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.
National President, Australian Institute of International Affairs
Prime Minister Scott Morrison virtually met with his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Kishida on 6 January for the Australia-Japan Leaders’ Meeting. The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to their Special Strategic Partnership and longstanding ties. They also signed the landmark Reciprocal Access Agreement between Australia and Japan (Australia-Japan RAA) which underscores “their commitment to further elevating bilateral security and defence cooperation in the interests of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.” The leaders further announced Australia’s AUD $150 million investment in hydrogen energy supply chain projects under the Japan-Australia Partnership on Decarbonisation through Technology.
On 17 December, Morrison and Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced the signing of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Tehan signed the agreement on behalf of Australia during a virtual ceremony that day with UK Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan. The Morrison Government will work to bring the agreement into force in 2022, at which point “around 75 per cent of Australia’s two-way trade will be covered by free trade agreements.” Morrison and Tehan referred to the FTA as “the most comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreement that Australia has concluded, other than with New Zealand” and that it “demonstrates our countries’ commitment to free trade as a driver of economic growth and stronger bilateral relationships.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced several new diplomatic appointments on 20 December: Amanda Gorely as Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva; William Costello as Ambassador to Timor-Leste; Fiona Hoggart as Consul-General in Surabaya; Scott Ryan as High Commissioner to Canada; and Sarah Hooper as Consul-General in Ho Chi Minh City. Later that week, Payne also announced the appointment of Dr Geoffrey Shaw as the Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, and the appointment of James Movick as the Director of the Pacific Fusion Centre.
Payne, along with her Five Eyes counterparts, released a joint statement on the Legislative Council Elections in Hong Kong on 20 December. The Ministers expressed their “grave concern over the erosion of the democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system” and noted that these actions “undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy.” They further stated that they “remain gravely concerned at the wider chilling effect of the National Security Law and the growing restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly”. The Ministers jointly urged the People’s Republic of China to “act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.”
On 21 December, Payne issued a joint statement with her counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey (comprising MIKTA) welcoming Indonesia’s 2022 G20 Presidency. The MIKTA members noted that they “support the emphasis Indonesia plans to bring to the G20 by focusing on how the G20 can be relevant to developing nations and those who are in the most vulnerable situations.”
Payne announced on 23 December that Australia will provide $5 million in emergency relief to the Philippines following the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Rai. This funding will be allocated across various organisations including the Philippines Red Cross, UN Population Fund, World Food Programme, and local NGOs to assist with the distribution of food, shelter, water, hygiene kits, and other support.
Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews visited the United States, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in mid-December. In the United States, she met with a range of senior officials and law enforcement partners to deepen cyber security collaboration. During her visit, the United States and Australia signed the CLOUD Act Agreement to facilitate reciprocal access to electronic data for investigations of serious crime. Andrews also addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she discussed Australia’s “robust multi-layered approach to cybersecurity” that is built on the “three core concepts” of “support for industry,” “support for security agencies and law enforcement” and “support for citizens.” In her address, Andrews also referred to the CLOUD Act Agreement as continuing Australia and the United States’ “long tradition of working in lockstep to secure the rules-based international order and assure global peace and prosperity.”
In Sri Lanka, Andrews attended the opening of the Sri Lankan Border Risk Assessment Centre (BRAC) at the Department of Immigration in Colombo. She noted that Australia had financially supported the establishment of the BRAC as part of the Australia-Sri Lanka Integrated Border Management Project. Andrews also met with her Sri Lankan counterpart, Chamal Rajapaksa, to discuss bilateral collaboration on border security, including through the Australia-Sri Lanka Joint Working Group on Counter People Smuggling and Other Transnational Crime.
During her visit to Indonesia, Andrews co-chaired the 8th annual Australian-Indonesian Ministerial Council Meeting with her Indonesian counterpart Mohammad Mahfud on 23 December. The Ministers acknowledged their “longstanding and strong partnership” and discussed recent cooperation between the two nations on counter-terrorism, preventing violent extremism, and maritime and cyber security. Andrews stated that the two nations’ “collaboration to keep citizens safe and secure and to protect their long-term economic prosperity reflects our mutual commitment to justice and the rule of law.” She further extended an invitation to host Indonesia in Australia in 2022 to host the next Ministerial Council Meeting.
On 1 January, Tehan announced that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had come into force for Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, with the Republic of Korea to follow one month later. Tehan noted that RCEP is “the world’s largest free trade agreement” and “will help stimulate growth and investment across the region, providing increased opportunities for Australian business.” He also stated that “RCEP will further strengthen Australia’s trade relationship with ASEAN at a crucial point in ASEAN’s economic development.”
Tehan issued a joint statement with his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal following a video conference on 21 December where the Ministers agreed to expedite the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations. The Ministers noted that they have both “decided to deepen the engagement and directed the officials [negotiating the agreement] to speed up the negotiations to pave the way for a comprehensive agreement.” They further stated that they “look forward to a balanced trade agreement that encourages benefit to both the economies and their people, and that reflects their shared commitment to a rules-based international trading system.”
On 21 December, Tehan announced the publication of the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy, which “sets out a roadmap to boost our trade and investment ties with Vietnam.” Tehan welcomed the Strategy as “the foundation for Australia and Vietnam’s effort to double investment and become top ten trading partners.”
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton met virtually with his Fijian counterpart Inia Seruiratu on 22 December for the third annual Defence Ministers’ Meeting. The Ministers spoke about “the mutual value they derive from responding to security challenges in the Pacific together” and noted that military personnel from both nations had “become accustomed to supporting one another and working closely during difficult times.” The two nations agreed to “pursue greater interoperability between their armed forces, including an information sharing arrangement to make it easier for personnel to embed with the others’ system.”
On 16 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke, announced that Australia will provide assistance following the volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami in Tonga. The Ministers noted in a joint statement that the Tongan Government agreed to the Australian Government’s offer of a “surveillance flight to assess the damage caused”. They further stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Defence are “coordinating critical humanitarian supplies for disaster relief.”
Payne and Dutton issued a statement on 19 January regarding the upcoming Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) 2022. This year, the United Kingdom Secretary for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace will visit Australia on 21 January for AUKMIN. Payne and Dutton stated that the discussions “will focus on strategic challenges and identify areas in which Australia and the United Kingdom can work to support an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region where the sovereignty of all nations is respected.” The Ministers further noted that “AUKMIN will be the first 2+2 Ministerial Meeting hosted in Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
On 14 January, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke exercised his power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa, “on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January to quash a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds. The Full Federal Court of Australia upheld the later decision on 16 January, which Hawke welcomed, noting that “Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world”. Prime Minister Scott Morrison similarly welcomed the Full Federal Court’s decision, stating that “strong borders are fundamental to the Australian way of life as is the rule of law.”
Hawke announced on 18 January that the Government would allow for increased flexibility for temporary migrant visa holders. Skilled Regional Provisional visas will be extended by 3 years where its holder was “impacted by COVID-19 international travel restrictions”. Hawke estimates that this measure will “assist around 10,000 skilled regional workers” and claims that the change “will provide sufficient additional time for all current and former Skilled Regional Provisional visa holders to make travel arrangements to start or resume living and working in regional Australia.” He further announced that the Government will allow the entry of current and former Temporary Graduate visa holders from 18 February, to enable them to apply for a further stay. Hawke noted that “these changes support the return to Australia of temporary graduates as soon as possible, ahead of further planned changes on 1 July 2022 that will provide a further visa extension option to former graduates.”
On 19 January, Hawke, alongside Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, announced three additional temporary changes to the Australian visa regime. These changes are aimed at incentivising fully vaccinated Student and Working Holiday Maker visa holders to return to Australia “to help address current workforce shortages caused by COVID-19.” The new measures include a refund of visa application charges for anyone who enters Australia on either visa in the next few months. Secondly, the Government will temporarily suspend the limit on Student visa holders’ working hours “across all sectors of the economy”. Finally, there will be “no limit on the length of time Working Holiday Makers can work for the same employer.” Hawke and Frydenberg emphasised that the three measures are temporary and are specifically “designed to provide immediate assistance to Australian businesses that are currently facing critical workforce shortages.”
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan issued a press release on 16 January on China’s request for the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to hear its claims regarding Australia’s trade remedies on stainless steel sinks, railway wheels and wind towers. Tehan said that Australia is “confident” that the measures are “consistent with [its] WTO obligations” and that Australia’s trade remedies system is “independent, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based.” Tehan also expressed strong support for the “rules-based multilateral trading system” and noted that Australia “respect[s] the right of any WTO Member to take its concerns to the WTO.” He further stated that Australia “remain[s] ready to resolve this matter through further discussions with China.”
On 19 January, Tehan, alongside Minister for Health Greg Hunt, announced that the This week in Australian foreign affairs: support for Tonga, AUKMIN 2022, Novak Djokovic, changes to visas, and more. IFAM “provides logistical and administrative support for international air freight movements by aggregating cargo loads, negotiating with airlines, and dealing with partner governments to facilitate clearances and improve [the] transparency of freight costs during the pandemic.” The Ministers stated that up to 52 million RATs will be flown into Australia from Asia and the United States on “IFAM-supported commercial flights.” Tehan has referred to the IFAM model as “a great example of the Government and the private sector collaborating to support the importing of critical [RATs] for Australians.”
On 21 January, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton met with their United Kingdom counterparts Elizabeth Truss and Ben Wallace in Sydney for the Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) 2022. In a joint statement, the Ministers committed to “progressing [their] modern, dynamic and enduring strategic partnership”, “deepening strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”, “defending international rules and norms and [their] liberal democratic values”, “strengthening resilience at home and overseas”, and “taking meaningful action to counter climate change”.
Payne introduced Truss’ speech, “Strong allies and steadfast friends”, to the Lowy Institute on 21 January. In her introduction, Payne reflected on her “very productive and very cooperative” interactions with Truss, including during AUKMIN. Payne noted that “a close UK-Australia relationship is vital in today’s complex and fractious strategic environment in which authoritarian regimes are behaving as though now is their time to increase oppression internally and coerce others internationally.”
On 20 January, Payne issued a statement on the UK-Australia Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership, which was signedthat day with Truss. The Partnership centres around four pillars: “tackling malign actors; promoting our values and positive vision for technology; strengthening global technology supply chains; and harnessing technology to solve global challenges.” The first initiatives under the Partnership include “strategic co-ordination of our cyber sanctions regimes” and developing an “action plan on global standard-setting to ensure global standards deliver on our security priorities, economic interests and reflect our values.”
Payne and Truss further noted on 20 January that they had signed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to work to encourage “clean, reliable and transparent infrastructure investment in the Indo-Pacific.” The Ministers noted that the new agreement will “set the scope for joint and complementary financing and technical assistance for high-standard development projects such as disaster resilient and climate adapted infrastructure.”
On 26 January, Payne, Dutton, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, jointly announced further humanitarian support for Tonga. The Ministers noted in their media release that the Australian Government will provide an additional $2 million in humanitarian funding. This funding will “assist Tonga as it moves to the next phase of its recovery”. They further noted that Australia is “coordinating [its] assistance closely with other partners, including France and New Zealand under the FRANZ Pacific humanitarian response partnership, as well as Fiji, Japan, the United States, United Kingdom and non-government organisations.” This announcement followed a media releaseon 20 January issued by Payne, Dutton and Seselja which noted that a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A aircraft had arrived in Tonga to deliver part of the initial package of “urgent humanitarian assistance.”
Payne, Dutton and Seselja further noted that Australia had delivered emergency medical supplies to Solomon Islands on 23 January. Dutton said that “tackling COVID-19 is a global challenge” and stated that he was “pleased the [Australian Defence Force] can support Solomon Islands’ pandemic response.” Seselja further stated that Australia is “partnering closely with Solomon Islands Government to identify any additional suppot required.”
Payne, Seselja, and Minister for Trade Dan Tehan delivered a joint press release on 21 January where they announced $580 million in financing “to support the repair and upgrade of several key ports in Papua New Guinea.” The investment will be financed by the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. Payne noted that the support “strengthens Australia’s enduring friendship with Papua New Guinea through a fiscally sustainable partnership in quality port infrastructure.” Tehan stated that the upgrades will “create further opportunities for Papua New Guinea and the Pacific to engage in global trade” by making it easier for container ships to enter the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at the virtual signing of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Ports Investment Program, where he said that “Papua New Guinea’s success is Australia’s success” and that “our agreement today … is an expression of great confidence in Papua New Guinea’s future.”
On 21 January, Morrison virtually addressed the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda 2022. In his speech, he reflected on the fact that “COVID is helping accelerate big political, economic and technological changes that have been happening for some time.” He identified five “forces that have been shaping a post-pandemic world”: “the acceleration of the digital economy”, “heightened demand for skills and research talent in our economy”, the emergence of “a sharper geo-political competition”, “new pressures on global supply chains and open trade”, and “the drive towards decarbonisation in the global economy.”
Morrison announced on 21 January that the world’s first shipment of liquefied hydrogen would soon be exported to Japan as part of the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. He stated that the project “is key to both Australia and Japan” and “puts Australia at the forefront of the global energy transition to lower emissions through clean hydrogen, which is a fuel of the future.” He further announced $7.5 million “to support the next $184 million pre-commercialisation phase of HESC.”
On 21 January, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a media release regarding Australia’s increased visa allocation for Afghan nationals. He stated that the Australian Government will provide “at least 15,000 places” through the Humanitarian and Family Visa Program over the next four years. The announcement follows the initial allocation of 3,000 places in August 2021, which Hawke referred to as “a floor and not a ceiling.” He further noted that the Government “will continue to monitor processing numbers and reserves the right to increase the program in future years.”
In his address to the National Press Club on 1 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison referred to the current geopolitical climate as “one of the most significant shifts in global and regional security we have seen since before the Second World War.” Morrison further stated that this shift “present[s] a direct threat to Australia’s economic and security interests.” He discussed Australia’s response to this “direct threat”, including concluding the AUKUS agreement, “power[ing] up the Quad”, and concluding comprehensive strategic partnerships with India, South Korea, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
On 1 February, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a joint statement on the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar. The statement was issued by Payne’s counterparts at the European Union, Albania, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Foreign Ministers stated that the “devastating impact [of the coup] on the people of Myanmar is clear.” They expressed “grave concern over the large number of persons arbitrarily detained and the sentencing of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.” The Ministers urged all members of the international community “to support efforts to promote justice for the people of Myanmar; to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses accountable; to cease the sale and transfer of arms, materiel, dual-use equipment, and technical assistance to the military and its representatives; and to continue supporting the people of Myanmar in meeting urgent humanitarian needs.”
Payne also issued her own statement on the Myanmar coup anniversary, urging the military to “exercise restraint and to release all those arbitrarily detained, including Australian Professor Sean Turnell.” She stated that Australia “strongly supports” ASEAN’s leadership and urged the military to “honour its commitment to implement ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus.” Payne noted that “Australia will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those most in need and remains committed to working with regional and international partners in response to these crises.”
On 31 January, Payne made several diplomatic announcements: Mr Ian Biggs as Australia’s next Ambassador for Arms Control and Counter-Proliferation; Ms Christine Clarke CSC as Australia’s next Ambassador for Women and Girls; Ms Heidi Bootle as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Vanuatu; Ms Louise Ellerton as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Niue; Mr Luke Arnold as Australia’s next High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam; and Mr Edward Russell as Australia’s next Representative to the Palestinian Territories.
Payne, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, noted on 29 January that an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) had been deployed to support Solomon Islands’ COVID-19 response. The AUSMAT specialists also delivered 37,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to support Solomon Islands’ vaccination efforts. The team “will work alongside local health authorities and provide Solomon Islands’ Ministry of Health with mentoring and advice on the clinical management of COVID-19 cases, the distribution of critical health supplies and infection protection and control.”
On 1 February, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a joint statement alongside France and New Zealand (FRANZ) on emergency humanitarian assistance to Tonga. The nations “reiterate[d] their solidarity with the Kingdom of Tonga” following the eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano on 15 January. They noted that following the eruption, they had “immediately activated the FRANZ mechanism, currently chaired by France, which enables them to coordinate their emergency action in the event of a natural disaster in the South Pacific.” The nations further noted that their support is being deployed “at the request of the Tongan authorities and in liaison with the National Emergency Management Office of Tonga”.
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan commented on the initiation of World Trade Organization (WTO) proceedings by the European Union against China on 29 January. Tehan noted that “Australia opposes the use of economic coercion and discriminatory and restrictive trade practices which undermine the rules-based international trading system and cause economic harm.” He expressed Australia’s strong support for the WTO dispute settlement system, and noted that “Australia has a substantial interest in the issues raised in the dispute brought by the European Union against China regarding discriminatory trade practices imposed on Lithuania and will request to join these consultations.”
On 27 January, the Department of Defence issued a statement noting that the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will deploy aircraft and personnel to Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands to participate in Exercise Cope North 2022 alongside the United States and Japan. The trilateral exercise is focused on “increased interoperability of the RAAF, [United States Air Force (USAF)] and [Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai)] through combined tactics, techniques and procedures for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and large-force employment.” RAAF Task Unit Commander, Group Captain Andrew McHugh, said the exercise will help to “deepen relationships and strengthen engagement with the USAF’s Pacific Air Force and the Koku-Jieitai to contribute to our shared vision of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.”
On 7 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference where he reflected on the National Security Committee of Cabinet’s meeting that day. He noted that the Committee discussed the situation in Ukraine, which they “remain highly concerned about.” Morrison further “encourage[d] Russia to continue in their engagements and discussions with other countries who are seeking to resolve this issue. But we hold out real concerns about where this will ultimately lead to. Australia supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and their territorial integrity.”
In the same press conference, Morrison and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews also announced that Australia will reopen to all double-vaccinated visa holders from 21 February. This includes tourists, business travellers, and other visa holders. Visa holders who are not double-vaccinated “will still require a valid travel exemption to enter Australia, and will be subject to state and territory quarantine requirements.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a media release on 3 February regarding North Korea’s recent missile launches. In her statement, Payne noted the Australian Government’s condemnation for “the continuing pattern of provocative and destabilising missile launches conducted by North Korea in contravention of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.” She stated that North Korea’s “pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles pose a grave threat to international peace and security and is contrary to global and regional interests in a stable, secure and rules-based Indo-Pacific.” Payne reiterated Australia’s commitment to “maintaining and enforcing sanctions against North Korea until it takes clear steps to abandon its nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”
On 6 February, Payne issued a statement on the one-year anniversary of Australian Professor Sean Turnell’s detention by the Myanmar military. She reiterated calls for Professor Turnell’s immediate release and stated that his detention is “unjust” and that the Australian Government “reject[s] the allegations against him.” Payne noted that “consistent with basic standards of justice and transparency, we expect that Professor Turnell should have unimpeded access to his lawyers, and that Australian officials be able to observe his court proceedings.”
Payne met with her Lithuanian counterpart, Gabrielius Landsbergis, in Canberra on 9 February. During his visit, Landsbergis opened Lithuania’s first embassy in Canberra, which the Ministers referred to as reflective of the “strong and growing bilateral relationship”. The Ministers reiterated the shared values that form the basis of the bilateral relationship: “democracy, human rights, rule of law, and open markets, underpinned by strong people-to-people links.” They further reaffirmed their support for multilateral organisations including the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, with Payne noting that “Australia has a substantial interest in the issues raised in the dispute brought by the European Union regarding discriminatory trade practices imposed on Lithuania and has requested to join the consultations.”
In comments provided to the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 February, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton argued that Australia needs to stand up to China in the South China Sea. He stated that “the United States and others acquiesced and allowed the militarisation now to the point where China has 20 points of presence in the South China Sea, which does not help stability in the region. If we continue on that trajectory, then I think we’ll lose the next decade.” In his comments, Dutton also expressed his confidence that Australia will obtain its first nuclear-powered submarine under the AUKUS agreement before 2038.
On 9 February, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan travelled to India to advance negotiations on the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal. Ahead of his trip, Tehan noted that “Australia and India are important trading partners, and we share a strong desire to further enhance our bilateral trade relationship … CECA is a potential game-changer in opening opportunities for both Australia and India. It is also an important piece of our post-COVID economic recovery.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne hosted her counterparts from India, Japan and the United States for the fourth Quad Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 11 February. The Ministers released a joint statement where they noted that the meeting “reaffirm[ed] the Quad’s commitment to supporting Indo-Pacific countries’ efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific – a region which is inclusive and resilient, and in which states strive to protect the interests of their people, free from coercion.” The statement further noted the Quad’s “unwavering” support for “ASEAN unity and centrality”, the importance of supporting the region’s COVID-19 response, and strengthening humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the region. The Ministers “recognise[d] that international law, peace and security in the maritime domain underpins the development and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific” and noted that they “champion the free, open and inclusive rules-based order, rooted in international law, that protects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of regional countries.” Finally, they noted their continuing “grave concern about the crisis in Myanmar” and condemned North Korea’s “destabilising missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison remarked on his own meeting with the Quad Foreign Ministers on 11 February. He stated that “we live in a very fragile, fragmented and contested world, and that is no more accentuated than here in our Indo-Pacific.” Morrison noted that he was “reassured” by seeing “like-minded partners” gathered together as part of the Quad. He noted the Quad partners’ “deep passion for ASEAN” and that they “share a vision for a strong economy, not just regional stability and security.”
On 14 February, Payne, alongside Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, Minister for Employment Stuart Robert, Minister for Communication Paul Fletcher, and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke, announced a series of three initiatives to strengthen ties with India. The initiatives consist of the $11.2 million Maitri Scholarships Program to “attract and support high achieving Indian students to study at Australian universities”, the $3.5 million Maitri Grants and Fellowships Program to “build links between our future leaders” by “supporting mid-career Australian and Indian professionals to collaborate on strategic research and shared priorities”, and the $6.1 million Australia-India Maitri Cultural Partnership to “boost the role of creative industries in our economic and people-to-people ties.”
Payne also hosted the Inaugural India-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Cyber Framework Dialogue with her Indian counterpart, Dr S. Jaishankar, on 12 February. The Ministers welcomed the “elevation of the bilateral cyber cooperation” through 2020’s Australia-India Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation. They recognised their cooperation “in the areas of cyber governance, cyber security, capacity building, innovation, digital economy, and cyber and critical technologies” as being “an essential pillar” of the bilateral relationship. The Ministers further reaffirmed their commitment “to an open, secure, free, accessible, stable and interoperable cyberspace and technologies that adhere to international law.” They agreed to work collaboratively with Indo-Pacific partners to enhance the region’s cyber capabilities “to promote a resilient and trusted cyberspace and effective incident response.”
On 13 February, Payne issued a media release on the “deterioriating security situation caused by the build up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border.” Due to this situation, Payne noted that the Australian Government had “directed the departure of staff” and “temporarily suspended operations” at the Australian Embassy in Kyiv. The Embassy’s operations will be moved to a “temporary office” in Lviv. Payne also stated that the Australian Government is “continu[ing] to advise Australians to leave Ukraine immediately by commercial means”, as “security conditions could change at short time.” She noted that “Australia continues to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Payne announced on 11 February that Australia will open a High Commission in Malé, Maldives, “to strengthen engagement with an important Indian Ocean neighbour.” The High Commission “will support the commitment of both countries to democratic institutions and enhanced cooperation with multilateral, Commonwealth and regional organisations.” It will also “promote enhanced cooperation on maritime security, combatting transnational crime and collaboration on climate change and the blue economy.”
On 10 February, Payne met with her counterpart from Timor-Leste, Adaljiza Magno, in Canberra. The Ministers signed the first bilateral Memorandum of Understanding under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. The PALM scheme combines the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Workers Programme to address workforce shortages in Australia. Payne noted that Australia will provide $6 million over four years to strengthen Timor-Leste’s engagement in multilateral forums, particularly ASEAN and the WTO, including “through building Timor-Leste’s capacity to enter into regional trade agreements.”
Alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja, Payne announced the deployment of two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to support Solomon Islands’ COVID-19 response on 14 February. The aircraft delivered personal protective equipment for health workers, emergency food aid, and medical equipment including oxygen and medication. The deployment “complements Australia’s support efforts to date, which include the provision of 300,800 AstraZeneca vaccine doses, and 19 tonnes of emergency medical supplies – including 100 oxygen concentrators.”
On 11 February, Payne, alongside Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt, issued a joint media release which noted that Australia will provide $36.5 million over five years to invest in maritime and disaster preparedness in the North East Indian Ocean. The investment will be split across projects including “improv[ing] regional cooperation on maritime shipping, disaster resilience and information sharing”, “increas[ing] engagement on regional economic challenges and explor[ing] new opportunities in the digital sector in Bangladesh”, “promot[ing] infrastructure investment opportunities in the region”.
Payne announced on 14 February that the Australian Government will make a further $375 million investment over five years, as part of the second phase of the Health Security Initiative for the Indo-Pacific Region. The Initiative “provide[s] critical support to partner countries in infection prevention and control, upskilling the health workforce, and strengthening laboratory and surveillance systems.” Payne noted that Australia “look[s] forward to consulting with regional, Quad and Australian partners on mutual priorities and opportunities for collaboration in the next phase.”
On 12 February, Tehan renewed the Australia-India Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Tourism Cooperation while visiting his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, in New Delhi, to progress negotiations towards an India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. The MoU “will help encourage more Indian visitors to Australia and enhance the capabilities of Australian tourism businesses.” Tehan noted that “Australia is working with India to strengthen our ties in many areas, and it’s timely to include tourism as Australia reopens its international borders to the world.”
On 23 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced Australia’s “response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” He referred to the actions as a “first phase” comprising travel bans and “targeted financial sanctions” on eight members of Russia’s Security Council. The sanctions will mean that Australian individuals and entities will be unable to do business with Rossiya Bank, Promsvyazbank, IS Bank, Genbank and the Black Sea Bank for Development and Reconstruction. Morrison also noted that the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011 will be amended to extend existing sanctions that apply to Crimea and Sevastopol to Donetsk and Luhansk, prohibiting trade in the transport, energy, telecommunications, and oil, gas and mineral sectors. Further, the Regulations will be amended “to significantly broaden the scope of people and entities that Australia can list for sanctions to include those of ‘strategic and economic significance to Russia.’” The subjects of these additional sanctions are currently being identified through collaboration with Australia’s “key partners”, the United States and the United Kingdom. Morrison stated that the announcement represents “the beginning of our sanctions process, as we remain deeply concerned that Russia is escalating its aggression.” He further announced that all Ukrainians in Australia with visas due to expire before 30 June will be given an automatic six month extension, and outstanding visa applications from Ukrainian citizens will be “prioritised and fast tracked.”
In a press conference on 23 February, Morrison repeated United States President Joe Biden’s comments that “the invasion of Ukraine has effectively already begun.” He stated that “this invasion is unjustified, it’s unwarranted, it’s unprovoked and it’s unacceptable.” Morrison added that “Australia will always stand up to bullies and we will be standing up to Russia, along with all of our partners, like-minded and all of those who believe that it is absolutely unacceptable that Russia could invade its neighbour.”
On 17 February, Morrison attended the UK-Australia Virtual Summit with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The leaders “reaffirmed the unique relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom, built on shared values and common interests, and sustained by the deep bonds between our people.” They “discussed the concerning situation on Ukraine’s border” and emphasised “their unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.” The leaders further pledged to “deepen and intensify cooperation across several key pillars”: trade and investment, AUKUS, security and defence, climate and environment, the COVID-19 pandemic, science and technology, and collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region.
Morrison, alongside Payne and Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley, announced an $804.4 million investment over the next ten years “to strengthen [Australia’s] strategic and scientific capabilities in the [Antarctic] region” on 22 February. He noted that the package “would both strengthen Australia’s national interests in Antarctica and be a jobs boost for Australians through local procurement.”
On 20 February, Morrison acknowledged the 50th anniversary of Australia-Poland diplomatic relations with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki. The leaders noted that “in recent years our countries have worked together closely as democracies – supporting the rules-based international order and open and fair trade. We have enjoyed strong economic growth and the increasing success of our business links.
Morrison issued a media release marking the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin during the Second World War on 19 February. He stated that “in New Guinea, Borneo, Solomon Islands, and across the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, Australia helped to halt and then push back militaristic Japanese forces. With our allies, we turned the tide against militarism, and won a heroic victory.” Morrison further acknowledged the “deep and lasting friendship between the people of Australia and Japan” and stated that “out of the suffering of war we have turned to each other in a spirit of reconciliation and respect. Our nations’ commitment to freedom, security and democracy now provides a solid foundation for the future peace and stability of the region.”
On 17 February, Morrison virtually attended the Timor-Leste-Australia Leaders’ Meeting with his Timor-Leste counterpart, Taur Matan Ruak. The leaders “reaffirmed the fundamental importance” of their bilateral relationship and acknowledged the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations. They further announced the commencement of a new five-year, $30 million Australian investment in health sector support for Timor-Leste “to strengthen the delivery of primary health care services including to improve nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and sexual and reproductive health.” Morrison also “confirmed” that Australia would provide support for the redevelopment of Dili International Airport, and the leaders “welcomed” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce’s announcement that the airline will establish a permanent commercial route between Darwin and Dili under the new Australia-Timor-Leste Air Services Agreement.
Payne, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, issued a joint media release on 20 February attributing the cyber attacks against the Ukrainian banking sector earlier that month to the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate. The Ministers stated that “Russia’s actions pose a significant risk to global economic growth and international stability.”
On 17 February, Payne announced her upcoming visit to the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Poland, France, the Czech Republic and Laos. Payne’s trip will include meeting with senior government figures in the United Arab Emirates, Laos, and the Czech Republic, participating in the Munich Security Conference, celebrating the 70th and 50 anniversaries of diplomatic relations with Germany and Poland respectively, and attending the European Union Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Payne co-chaired a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Steering Group of the Bali Process on 21 February with her Indonesian counterpart. Attendees at the meeting were representatives from Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Thailand, the International Organization of Migration, and the United Nations Human Rights Council. They “discussed how COVID-19 continues to shape health, economic and social impacts” and how “these have significantly impacted migration and increased factors for irregular movement.”
Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews announced on 17 February that eight terrorist organisations will be listed under the Criminal Code: Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, Hurras al-Din, and the National Socialist Order have all been listed; Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, and Jemaah Islamiyah have been re-listed; and the Government intends to “list the entirety of Hamas”.
On 22 February, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong condemned Russia’s “unilateral recognition of separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.” Albanese and Wong expressed their “strong support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty and “condemnation” of Russia’s “continuing aggression. They further noted that “Labor expects to be consulted on any developments in Australia’s position. In an election year it is critical that bipartisanship be maintained on challenges to national security that affect us all, and which go beyond domestic politics.”
Wong and Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor issued a joint statement on 20 February in which they “strongly condemn[ed] the reckless and unprofessional act by a Chinese PLA-Navy vessel targeting an Australian defence aircraft with a military grade laser, potentially endangering the lives of those on board.” They noted that “China must understand that such actions will only engender further mistrust.”
On 24 February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne issued a media statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Morrison and Payne stated that “there is no justification for this aggression, whose cost will be borne by innocent Ukrainians.” They further noted that “Vladimir Putin has fabricated a feeble pretext on which to invade. Russia’s disinformation and propaganda has convinced no one.” In the statement, Morrison and Payne announced that Australia will place financial sanctions on “an additional 25 persons and four entities who have been responsible for the unprovoked and unacceptable aggression” and “restrictions on Australians investing in a further four financial institutions.” They also noted that Australia will continue to “work with like-minded countries on further consequences for Russia.” That same day, Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong similarly condemned the invasion of Ukraine, noting that “all Australians stand with the people of Ukraine, and are united in condemnation of Russia’s shameful act of aggression.”
Morrison, Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton announced the provision of lethal military equipment to Ukraine in a further statement on 28 February. They noted that Australia will provide US$3 million to NATO’s Trust Fund “as an immediate measure” for Ukraine for non-lethal military equipment and military supplies, and that “details of Australia’s contribution of lethal military equipment are being worked through with our partners and will be announced soon.” The statement also stated that the Australian Government “strongly supports the announcements made by the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States on further restrictive economic measures”, including the removal of select Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments messaging system.
On 1 March, Morrison and Payne issued an additional press release on Australian support to Ukraine. They announced that Australia will provide “around $70 million in lethal military assistance to support the defence of Ukraine, including missiles and weapons” as well as “a range of non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies in response to a specific request from the Ukrainian Government.” Morrison and Payne noted that Australia will also commit $35 million in “immediate humanitarian assistance”, which will deliver shelter, food, medical care, and water. In a statement on the topic of the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong noted that Labor “will approach [the issue] in a bipartisan way, understanding the need for additional support to Ukraine” and reaffirmed that “strong and comprehensive measures are required to push back against Russia’s invasion.”
Morrison announced on 1 March that Australia will co-host the Indo-Pacific Clean Energy Supply Chain Forum with the International Energy Agency in Sydney in July. Morrison said that co-hosting the Forum shows “Australia’s commitment to clean energy development across the region” and that “the Forum is a chance to share [Australia’s] expertise with neighbours across the region.”
On 25 February, Morrison issued a statement announcing $65 million in funding to expand Australia’s space sector, and that the Government has “instructed the Australian Space Agency to embark on a mission to put an Australian astronaut back into space.” The funding will go towards the development of “up to three new or existing spaceports or launch sites across Australia” and towards the Australian Space Agency “to procure and provide spaceflights and services for the Australian space sector.”
Payne met with the President of the Republic of Nauru, Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, in Sydney on 25 February. Aingimea and Payne issued a joint media statement announcing Australia-Nauru cooperation on critical transport infrastructure, through Australia’s provision of a $40 million grant finance package to Nauru. Payne noted that the investment “is a practical demonstration of Australia’s commitment to supporting critical infrastructure in our region” and will support the re-surfacing of Nauru’s runway, the provision of air traffic equipment, and will enable “climate-resilient upgrades to sections of the Nauru ring road.”
On 27 February, Payne visited Vientiane, Laos, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Laos-Australia diplomatic relations. In a media release, she announced $16 million in funding for the Laos-Australia Institute “to continue our support for the delivery of highly skilled professionals into the Lao labour market”, as well as $15 million for improved water resources management, and $10 million through the Mekong-Australia Partnership to support the Lao Government’s “public financial management reform efforts.”
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 1 March the establishment of a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to hear China’s claims regarding Australia’s anti-dumping and countervailing measures on stainless steel sinks, railway wheels, and wind towers. This step follows consultations held in June 2021 and China’s initial request to establish a panel on 25 January 2022. Tehan stated that Australia’s trade remedies system is “independent, transparent, non-discriminatory and rules-based” and noted that “Australia will robustly defend this matter before [the] WTO panel.” He reaffirmed Australia’s support for the rules-based multilateral trading system and that Australia “remains ready to resolve this matter through further discussions with China.”
On 24 February, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke hosted a Ukrainian-Australian Community Roundtable “to discuss Australia’s participation in the international response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked actions.” He noted that he received “valuable feedback” during the discussions, “particularly about the types of support community leaders believe is most necessary and relevant” and that this feedback “will be considered during our ongoing planning.”
On 7 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a virtual address to the Lowy Institute, where he noted that “the world has entered a period of profound strategic challenge and disruption.” He referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “an unprovoked, unjust and illegal war” and as “the latest example of an authoritarian regime seeking to challenge the status quo through threats and violence.” Morrison further stated that “a new arc of autocracy is instinctively aligning to challenge and reset the world order in their own image … Australia faces [its] most difficult and dangerous security environment in 80 years.” He referred to the sanctions Australia has placed on Russia and that Australia welcomes Europe’s own sanctions. Morrison then noted that “the Indo-Pacific remains at the centre of global geo-strategic competition. Australia is an Indo-Pacific nation. The future of the Indo-Pacific region is our future.” Morrison also noted his concern about “growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait” and that “the status quo that has underpinned regional security and prosperity” in the Indo-Pacific region “is disturbed by China’s military actions.” He referred to last month’s events of a Chinese naval ship pointing a military-grade laser at an Australian Defence Force aircraft as “needlessly provocative”, “irresponsible” and “very dangerous”, and argued that the Russian invasion of Ukraine “heralds a moment of choice for China.”
In his Lowy Institute address as well as in a later press statement with Minister for Defence Peter Dutton that same day, Morrison announced that the Government will build a Future Submarine Base on the east coast of Australia “to support basing and disposition of the future nuclear-powered submarines” to be acquired under the AUKUS trilateral partnership. He stated that “Australia faces a difficult and dangerous security environment and we must continue to invest in growing the capability of our [Australian Defence Force] to ensure we keep Australians safe.” The commitment is a 20-year investment, with the Department of Defence estimating that building the base and transitioning towards nuclear-powered submarines will cost more than $10 billion.
Morrison attended a virtual Quad Leaders’ Meeting on 4 March with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and United States President Joe Biden. In a joint statement, the leaders discussed the “ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine” and that they had “agreed to stand up a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication as they each address and respond to the crisis in Ukraine.” In a media statement following the meeting, Morrison referred to the Quad as “four Leaders of liberal democratic nations who uphold the values and principles of our rules based international order.” He further noted that the meeting came at a “critical time for our region and the world” and that “we cannot allow what is happening in Ukraine now to ever happen in the Indo-Pacific … the events in Ukraine only reaffirm the importance of the positive work being done by the Quad to ensure a free and independent Indo-Pacific.”
On 8 March, Morrison virtually addressed the Australian Financial Review Business Summit. He noted that “we gather at an important moment in world history and at an uncertain time for our global economy. The overlay of an even recovery from the pandemic, unprovoked military aggression in Europe, in Ukraine, an energy and commodity price shock, and continued geostrategic risks in our own region, this all creates a highly complex and risky external environment. It’s no place for amateurs.” Morrison stated that he had discussed Europe’s dependence on Russian energy with European leaders “particularly [German] Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki”, as well as “the role that Australia can play to assist them” in diversifying their energy sources. He reiterated Martin Wolf’s statement that “the tectonic plates of geopolitics have shifted such that Western liberal democracies now need to manage strategic security [as] an overriding imperative for their economic policy … this is what my Government has always done.” Morrison referred to “strong national security and genuine economic security” as going “hand-in-hand” and “two sides of the same coin.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced further sanctions on Russia on 8 March amid its “unprovoked, unjustified invasion with false narratives such as the “de-Nazification” of Ukraine.” The new round of sanctions will “impose targeted financial sanctions on the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against an additional six senior Russian military commanders responsible for implementing naval, ground and air attacks on Ukraine.” She announced that the Government is sanctioning “10 people of strategic interest to Russia for their role in encouraging hostility towards Ukraine and promoting pro-Kremlin propaganda to legitimise Russia’s invasion”, and has stated that this “recognises the powerful impact that disinformation and propaganda can have in conflict.”
On 1 March, Payne delivered the fifth Tom Hughes Oration. She referred to “Russia’s aggression” as a “defining moment for Europe and the world as we see an authoritarian state trying to wind back the liberties that flourished after the Iron Curtain fell, and dismantle by force the democracy that its smaller neighbour has courageously established for itself.” Payne further noted that “we face difficult years ahead, but in my view there is no outcome that is foregone or inevitable. Australia has agency and influence to shape our strategic environment for the better.” She stated that “Authoritarian states are exhibiting aggression and they are also encouraging one another. There are reasons to believe that Russia and China are working together on aligned interests … we are not complacent about the risks that greater cooperation between them will have. So we must not be complacent. And we must compete.” Payne referred to Australia’s commitment to “strengthen our friendships across the world”, such as through the Quad, the G7+, Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN, and the AUKUS agreement. She concluded by noting that “Russia’s unprovoked aggression must not set a new baseline for what is tolerated by the international community. This Government is determined that the international rules-based order is upheld so that we don’t enter a new age in which might makes right and smaller, peaceful nations are dominated by larger, aggressive ones.”
Payne also addressed the United Nations Human Rights Council on 2 March, where she reiterated Australia’s support of “the multilateral system, the central tenet of which is the United Nations Charter.” She noted that “Russia has seriously breached international law and the UN Charter” and that Australia is “preparing assistance to support humanitarian relief through the UN and international agencies.” Payne also referred to Australia’s continuing concern for “deteriorating human rights situations” in North Korea, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and Myanmar. She urged all member states to “protect, respect and promote human rights, particularly in times of crisis.”
On 4 March, Payne delivered a speech at the United Nations Women Australia’s International Women’s Day event. She noted that “the global perspective is an important one on International Women’s Day” and referred to her recent dialogues with women leaders in the Pacific through the Pacific Women Leaders Network, and the Women’s Resilience to Disasters Program in the Pacific. She further noted that “as we mark International Women’s Day this year, we are also confronted by the terrible consequences of unrest for women and girls”, particularly in Ukraine.
Payne spoke at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s event on “Women, Peace and Security – Reflections on Afghanistan” on 9 March. She noted that “both crises” in Afghanistan and Ukraine “demonstrate some fundamental similarities: a failure to negotiate in good faith by one of the parties [and] the attempt by one party to subjugate the people’s right to legitimate self determination, and one party using violence to obtain territorial gain.” Reflecting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Payne stated that it has demonstrated that “global peace and security can never be taken for granted as a normal state of the world. Threats can emerge quickly and dramatically.”
On 1 March, Payne virtually addressed the Conference on Disarmament, where she called on Russia to “cease its unlawful and unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine, and referred to Russia’s actions as “a flagrant breach of the UN Charter’s prohibition on the use of force for territorial gain.” She reiterated Australia’s support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity and referred to these principles as the “bedrock … of a rules-based world order.” She noted that “there is an urgent need for practical progress on nuclear risk reduction, nuclear arms control, and nuclear disarmament” amidst Russia’s nuclear threats.
Payne hosted a virtual Female Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan on 9 March. Ministers from Australia, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cote D’Ivoire, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Malawi, New Zealand, Panama, Sao Tome and Principe, and Tonga attended the meeting, which was “the largest meeting of women holding foreign affairs ministerial positions.” The Ministers listened to presentations from three Afghan women “about approaches and solutions that can be applied to the humanitarian and security crisis in Afghanistan, especially relating to women and girls.” They “agreed to continue close monitoring of the Taliban’s actions, especially relating to women and girls, and to hold the Taliban accountable for its actions.”
On 9 March, Payne and her Indonesian counterpart, Retno L.P. Marsudi, announced that they will virtually co-chair the inaugural Southeast Asia Dialogue of Women Leaders later this month. The Dialogue “will provide a platform for women leaders in politics, business and civil society to exchange views and share ideas. Participants will discuss shared challenges, policy approaches, and areas of cooperation in gender equality as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on women and children.”
Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted on 9 March that Australia “welcomes” the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) announcement that panellists have been appointed to adjudicate Australia’s challenge to the anti-dumping duties imposed on Australian bottled wine by China. Tehan stated that Australian “is committed to defending the interests of Australian wine makers and will continue to use the WTO system to stand up for the rights of Australian exporters” and “remains open to further discussions with China to resolve this issue.”
On 4 March, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews announced that Australia has listed Hamas “in its entirety” as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code. The listing replaces the previous listing of Hamas’ paramilitary wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has been listed since 2003. Andrews stated that “the hateful ideologies of terrorist groups and those who support them have no place in Australia. Our strong laws target not only terrorist acts and terrorists, but also the organisations that plan, finance and carry out these abhorrent acts.”
On 14 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash issued a joint media statement announcing that Australia and the Netherlands initiated legal proceedings that day against Russia in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014. The statement referred to the action as “a major step forward in both countries’ fight for truth, justice and accountability for this horrific act of violence and that Australia has maintained “since May 2018 that the Russian Federation is responsible under international law for the downing of Flight MH17.” Morrison Payne and Cash further noted that “the Russian Federation’s refusal to take responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17 is unacceptable” and that “the escalation of [Russia’s] aggression [in Ukraine] underscores the need to continue our enduring efforts to hold Russia to account for its blatant violation of international law.” Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong offered Labor’s “bipartisan support” for the initiation of the proceedings, and stated that “the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine has shown us the contempt Russia holds for international law. It must be held to account for its shameful actions.”
Morrison and his Fijian counterpart, Frank Bainimarama, announced the official opening of the redeveloped Blackrock Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Camp in Nadi on 14 March. Morrison participated virtually in the opening ceremony and noted that “the collaboration between the women and men of our armed forces and our officials in redeveloping Blackrock Camp has demonstrated the character of our broader relationship, and the values of family, mutual respect and mateship that underpin it.”
On 10 March, Morrison and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton issued a statement noting that the size and capability of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will increase to over 101,000 by 2040 “to keep Australians safe in an increasingly uncertain global environment.” Morrison noted that “ADF personnel will be increased in every state and territory with a particular focus on capabilities associated with our trilateral security partnership between Australia, [the] United Kingdom and [the] United States (AUKUS), as well as air, sea, land, space and cyber … Our world is becoming increasingly uncertain so it’s important we take steps now to protect our people and our national interest over the coming decades.”
Payne announced sanctions on 33 Russian oligarchs, prominent businesspeople and their immediate family members on 14 March. She noted that the sanctions “reinforce Australia’s commitment to sanction those people who have amassed vast personal wealth and are of economic and strategic significance to Russia, including as a result of their connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Payne also reiterated her support for the further restrictive measures announced by Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and stated that Australia “will continue to coordinate closely with our partners to impose a high cost on Russia for its actions.”
On 11 March, Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke issued a media release noting that the Australian Government has granted over 3,000 visas to Ukrainians since 23 February. He further stated that all Ukrainian nationals in Australia with a visa that is due to expire by 30 June 2022 will be given an automatic six-month extension, and that the Government “continues to progress applications from Ukrainians across all visa categories as a priority.” Hawke said that he had met with Adrian Edwards, Regional Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to receive a briefing on the UNHCR’s activities in Europe and “to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to support international efforts to assist those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.”
Hawke noted on 10 March that the Government has provided $4 million to 20 Afghan-Australian community groups and community-based organisations “to support the critical settlement and integration needs of recently arrived members of our Afghan community” as part of the first round of the Afghan-Australian Community and Settlement Support (AACASS) grant program. He stated that the AACASS grant “recognises the unique settlement needs of those most recently arrived from Afghanistan.”
On 11 March, Assistant Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie noted that Australia had delivered the first of two Guardian-class Patrol Boats to the Federated States of Micronesia through the Pacific Maritime Security Program. Hastie stated that “Australia has a longstanding commitment to supporting our Pacific partners through the Pacific Maritime Security Program, working together to address illegal fishing, transnational crime, and other maritime security challenges.”
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese addressed the Lowy Institute on 10 March. In his speech, he noted that “the security of our nation is the most solemn responsibility of any government – and the first priority of every Prime Minister.” Albanese stated that the principle of Australia’s sovereignty “has remained at the core of Labor’s approach to our foreign policy and defence policy” and that Labor “treat[s] national security as the first priority, with our national interest at its core.” He outlined the three key principles “at the heart of Labor’s national security policy”: “defending Australia’s territorial integrity”, “protecting our nation’s political sovereignty from external pressure”, and “promoting Australia’s economic prosperity and social stability, with sustainable growth, secure employment, and a unified country.” Albanese stated that a Labor Government will achieve these objectives through: “supporting a stronger Australian Defence Force”, “prioritising better and smarter cybersecurity”, “shoring-up our economic self-reliance”, “strengthening our communities and institutions”, “deepening our partnerships in the region and globally around the world” and “taking action on climate change.” He referred to the “complex strategic environment” of the present day, particularly noting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s “fail[ure] in its special responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council” through offering Russia relief from sanctions.
On 18 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced new sanctions on 11 additional Russian banks and two more oligarchs with close ties to Vladimir Putin. The banks listed include the Russian National Wealth Fund and the Russian Ministry of Finance, meaning that Australia “has now targeted all Russian Government entities responsible for issuing and managing Russia’s sovereign debt.” Payne stated that the Australian Government is “deeply committed to imposing high costs on Russia” and has done so in “close cooperation with key international partners.” She also welcomed “the principled stand taken by Australian companies in announcing moves to cut ties with Russia in protest of Moscow’s illegal, indefensible war against Ukraine.”
Payne, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan, Minister for Resources Keith Pitt, and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke, issued a joint media statement regarding $21 million of additional support for Ukraine on 20 March. The support package consists of defensive military assistance, including “additional material from Australian Defence Force Stocks” to meet “Ukrainian priority requests.” The Ministers further noted that Australia is committing an additional $30 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, including $10 million through non-government organisations under the Australian Humanitarian Partnership, $8 million to the United Nations Population Fund, and $10 million to the World Food Programme. They also stated that the Government has imposed “an immediate ban” on Australian exports of alumina and aluminium ores to Russia, and that Australia will donate “at least 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal” to Ukraine.
On 21 March, Payne made several announcements regarding diplomatic postings: Andrew Barnes as Australia’s next Ambassador to Lebanon; Maree Ringland as Australia’s next Ambassador to Peru; Josh Riley as Australia’s next Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner in Toronto; and John Prowse as Australia’s next Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner in Sãu Paulo.
Payne co-chaired the inaugural Southeast Asia Dialogue of Women Leaders with her Indonesian counterpart on 18 March. The Dialogue “brought together Ministers and leaders from government, the private sector and civil society across Southeast Asia.” During the Dialogue, Ministers “recognised the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and girls”, “discussed the importance of striving for a gender inclusive social and economic recovery” and “discussed the importance of access to digital and financial inclusion for women and multi-stakeholder collaboration in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.” The Dialogue also “reaffirmed ASEAN’s centrality to [the] region’s security and prosperity” and “strengthened the network of women leaders in the region.”
On 21 March, Morrison hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a Virtual Annual Leaders’ Meeting. In a media statement following the meeting, the leaders noted that they reaffirmed their commitment to the India-Australia Strategic Partnership and welcomed “the substantial progress in deepening political, economic, security, cyber, technology and defence cooperation”, noting that the bilateral relationship has “prospered on the strong foundations of trust, understanding, common interests, and the shared values of democracy and the rule of law.” They welcomed progress made in the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations and the extension of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund. The leaders further expressed “serious concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine” and “reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities”, while agreeing to “remain closely engaged on the issue and its broader implications for the Indo-Pacific.” During the meeting, Morrison also announced the establishment of the Centre for Australia-India Relations, which will “help foster new ties and support our expanding exchange and cooperation with India, including by engaging Australia’s rich Indian diaspora community”. The Government has committed $28.1 million in funding to the Centre and it will focus on four key areas: “policy dialogue”, “Australian business literacy and links”, “engaging Australia’s Indian diaspora communities to support the Australia-India bilateral relationship” and “deepening cultural connections and understanding.”
Dutton addressed the Royal Australian Air Force Air and Space Power Conference on 22 March, where he announced Australia’s Defence Space Command, to be led by Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, and the release of the Defence Space Strategy. He noted that “while space is primarily a civil domain … it will undoubtedly become a domain which takes on greater military significance in this century” and that “all nations have an interest in assuring their access to space.” Dutton further stated that the Command “will initially be modest compared to those similar, well-established functions which already exist among some of our allies” but that it will be “forward looking … with a view to protecting our national interests and our need for a Space Force in the future.” He referred to the Command as “Australia’s contribution towards a larger, collaborative effort among like-minded countries to ensure a safe, stable and secure space domain” and that the United States will be working with Australia “to support our mutual objectives in the space domain.”
On 22 March Dutton also delivered a speech to the opening of the new Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) offices, marking its 75th anniversary. He noted that “in an interconnected world where the boundaries between competition and conflict are increasingly blurred, cyber is the new frontline” and that “a resilient and robust strategic cyber capability is absolutely crucial for the times in which we live.” Dutton referred to the invasion of Ukraine as “a hybrid war”, existing both “on the ground” and “in the digital realm” through cyber-attacks. He also warned that “within this facility and across the Home Affairs Department, and indeed across government, there will be efforts in the run up to the federal election in trying to prevent online activity or foreign interference otherwise affecting a democratic outcome.”
Tehan announced on 17 March that Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will pursue a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to “grow the trade relationship between both countries, creating new jobs and opportunities for exporters.” He noted that a trade deal with the UAE would be Australia’s first in the Middle East, and that the CEPA “has significant potential to strengthen and deepen the dynamic relationship between the two countries.” He referred to a UAE CEPA as “an important building block to a subsequent potential free trade agreement with the wider Gulf Cooperation Council.” In a joint statement with his UAE counterpart, Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the Ministers committed to undertaking the “required domestic procedures” towards negotiating a CEPA, and to “commence preparatory discussions” to develop the CEPA’s terms of reference. They also “affirm[ed] the shared objective of achieving a forward-looking, high-quality, mutually beneficial and comprehensive economic partnership agreement that is comprehensive with World Trade Organization rules.”
On 20 March, Hawke noted that Australia will make available a temporary humanitarian (subclass 786) visa to all Ukrainian visa holders currently in Australia, as well as those who arrive “in the coming months.” The visa will “allow people to work and access Medicare and appropriate associated support services” and will be valid for three years. He further noted that “around 5000 mostly temporary visas have been granted since 23 February 2022 and around 750 Ukrainians in this cohort have now arrived”.
On 28 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the “Alliance at 70” dinner in Canberra, marking the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty. Morrison stated that the bilateral relationship is “a partnership of values, not of contract and certainly not of contradiction … [Australia] look[s] to the United States but we will never leave it to the United States. We come to this partnership as equals.” He referred to the past eight years as Australia’s “most comprehensive expansion of our defence capability in our lifetimes”, and noted that the AUKUS partnership is “the most significant defence partnership agreement Australia has entered into since ANZUS itself.” During his speech, Morrison also announced that the Australian Government is establishing the Cyber and Critical Technology Intelligence Centre, to be led by the Office of National Intelligence, which will seek to ensure that Australia “working with our allies, can better anticipate and capitalise on emerging technologies.”
Morrison and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton delivered a joint statement on 29 March reflecting on the 2022-23 Budget’s “record investment in Australia’s national security”. The Ministers noted that the Budget will “build Defence capability and create jobs, boost Australia’s cyber resilience, support Australia’s sovereign Defence industry and improve the lives of Defence Force members, veterans and their families.” Morrison stated that “in these uncertain times, it is vital that Australia is well-positioned to tackle the challenges our country and our region face.” The Budget will push the Defence budget above 2% of GDP and includes a $9.9 billion investment over the next decade in “new national cyber and intelligence capabilities.”
On 29 March, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on the 2022-23 Budget. The Ministers stated that the Budget “will help build a more prosperous, stable and resilient region, shape our strategic environment and advance Australia’s national interests in the face of increasing global uncertainty.” The Budget includes an additional $460 in Official Development Assistance (ODA) on top of Australia’s $4.089 baseline level of ODA, and a further $324.4 to the Pacific region under the Pacific Step-Up. The Government will further commit $65.2 million to “construct and maintain” a new High Commission chancery in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
Payne announced further sanctions on an additional 22 Russian “propagandists and disinformation operatives” and the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his family members on 25 March. She referred to the steps as continuing Australia’s “focussed efforts to ensure that Russia and those who support its illegal, unprovoked invasion of its democratic neighbour, pay a high cost.” Payne reiterated the Australian Government’s “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and stated that Australia will “continue to impose further sanctions to inflict significant costs on those in Russia and Belarus who bear responsibility or hold levers of power”.
On 28 March, Payne issued a joint statement with her United Kingdom counterpart, Elizabeth Truss, on bilateral efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Two chartered flights carrying over 8,000 items including hygiene kits, solar lights, kitchen sets, batteries, and blankets have been sent to Poland and are being distributed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Payne noted that “as we do in the Indo-Pacific, Australia is proud to work with the United Kingdom to alleviate human suffering wherever it occurs.”
Payne noted that the first set of Australian “Magnitsky-style listings” under the Government’s “thematic sanctions” framework on 29 March will “[target] Russian individuals responsible for the corruption that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered and those complicit in his subsequent mistreatment and death.” The initial tranche consists of “targeted sanctions and travel bans against 14 Russian individuals responsible for the serious corruption that [Magnitsky] exposed and a further 25 Russian perpetrators and accomplices of [Magnitsky’s] abuse and death.”
On 25 March, Payne and Seselja delivered a joint media release, noting that Australia will extend the Solomons International Assistance Force until December 2023, in response to a request from the Solomon Islands Government. The Government will also construct a second patrol boat outpost on Solomon Islands’ eastern border. The Ministers further stated that “Australia is aware of the proposed draft Security Cooperation agreement between China and Solomon Islands. We respect the right of every Pacific country to make sovereign decisions. We have regularly and respectfully raised our concerns with the Solomon Islands Government and will continue to do so. We would be particularly concerned by any actions that undermine the stability and security of our region, including the establishment of a permanent presence such as a military base.” Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor, and Shadow Minister for International Development Pat Conroy, similarly expressed Labor’s “deep concern” about the proposed security agreement, and noted that they are seeking a briefing on the matter.
Payne noted on 26 March that the Australian Government has been notified that Australian citizen Cheng Lei will face trial in China on 31 March. She reiterated that “the Australian Government has regularly raised serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s welfare and conditions of detention” and that they expect “basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international norms.” Payne further noted that the Government has requested that Australian officials be permitted to attend Cheng’s hearing on 31 March, “in line with China’s obligations under the Australia-China bilateral consular arrangement.”
On 25 March, Payne condemned North Korea’s “return to intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing” and noted that the latest test on 24 March had landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. She referred to the incident as “a serious escalation of North Korea’s destabilising behaviour” that “poses an unacceptable risk to our region.” Payne further stated that the ICBM testing “is in flagrant violation of [United Nations] Security Council resolutions and significantly threatens global peace and security, stability, and the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.”
Payne released Australia’s second International Engagement Strategy on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery on 25 March, which seeks to “[increase] our strategic cooperation with partners, and [strengthen] the systems in our region to detect, prevent and respond to these crimes.” She noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the prevalence of modern slavery and that the Australian Government “will continue to work with partners on all fronts” to prevent modern slavery, including the ASEAN Counter Trafficking Program.
On 26 March, Payne and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews issued a joint statement expressing the Australian Government’s concern about “global malicious cyber intrusions” targeting the global energy sector on behalf of the Russian Government between 2012 and 2018, as detailed in the recent indictments by the United States Department of Justice. The Ministers called on “all countries to refrain from behaviour which is contrary to the framework for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace” and referred to the indictments as “highlight[ing] once again Russia’s pattern of destructive, disruptive, or otherwise destabilising behaviour in cyberspace.”
Vietnam and Australia signed the first bilateral Memorandum of Understanding under the Australian Agriculture Visa Program on 28 March. In a press release, Payne noted that Vietnam’s participation in the Program “demonstrates the Morrison Government’s commitment to deepening cooperation under the Australia-Vietnam Strategic Partnership” and is a “key initiative of the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Strategy” launched in late 2021. The Australian Agriculture Visa Program “supplements” the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme and is intended “to provide a sustainable, long-term contribution to Australia’s labour supply that supports Australia’s agricultural and primary industry sectors.”
In a statement on the 2022-23 Budget, Minister for Trade Dan Tehan announced $187.1 million in funding for the Simplified Trade System reform agenda, an additional $100 million to support Export Market Development Grants, $171.7 million to implement the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement, and $19.5 million over two years to attract global business investment and “talented individuals” into Australia. Tehan further stated that the Government will provide $146.5 million to support the tourism industry, and will boost the number of Working Holiday Makers by a one-off 30% increase in 2022-23.
Tehan met with United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on 30 March in Washington D.C. for the inaugural Australia-U.S. Strategic Commercial Dialogue (AUSSCD). Tehan and Raimondo noted the “deep and long-standing trade and investment relationship” and committed to “building on the strategic cooperation of both countries” in measures to support Ukraine, developing an economic framework for the Indo-Pacific, supporting sustainable investing, critical minerals and supply chain resilience, and countering economic coercion and non-market policies and practices. Tehan noted that the Dialogue “is an important new component of the Australia-US bilateral architecture and will serve as the main forum for deepening cooperation on strategic economic issues.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with his AUKUS partners, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United States President Joe Biden, issued a joint statement on 6 April assessing the progress of the trilateral partnership. The leaders “reaffirmed [their] commitment to AUKUS and to a free and open Indo-Pacific” and reiterated their “unwavering commitment to an international system that respects human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes free from coercion.” They announced their commitment to “commenc[ing] a new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defen[c]e innovation.”
On 31 March, Morrison noted that Australia will provide a further $25 million in military support to Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian Government. The new package will include “tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations, and medical supplies”. Morrison further stated that the Australian Government “will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously.” The announcement preceded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the Australian Parliament later that day. Morrison introduced Zelenskyy to the Parliament by stating that “the people of Australia stand with Ukraine in your fight for survival … you have our prayers, but you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom and you even have our coal. And there will be more.”
Morrison also stated that there would be an additional 35% tariff increase on all imports from Russia and Belarus on 31 March. On 1 April, Australia issued a “formal notification withdrawing entitlement to the Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) tariff treatment” as well as the additional 35% tariff increase. The increase, as well as a prohibition on imports of oil and other energy products, will take effect from 25 April. Morrison reiterated Australia’s solidarity with Ukraine and that Australia is “commit[ed] to tak[ing] all actions we consider necessary, as [World Trade Organization] members, to protect our essential security interests.” He further stated that Australia “strongly support[s] similar action by our international partners to revoke MFH trading arrangements with Russia and Belarus, consistent with their national processes.”
On 5 April, Morrison announced a ban on the export of luxury goods to Russia. Morrison stated that “these sanctions target President Putin and his wealthy enablers, not ordinary Russian consumers” and that they are “being undertaken in coordination with key partners to restrict the Russian elite’s access to such goods.” He further noted that both the European Union and the United States already have bans in effect and that the United Kingdom’s ban “is due to follow soon.”
Morrison attended the virtual signing of the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI ECTA) on 2 April with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. A media release issued with Minister for Trade Dan Tehan noted that the AI ECTA “will further strengthen our relationship [with India] while making Australian exports to India cheaper and creating huge new opportunities for workers and businesses.” The AI ECTA will eliminate tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exports to India and 96% of Indian imports into Australia. Morrison stated that “this agreement has been built on our strong security partnership [with India] and our joint efforts in the Quad, which has created the opportunity for our economic relationship to advance to a new level.” Following the signing, Indian Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal visited Australia to meet with Australian business leaders and members of Australia’s Indian diaspora community. Tehan referred to the visit as “further strengthen[ing] the relationship between Australia and India” and “send[ing] a strong signal that Australia and India are committed to strengthening our economic ties and exploring new opportunities.”
On 1 April, Morrison issued a joint statement with his Papua New Guinean counterpart James Marape on Australia’s $158 million investment in Papua New Guinea’s energy and roads sectors under the Australian infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. Morrison noted that “Australia is pleased to support the development of high-quality infrastructure across Papua New Guinea’s diverse regions, and build on our strong record of supporting critical infrastructure across the Pacific.”
Morrison acknowledged the passing of David Irvine on 31 March, who he described as “an exceptional Australian and public servant in every sense of the word”, whose “curiosity, wisdom and judgment strengthened our democracy and security over many decades.” Irvine was a public servant for over fifty years and served as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ambassador to China, Director-General of ASIO, Director-General of ASIS, and Chair of the Foreign Investment Review Board. In the latter role, Morrison noted that Irvine “played a seminal role in bringing new perspectives to bear in the face of changing geostrategic dynamics in our region.”
On 5 April, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne travelled to Brussels for a meeting of NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers “to discuss our coordinated international response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and other global security challenges.” She noted that Australia and NATO “enjoy a deep and enduring partnership, unified in our shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rules-based order.” Payne further stated that she will “meet with a number of ministerial counterparts” in Brussels.
Payne noted on 1 April that Australia will commit an additional $40 million in response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. The commitment was made at the United Nations Afghanistan Conference and builds on the $100 million in humanitarian assistance announced in September 2021. Payne noted that the funding “will provide life-saving food supplies to vulnerable Afghans including women and children, and [will] address other urgent needs such as health, gender-based violence and shelter.”
On 5 April, Payne, alongside Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, announced that the Australian Government ratified the International Forced Labour Protocol. Cash noted that “Australia highly values our cooperation with other [International Labor Organization] members, and has long committed to ratifying the Protocol.” Payne noted that “the Coalition Government has zero tolerance for modern slavery wherever it is occurring” and that this is “a key priority within Australia’s foreign policy to uphold the international rules-based order, promote human rights, advance gender equality, counter security threats and strengthen economic growth and resilience, particularly to ensure a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”
Payne issued a statement on the appointment of Harinder Sidhu as Australia’s next High Commissioner to New Zealand. She noted that “Australia’s relationship with New Zealand is our closest and most comprehensive, and its special nature is underpinned by enduring cultural, economic, defence and sporting ties.” Payne further stated that the two nations “stand together to meet strategic challenges and work closely to promote an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific and the global rules-based order.” She referred to the Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement as “one of the world’s most open and successful” and noted that the two nations’ close collaboration to “respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 in the Pacific” will continue.
On 31 March, Payne noted that Australia and Papua New Guinea signed the second bilateral Memorandum of Understanding under the new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. The scheme seeks to “strengthen worker protection and build capacity to address workforce shortages in Australia, particularly in agriculture and across regional areas.” Payne stated that “Australia recognises the outstanding contributions by Papua New Guinea workers under the labour mobility scheme in recent times, keeping food on shelves and contributing to the cultural and economic vibrancy of our regional and rural communities.”
Payne announced on 1 April that the Australian Government will contribute an additional $85 million and offer “at least” 10 million vaccine doses to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment to “help lift global vaccination rates, guard against future variants and further protect the health security of Australia’s region.” She noted that “Australia’s strong support will help to break the cycle of this pandemic and ensure our region is better positioned to respond to the next one.”
On 31 March, Payne issued a statement on Australian citizen Ms Cheng Lei who faced a closed trial in Beijing that day. Payne noted that Cheng faced charges of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas” and that the court deferred its verdict at the end of the proceedings. She further stated that the Australian Government “has never been provided with details of the charges” and that “Australia’s Ambassador to China and [diplomatic] officials were present at the court entrance, reiterating Australia’s support for Ms Cheng and our concerns with what has been a closed and opaque process”. The Ambassador was not permitted to enter the court, a move which Payne described as “regrettabl[e]”, “concerning” and “further undermin[ing] confidence.”
On 10 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised the Governor-General to call an election for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate on May 21. In a press conference that day, Morrison stated that his government is completing “the biggest rebuilding of our defence and security forces since World War II” and that Australia is “dealing with a world that is less stable than at any other time since the Second World War.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced “targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on a further 67 individuals for their role in Russia’s unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine” on 7 April. She noted that the latest round of sanctions “follows the emergence of evidence of war crimes committed by Russia in Bucha and other towns around Kyiv.” Those sanctioned include Russian military official Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Grigorenko, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov, and “other senior Russian government officials.”
On 7 April, Payne noted that Australia, as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner of NATO, will “partner with the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence to help strengthen NATO’s capacity to address hybrid threats and to counter disinformation.” The Centre is based in Riga, Latvia, and is a “multinational organisation whose mission is to carry out research, analysis and training, and develop technical expertise, in order to build the strategic communications capabilities of NATO, NATO allies and NATO partners.” Australia will send a seconded official to the Centre in May and has “begun the process of becoming a longer term contributing partner of the Centre.” Payne noted that “[t]he importance of improving strategic communications has been underscored by Russia’s use of disinformation and propaganda during its illegal and unprovoked war against Ukraine.”
Payne and Minister for International Development Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on 9 April on a further $16 million package of support for Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January. The package follows the initial $3 million in humanitarian support and the Australian Defence Force’s help under Operation Tonga Assist 2022. Australia will also deliver 54,990 Pfizer vaccines to support Tonga’s COVID-19 response. The Ministers noted that the work “continues our ongoing efforts with our Pacific Family under the Pacific Step-Up” and that Australia is “coordinating our efforts with Tonga’s reconstruction priorities and their work managing the recent COVID-19 outbreak.”
From 12-13 April, Seselja travelled to Honiara, Solomon Islands “to discuss Australia’s enduring relationship” with the nation, including the proposed Solomon Islands-China security agreement. The trip follows “ongoing” direct engagement between Payne and her Solomon Islands counterpart and recent visits by Australian government officials. Seselja noted that “Solomon Islands is a valued member of our Pacific family, and Australia respects Solomon Islands[’] right to make sovereign decisions about its national security.” He met with Prime Minister Sogavare and other senior ministers and “asked Solomon Islands respectfully to consider not signing the agreement and to consult the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency.” Seselja further noted that Australia welcomes Sogavare’s recent statements that “Australia remains Solomon Islands[’] security partner of choice” and his commitment that “Solomon Islands will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers.” He flagged that Australia “look[s] forward to ongoing engagement” on the issue.
Payne and Seselja published a joint media release with their Vanuatuan counterpart Marc Ati on 8 April, noting that the Australian and Vanuatuan Governments have signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the long-term operation of the Pacific Fusion Centre in Port Vila. The Centre “provides assessments and advice to Pacific decision-makers on the key security issues facing our region, including climate, human and resource security, environmental and cyber threats and transnational crime.” Payne referred to the Memorandum of Understanding as an “important milestone” that “demonstrates Vanuatu’s and Australia’s shared commitment to working in partnership with our Pacific family to meet the security challenges impacting our region.”
On 11 February, Payne wrote an op-ed for the Herald Sun titled “Sturdy ties keep us stable.” In the piece, she referred to “the foundations of Australia’s region” as “under pressure” and “being strained.” Payne referred to Australia’s Quad partnership with India, Japan and the United States, and argued that “[c]ountries that share a vision of a stable region underpinned by principles such as openness, the protection of national sovereignty, and the observance of rules and fair play in trade and international security, must work together to strengthen our bonds and cooperate more closely.” She stated that “[s]ome authoritarian nations are knowingly taking advantage of the vulnerability of others during the COVID-19 pandemic” and that the pandemic has “added to, and complicated, many of the challenges our region is facing”.
Payne issued a statement on 8 April noting that Australia will provide $2.5 million “to boost food security in Sri Lanka”. The “targeted development assistance” will be distributed through the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and will “support child nutrition, strengthen productivity for smallholder farmers and improve livelihoods in rural areas.”
On 7 April, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong called on the Government to “expel Russian diplomats, in lockstep with European partners … including France, Germany and Italy”. She referred to a comment by Payne that the matter is “under review … at the highest levels of government”, and argued that “there must be immediate diplomatic consequences” for “war crimes” including “the mass killing of innocent civilians and the use of rape as a weapon of war.” Wong further reiterated Labor’s support for “all efforts to ensure these crimes are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted through the International Criminal Court process.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint statement on 19 April on the signing of a security cooperation agreement between Solomon Islands and China. The Ministers noted that they “respect Solomon Islands’ right to make sovereign decisions about its national security” but that they were “deeply disappointed” by the signing of the agreement and “concerned about the lack of transparency” during the agreement’s development. They stated that they “continue to seek further clarity on the terms of the agreement and its consequences for the Pacific region.” Payne and Seselja welcomed recent statements from Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare that Australia is Solomon Islands’ “security partner of choice”, as well as his commitment that the nation “will never be used for military bases or other military institutions of foreign powers.” They stated that they are “consulting the Pacific family in the spirit of regional openness and transparency in a manner consistent with our regional security frameworks.”
In response to the signing of the cooperation agreement between Solomon Islands and China, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong gave an interview on 20 April where she referred to the outcome as “the worst failure of Australian foreign policy in the Pacific since the end of World War Two.” Wong argued that “on Scott Morrison’s watch, our region has become less secure and the risks Australia faces have become much greater … This government was warned of this security pact in August, and yet we have a security agreement signed in our region on [Morrison’s] watch.” She further stated that “what this deal signifies is that Australia is no longer … the nation to whom [Solomon Islands] turn[s] to meet their challenges in every instance.”
Payne announced additional sanctions on 14 Russian state-owned enterprises on 14 April. The new sanctions include defence-related entities including transportation company Kamaz, shipping companies SEVMASH and Untied Shipbuilding Corporation, and electronic component company Ruselectronics. She stated that Australia’s targeting of Russian state-owned enterprises is in coordination with “key partners” and “undermines [the enterprises’] capacity to boost the Russian economy.” Payne further argued that the sanctions “increase[e] the pressure on Russia and undercut [the enterprises’] ability to continue funding Putin’s war.”
On 17 April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the 80th anniversary of full diplomatic relations between Australia and the Netherlands. He reflected on the “warm friendship” that the nations share, including “historic defence ties” forged during the Second World War and “strengthened most recently by our military partnership in Afghanistan.” Morrison further stated that “as we continue to pursue truth, justice and accountability for the downing of MH17, we also stand together in supporting Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He noted that the strong bilateral trade relationship is “the foundation for our collaboration in other areas, such as the green economy and cyber security” and that the two nations “will cooperate to advance our mutual economic prosperity and stability”.
On 22 April, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced additional sanctions on Russia. The new sanctions target 147 individuals including Russian senators, and family members of President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov. Payne stated that “we will continue to increase costs on Russia, in coordination with partners, targeting those who bear responsibility for Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine.” She reiterated that the Australian Government strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on Russia “to withdraw its military forces immediately from Ukraine.”
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese, alongside other Shadow Cabinet Ministers including Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, issued a media release on “Labor’s plan for a stronger Pacific family” on 26 April. The Ministers stated that “[a]n Albanese Labor Government will restore Australia’s place as the partner of choice for the countries in the Pacific” and that “Scott Morrison has dropped the ball in the Pacific, and as a result Australia is less secure.” Amongst the election promises announced by Labor are a new Australia-Pacific Defence School, doubling funding for the Pacific Maritime Security Program, delivering an Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy, and reinstating regular bipartisan Parliamentary Pacific visits.
On 4 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne announced additional sanctions and travel bans imposed against 110 individuals in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Those sanctioned are 34 senior members of the Russian-led Ukrainian separatist movements in Donetsk and Luhansk, and a further 76 Russian members of parliament. Payne stated that the leaders of the separatist movements “have violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through their assertion of governmental authority over areas of Ukraine without the Ukrainian Government’s authorisation.” She further noted that some of the sanctioned members of parliament “voted in favour of the resolution calling for President Putin to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states.” These new listings mean that a total of 812 individuals and 47 entities have now been sanctioned by the Australian Government in response to the invasion.
Payne addressed the United States Studies Centre on 28 April, acknowledging the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty and noting that “[w]e are in the midst of the most significant and consequential realignment of our region since the Second World War”. She warned that “an arc of autocracy from Beijing to Moscow is challenging the rules-based world order” and that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine serves as “an important lesson for the Indo-Pacific, including the fact that international stability can easily be disrupted.” Payne announced a further $1 million in “voluntary contributions to assist the International Criminal Court’s investigations [into the downing of MH17]”. She further noted that “the Solomon Islands’ sovereign decision reflects the geostrategic reality of the time we are now in as China continues to seek a security presence in the Pacific.” Payne referred to the Australian Government’s three foreign policy principles “resilience, relationship and rules … [t]hat means resilience over reliance; relationships over vulnerable isolation; and rules over anarchy.” Payne further stated that “[Australia’s] foreign policy is firmly rooted in maintaining the long-term prosperity and security of the Australian people … we approach this era of strategic competition with confidence – confidence in our plan, confidence built on our record, confidence in Australia.”
On 3 May, Payne issued a joint statement acknowledging World Press Freedom Day through the Global Partnership on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, comprised of her counterparts from Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The statement sought to “call attention to the pressing need for enhanced safety of women journalists and media workers” and noted that “[w]omen in journalism are disproportionately impacted by threats and attacks, which are more often gendered and sexualized than threats against their male counterparts and increasingly take place online.” The leaders urged “all states, media companies, workplaces, technology platforms and civil society groups to speak out against technology facilitated gender-based violence, to prevent and address all forms of violence against women journalists and media workers, both online and offline, and defend their ability to practice journalism freely and safely.”
On 10 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne, alongside Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews, attributed “malicious cyber activity against European networks” to Russia. The Ministers join the United Kingdom and European Union in the attribution to Russia of deploying wiper malware on Ukrainian government and private sector networks, compromising Ukrainian civilian entities, and launching cyber attacks against commercial satellite communications networks to disrupt Ukrainian command and control during the invasion. They stated that “[t]hese unacceptable activities are further examples of Moscow’s indiscriminate approach to cyber operations and blatant disregard for the effects of such operations on the public, including through the commercial sector.” They further noted that “Australia is committed to imposing costs on state-based or state-sponsored malicious actors who seek to undermine an open, free, safe and secure cyberspace.”
Australian officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) held virtual bilateral talks about the Pacific with their Chinese counterparts on 6 May. The DFAT officials raised “serious concerns about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement, the lack of transparency and its implications for continuing regional security and stability.” They further “emphasised that Australia is a Pacific nation with deep, longstanding connections with our Pacific family across all arms of government and right across our society.” Both sides also discussed climate change, COVID-19 recovery, fisheries and maritime issues, and infrastructure development in the Pacific region.
On 4 May, the 13th meeting of the India-Australia Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism was held in person. Mahaveer Singhvi, Joint Secretary for Counter-Terrorism at the Ministry of External Affairs of India and Roger Noble, Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism at DFAT, led their respective delegations. India and Australia both “strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasised the need for strengthening international cooperation to combat terrorism in a comprehensive and sustained manner.” They reaffirmed their commitment to “work closely together to respond to these challenges and discussed ways to deepen engagement between their respective counterpart agencies to further advance interaction, cooperation and information sharing in the sphere of counter-terrorism.”
On 17 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja issued a joint media release on the passing of Papua New Guinean Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil. The ministers expressed their “sincere condolences” and stated that “Australia remembers and honours Mr Basil with the deepest respect for his contribution to his country, and for his contribution to building lasting friendship and understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea.”
Payne announced further sanctions against 11 individuals and 12 entities from Russia and Belarus on 18 May. The new sanctions target “Russian purveyors of propaganda and disinformation who have sought to legitimise Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, as well as security figures and entities who have supported the invasion.” Payne stated that “the Russian Government is driving a widespread disinformation campaign both within Russia and internationally” and that “President Putin has attacked freedom of speech and dissent in Russia to suppress factual reporting on its war against Ukraine and its egregious war crimes, and to damage perceptions of Ukraine and its international supporters.”
On 13 May, Payne issued a joint statement on increased restrictions on the human rights of Afghan women and girls with her equivalents from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Foreign Ministers noted that they “remain deeply concerned by the continued restrictions on girls’ access to education in Afghanistan” and called on the Taliban “to respect the right to education and adhere to their commitments to reopen schools for all female students.” They stated that “we will continue to judge the Taliban on their actions, not their words.”
The Department of Defence issued a media release on 13 May on a Chinese naval vessel operating off the north-west Australian coast. Defence noted that they are “actively monitoring the current activities of the Chinese Intelligence Collection Vessel off the north-west coast of Western Australia with a combination of air and maritime capabilities.” The Department further stated that “Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to to do the same.”
Similarly on May 13, Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor noted that Labor “shares concerns” about the Chinese naval vessel. O’Connor stated that Labor “note[s] a concerning pattern of behaviour from the [People’s Liberation Army] Navy of intelligence ships entering Australia’s exclusive economic zone” and that he has had “a preliminary conversation with the Defence Minister, and have sought a more comprehensive briefing” on the matter.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was sworn in as the 31st Prime Minister of Australia on 23 May following the election on 21 May. In a press conference that day, Albanese noted that he had sworn in an “interim Ministry” in order to enable him and Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong to attend Quad meetings in Tokyo. He also noted that United States President Joe Biden had congratulated him on the election result, and that “the relationship with the United States is our most important, along with our relationships in the region and our multilateral commitments as well.” Albanese stated that the Quad meetings are going to be “very important … to send a message to the world that there’s a new Government in Australia and it’s a Government that represents a change, in terms of the way we deal with the world on issues like climate change, but also a continuity in the way that we have respect for democracy and the way that we value our friendships and long-time alliances.”
Albanese issued a joint statement on 24 May alongside his Quad counterparts, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and United States President Joe Biden, following their Quad Leaders’ Meeting in Tokyo. The leaders referred to the meeting as a renewal of their shared “steadfast commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient.” The leaders announced the Quad Fellowship, a program which will bring 100 students from Quad countries to the United States to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields. Among their topics of discussion were: peace and stability, including the conflict in Ukraine and its implications for the Indo-Pacific; COVID-19 and global health security; deepened cooperation on infrastructure in the region; climate, including implementing the Paris Agreement and the outcomes of COP26; cybersecurity; critical and emerging technologies; the new Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness; and the establishment of the Quad Partnership on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
At his opening remarks at the Quad Leaders’ Meeting, Albanese stated that “we have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change.” He further noted that “the new Australian Government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda – taking action on climate change and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region, through better economic security, better cybersecurity, better energy security and better environmental and health security.” Albanese noted that his Government “has already committed to a greater focus on South-East Asia, including the appointment of a Special Envoy for the region and $470 million in additional foreign aid over the next four years.”
While in Tokyo, Albanese also participated in a bilateral meeting with President Biden on 24 May. In his opening remarks at the meeting, Albanese noted that his Government “is very committed to the alliance” with the United States and that he “look[s] forward to really strengthening our relationship”. He further stated that Australia “is very proud of the fact that the alliance was forged by John Curtin during World War Two … [which] led in the post-war to what we’ve just celebrated as the 70th anniversary of the formal alliance.”
On 25 May, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced that she will travel to Fiji on 26 May “to strengthen our Vuvale partnership and to discuss how we can best secure our region and help build a stronger Pacific family.” Wong noted that the visit, taking place in her first week in the role, “demonstrates the importance we place on our relationship with Fiji and on our Pacific engagement.” She stated that “Australia will listen to our Pacific partners as we work together to face our shared challenges and achieve our shared goals – including tackling climate change, pandemic recovery, economic development and regional security.” Wong also noted that she plans to take “real action on climate change at home and with our region”, and to “reform and expand” the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme. While in Fiji, Wong will meet with Fiji’s Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank Bainimarama, as well as other senior ministers, and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna.
On 1 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s full new Ministry was sworn in. Cabinet Ministers include Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles as Minister for Defence, Penny Wong as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Don Farrell as Minister for Trade and Tourism, and Clare O’Neil as Minister for Home Affairs. The Outer Ministry includes Pat Conroy as Minister for Defence Industry and Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Assistant Ministers include Matt Thistlethwaite as Assistant Minister for Defence, Tim Ayres as Assistant Minister for Trade, and Tim Watts as Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong addressed the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat on 26 May while in Fiji on her first bilateral visit. Wong referred to “a new era in Australian engagement in the Pacific.” She noted that the Pacific Island Forum is “the heart of Pacific regionalism” and that Australia’s membership of the Forum is “a membership we treasure”. Wong stated that “I’ve come here on day four [as Minister for Foreign Affairs] because I wanted to say in person, and in the Pacific, on behalf of the new Australian Government, how deeply we value being part of the Pacific family.” She referred to Pacific nations’ support for Australia during the Black Summer bushfires and floods as “what families do”. Wong repeated part of the Pacific Island Forum’s Boe Declaration on Regional Security from 2018, that “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.” She acknowledged that “under past governments, Australia has neglected its responsibility to act on climate change” but that “this is a different Australian Government [that] will stand shoulder to shoulder with our Pacific family in response to this crisis.” She further stated that Australia is “a partner that won’t come with strings attached, nor impose unsustainable financial burdens.”
In her speech at the Pacific Island Forum, Wong also announced an increase in Australia’s overseas development assistance to the Pacific by $525 million over the next four years, and the Australia-Pacific Climate Infrastructure Partnership “to support climate-related infrastructure and energy projects in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste.”
Wong announced on 1 June that she will travel that day to Samoa and Tonga “to renew and strengthen Australia’s deep ties of friendship and family.” She noted that the trip will be her second visit to the Pacific following her swearing in as Foreign Minister. Wong stated that she “look[s] forward to listening to leaders in Samoa and Tonga about how the Australian Government can best apply the new energy and resources we are bringing to the Pacific.” She said that the Australian Government “want[s] to make a uniquely Australian contribution to help build a stronger Pacific family through social and economic opportunities including pandemic recovery, health, development and infrastructure support, as well as through our Pacific labour programs and permanent migration.” Wong will meet with Samoan Head of State Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II and Prime Minister the Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, and Tongan Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku and Foreign Minister Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu.
On 27 May, Wong issued a statement noting that it has been one year since Australian citizen, Dr Yang Jun, “faced a closed trial on national security charges” and that he is “yet to learn the outcome.” She stated that “the Australian Government is very concerned about this delay” and further referred to the fact that Dr Yang has been unable to access his family, and has only had “limited access” to his legal representation since his detention in January 2019. Wong reaffirmed that the Australian Government “will continue to advocate for Dr Yang’s interests and wellbeing, and provide consular support to Dr Yang and his family.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, and Minister for Trade Don Farrell, travelled to Indonesia for the Annual Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta from 5-7 June. The Ministers will also be joined “by a high-level delegation of Australian business leaders.” Albanese stated that “Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours, which is why I committed to visiting as soon as possible.” Wong further noted that “[t]he Australian Government is serious about our engagement in Southeast Asia, and this visit demonstrates the importance we place on our partnership with Indonesia.”
On 6 June, Albanese and his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, issued a joint statement following the Annual Leaders’ Meeting. The leaders “affirmed their commitment to addressing the nations’ shared challenges and to deepening coordination” through the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. They “addressed the urgent challenge of climate change” and new opportunities for collaboration in the space. Moreover, they committed to “deepening their bilateral economic relationship” through the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN, outlined a shared path for economic recovery from COVID-19, and commented on the situation in Afghanistan and conflict in Ukraine.
At the Annual Leaders’ Meeting on 6 June, Albanese noted in his opening remarks that he has “great ambition for our relationship”, including “to strengthen our economic ties, [and] to strengthen people-to-people relations through education and exchange of people.” Albanese further stated that “on issues of climate change and energy, my Government has a different position from our former government. We recognise the need to transition and support clean energy not just in our own country, but globally.”
Reflecting on the Leaders’ Meeting, Albanese said that “Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important. We’re linked not just by geography, but we are linked by choice.” He also affirmed that he “informed President Widodo that [he] will attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali in November … because the work of the G20 is critical at this time of global economic uncertainty, and it will be by working with Indonesia that we most effectively tackle the many challenges we face in navigating the post-COVID global economic recovery.” Albanese announced that Australia will provide ten scholarships for Indonesians to complete Masters or PhDs in Australia, in fields that “match Indonesia’s G20 priorities” of “global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation.” Moreover, Albanese noted that his Government will establish an Office of Southeast Asia within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “to ensure whole-of-government coordination of Australian efforts in the region.”
Albanese noted that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Sydneyfrom 9-10 June, and that Ardern will be the first foreign leader he meets with in Australia following the election. He noted that “the Australia-New Zealand relationship is unique in its closeness” and that the two nations “share a relationship of family”. Albanese referred to the visit as “an opportunity to build on Trans-Tasman cooperation, including economic recovery after COVID-19, the role of Indigenous peoples in the identity of both countries, climate change, support for the Pacific, and global trade and security.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong visited Samoa on 2 June and met with Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa. Wong and Mata’afa participated in a joint press conference, where Wong stated that “a new Australian Government has been formed. We want to put more energy and more resources into the Pacific. We have made a commitment to engage more closely and to listen respectfully.” Wong also announced that Australia will provide a replacement Guardian-class boat to Samoa to replace the Nafanua II in 2023, and that Australia “understand[s] how important these maritime assets are to island nations.”
On 3 June, Wong visited Tonga and held a joint press conference with Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni. She noted that the new Australian Government was “elected with a very clear position that we would put in more energy and more resources … to our relationship with the Pacific.” Wong further stated that “the experience of your country and the experience of Pacific Island nations, the real, present national security, economic and existential risk and threat … is the climate change that you are experiencing … [W]e have heard that, and we will work with you.”
Wong issued a media release on 8 June condemning North Korea’s eight ballistic missile tests in the past week, and noted that the launches “violate multiple [United Nations] Security Council resolutions and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.” She urged the United Nations Security Council “to respond decisively to North Korea’s continued violation of its legally binding resolutions” and called on Pyongyang “to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and return to meaningful dialogue with the United States and the Republic of Korea.” Wong further stated that “[p]ermanent peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula can only be achieved through dialogue” and that “[e]ffective sanctions enforcement requires a global effort.”
On 10 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in Sydney. In a press release, Albanese noted that Ardern is the “first foreign leader [he has] met with as Prime Minister on Australian soil” and that the two countries have “common culture and values, shared interests and outlooks.” He further stated that the leaders “both know that trade and integration mean jobs, growth and opportunities” and that they are “determined to work together to take the trans-Tasman economic relationship to new heights.”
In a joint press conference with Ardern on 10 June, Albanese further stated that the leaders “are determined to take Trans-Tasman relations to a new level.” He noted that the nations are “determined to work together on global security, but also on the economic security that people need.” Albanese also confirmed that the Australian Government will “submit an updated nationally determined contribution to the [United Nations] Framework Convention on Climate Change soon.”
On 11 June, Albanese announced that the Australian Government had reached “a fair and equitable settlement of €555 million (around $830 million) with Naval Group” following the Morrison Government’s decision to terminate the Attack class submarine program. He further stated that “[n]ow that the matter is resolved we can move forward with the relationship with France … Given the gravity of the challenges that we face both in the region and globally, it is essential that Australia and France once again unite to defend our shared principles and interests: the primacy of international law; respect for sovereignty; the rejection of all forms of coercion; and taking resolute action on climate change.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statement on 15 June noting that she will travel to New Zealand and Solomon Islands “to reinforce our close friendships and cooperation in our region.” Wong will meet with her New Zealand counterpart, Nanaia Mahuta, for Foreign Minister Consultations, including discussions on “ways we can work together, to make the most of the new energy and resources the Australian Government is bringing to the Pacific.” She further noted that “[t]here are new possibilities for collaboration with New Zealand in support of regional security and on climate change.” In Solomon Islands, Wong will meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and “a number of his Cabinet ministers”. Wong stated that “we are committed to deepening our cooperation with Solomon Islands, as we work together to face shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including on climate change” and that she “look[s] forward to discussing the ways we can continue to make progress on pandemic recovery, economic development and labour mobility priorities, and addressing our shared security interests.”
On 10 June, Wong issued a media release noting that the Australian Government “rejects this week’s court ruling in Myanmar against Australian Professor Sean Turnell.” Turnell remains imprisoned in Myanmar, and Wong stated that Australia “continue[s] to call for his immediate release … We will continue to advocate for Professor Turnell’s interests and well-being and will not stop until he is safely back with his family.”
Wong, alongside Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme Bill Shorten, congratulated Rosemary Kayess on her re-election to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 15 June. The Ministers noted that Kayess’ candidacy was “strongly supported by the Australian Government and Australian organisations of persons with disabilities.” Wong stated that the re-election “is a strong endorsement from [Kayess’] international peers of her decades-long work to progress disability rights.”
On 11 June, Wong issued a joint statement with Minister for Trade Don Farrell announcing the Australian Government’s $2.9 million contribution to the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), to help “developing and least-developed countries build capacity to participate in, and benefit from, the multilateral rules-based trading system.” The Ministers stated that the Government “is committed to supporting developing countries to enhance their ability to export, their international competitiveness, and their engagement in the global economy.” Wong noted that the Australian Government’s priority “is to ensure our partners can support their development goals by exercising their [World Trade Organization (WTO)] rights and fulfilling their WTO obligations.”
Farrell announced on 9 June that he will travel to Geneva to lead the Australian delegation to the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) alongside Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres. Farrell stated that “Australia will work to achieve outcomes that support governments dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19 and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, including in areas such as access to vaccines and other medical products, the promotion of digital trade and food security.” Ayres led Australia’s delegation to the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris on 9 and 10 June, to “discuss Australia’s new climate change ambitions, the impacts of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on global food and energy security, and the importance of free and open trade in the global economic recovery from COVID-19.”
In his opening address at MC12 on 13 June, Farrell noted that “Australia strongly believes we must continue efforts to reform the WTO so that it better serves the interests of all Members.” In addition to general reform of the WTO, Farrell advocated for a WTO pandemic response, agricultural reform, an agreement to limit subsidies that undermine fish stocks. Farrell also chaired a meeting of the Cairns Group Ministers, “a coalition of 19 agricultural fair-trading countries committed to agricultural reform in the WTO” prior to the MC12 opening ceremony. Of this meeting, he stated that the Ministers “affirmed our joint determination to see concrete progress at MC12 towards equitable agricultural trade reform and to continue working