic wilderness’ which ‘Australia played a leading role in initiating’.

On 6 October, Payne announced several new diplomatic appointments: Miles Armitage as Australia’s next Ambassador to Turkey, Daniel Emery as Australia’s next Ambassador to Serbia; Julia Niblett as Australia’s next Ambassador to Ethiopia; and Robin McKenzie as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Tuvalu.

Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a media release on 6 October announcing that the Australian Government will cease regional processing in Papua New Guinea of ‘people who have attempted to travel to Australia illegally by boat.’ The regional processing contracts in Papua New Guinea will cease on 31 December 2021 ‘and will not be renewed.’ Moreover, from 1 January 2022, the Papua New Guinean Government ‘will assume full management of regional processing services in [Papua New Guinea] and full responsibility for those who remain.’ Andrews also noted that prior to 31 December 2021, ‘Australia will support anyone subject to regional processing arrangements in [Papua New Guinea] who wishes to voluntarily transfer to Nauru.’

On 6 October, the Department of Defence acknowledged the Golden Jubilee of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) with its participation in Exercise BERSAMA GOLD 21. Alongside the other FPDA nations, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the Australian Defence Force participated in activities across Singapore, Malaysia, and parts of the South China Sea. Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, noted that ‘the FPDA is a trusted mainstay of regional security architecture. When our five nations come together we strengthen cooperation, deepen our interoperability and sustain professional links.’

15 October

On 13 October, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia is “heading to the Moon.” The government has reached an agreement with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for an Australian-made rover to be “included in a future mission.” Morrison noted that “leading Australian businesses and researchers will come together to develop the rover, backed by $50 million in funding from the Trailblazer program in the Government’s Moon to Mars initiative.”

Morrison attended a virtual G20 Extraordinary Leaders’ Meeting on Afghanistan on 12 October. He stated that “it is crucial that the world’s major economies work together to support the people of Afghanistan. We must be coordinated in our approach to Afghanistan’s immediate humanitarian needs, to demand the Taliban regime ensure safe passage from Afghanistan for foreign citizens and visa holders, and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism.”

On 8 October, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton chaired the annual South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting(SPDMM), held with his counterparts from Chile, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga. In the meeting, the Ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to work together in response to shared security threats.” Dutton noted that “the SPDMM provides a platform to drive more effective regional cooperation with partners that share our interest in a peaceful and secure Pacific.” Substantive outcomes agreed upon at the SPDMM include Australia supporting the Pacific-led initiative to develop a Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Response Framework “to refine the way countries within the South Pacific work together when disaster strikes.” Japan has been granted observer status and will attend the meeting in Tonga next year.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan virtually co-chaired the Second Australia-Vietnam Economic Partnership Meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Chi Dung, on 8 October. The ministers noted the progress of the development of the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy, reaffirmed their commitment to the rules-based multilateral trading system, and announced the appointment of Business Champions “to promote further two-way trade and investment links.”

On 11 October, Tehan and his Singaporean counterpart, Gan Kim Yong, noted that the two nations are developing a Green Economy Agreement (GEA). The GEA “will further accelerate both countries’ transition towards a green and sustainable future, and help to create good jobs and lower carbon emissions.” The GEA will consider practical initiatives to promoting trade and investment, and will aim to “remove non-tariff barriers to trade in environmental goods and services.” Tehan stated that the GEA will “deliver benefits for both countries by lowering the cost and accelerating the uptake of green technology.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced on 7 October that the Australian government is partnering with international development organisation DT Global to “grow agricultural trade with Pacific Island countries and enhance biosecurity.” The program “will assist Pacific Island producers to improve product quality and find new markets for their goods.” Littleproud stated that “[the Department of Agriculture] and DT Global will work closely with Pacific Island nations to support growers in managing pests and also help to ensure these pests don’t get the chance to pose a threat to Australian farmers.” Seselja noted that the program “is supporting business-led economic growth in our region.”

29 October

On 27 October, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne virtually attended the inaugural ASEAN-Australian Leaders’ Summit. At the Summit, ASEAN leaders agreed to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between ASEAN and Australia. Morrison and Payne announced that Australia will invest $154 million into “our cooperation with ASEAN”. The funding will support scholarships for ASEAN leaders to study in Australia and projects to address some of the complex challenges that the region is facing. Morrison and Payne also noted that at the Summit, the Leaders discussed the “shared challenge of climate change and Australia’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.”

Morrison also noted in his virtual address to the ASEAN-Australian Leaders’ Summit that “AUKUS does not change Australia’s commitment to ASEAN or the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.” He reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to international law and the rules-based order, and stated that AUKUS “does not change Australia’s deep, long-standing commitment to nuclear non-proliferation … we will continue to meet all our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

On 25 October, Morrison also virtually addressed the 2021 ASEAN Business and Investment Summit. He noted Australia’s “focus on the global challenge of climate change” and that reducing emissions “will require practical, scalable and commercially viable technologies.” Morrison stated that Australia’s “major investments to drive our energy transition” will also support ASEAN nations “to transition to secure and affordable low-emissions technologies that can drive development and jobs.” He announced that he “looks forward” to inviting delegates from ASEAN nations to Australia’s Clean Energy Summit, to be hosted in early 2022.

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton published an op-ed, titled “Australia Must Respond to Rising Tensions in the Indo-Pacific,” in the Australian Financial Review’s Defence Special on 26 October. He noted that “more than half of the world’s 470 in-service submarines are already operating in Indo-Pacific waters. Were Australia not to invest in submarines … we would be dangerously exposed.” Dutton referred to Australia’s intention to build nuclear-powered submarines “is the most ambitious project in our nation’s history, dwarfing all others in complexity and scale.” He also stated that whilst the acquisition of a nuclear-powered submarine fleet is the “first major initiative under AUKUS, it’s certainly not the last.”

Dutton was also interviewed by the Australian Financial Review, where he referred to AUKUS as “the most significant step taken by the Australian government in defence policy in our lifetime.” He noted that Australia’s objective is “to see peace maintained in our region and … a deterrence against China and any other country who might have bad intent over the coming decades.” Dutton also expressed his hopes that the Australia-France diplomatic relationship will be “mended” soon so that the two nations can “continue to work together in the Indo-Pacific.”

Payne, alongside Dutton and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, announced that Australia’s COVID-19 partnership with Papua New Guinea has been strengthened, following a request for additional support. On 27 October, the Ministers issued a joint statement which noted that Australia has deployed an additional Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) and a further 14 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, who will assist Papua New Guinea in its response to COVID-19. Payne stated that “Australia and Papua New Guinea know the importance of partnership. Responding to this current COVID-19 outbreak together is no exception.”

On 27 October, Payne also noted that Australia will provide an additional $4.5 million to Myanmar to support their COVID-19 response. The funding will be provided to the Access to Health Fund and delivered through the United Nations Office for Project Services. It will be used to “procure emergency supplies, provide medical treatment, and support COVID-19 prevention and control measures.”

Payne announced on 27 October that Australia is providing a further $3 million in support to assist efforts to “alleviate the humanitarian crisis” in Tigray and northern Ethiopia. This funding will be provided through the International Committee of the Red Cross, and is in addition to Australia’s existing humanitarian assistance funding.

On 25 October, Payne, Seselja, and Minister for Trade Dan Tehan welcomed Telstra’s announcement of its decision to acquire and run Digicel Pacific, the leading telecommunications operator in the South Pacific. They noted that the Government has “committed to providing a financing package through Export Finance Australia of USD 1.33 billion to support Telstra’s acquisition”, stating that such support is “consistent with Australia’s longstanding commitment to growing quality investment in regional infrastructure.” The Ministers further stated that the acquisition reflects the Government’s commitments under the Pacific Step-Up, noting that it “will help with the region’s COVID-19 recovery” and is “fundamentally in the interests of both Australia and our Pacific family.”

Payne acknowledged the 30th anniversary of Cambodia’s Peace Agreements on 23 October, which “established the principles for the creation of a free and fair democratic nation in Cambodia.” Payne further stated that “Australia is deeply concerned by the deterioration in democratic freedoms and growing intolerance towards peacefully expressed dissenting views.” She noted that Australia encourages the Cambodian Government to “take steps to rebuild relations with the former political opposition and civil society … and to protect and preserve the right to peaceful expression of alternative views as a pathway towards a more tolerant, robust and inclusive Cambodia.” Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, similarly acknowledged the anniversary of the Agreements, noting that “Australia can remain proud” of its role in their negotiation.

On 26 October, Tehan noted that the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s establishment of a dispute settlement panel, as part of the next phase of the process to resolve the dispute “over anti-dumping duties imposed by China on Australian wine.” He stated that “Australia will continue to use the WTO dispute settlement system to vigorously defend the interests of Australian wine producers and exporters … Australia remains open to further discussions with China to resolve this issue.”

Tehan announced on 21 October that the Morrison Government had secured the passage of legislation to implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. He noted that “RCEP will be the world’s largest free trade agreement once it is in force for Australia, the ten ASEAN nations, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. This agreement will make it easier for businesses and investors to operate throughout the Indo-Pacific by delivering greater integration of value chains and shared rules of origin, which ultimately will lead to more jobs, opportunities and economic growth in Australia.”

These notes were compiled by Isabella Keith, a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook at the AIIA National Office. Isabella is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics.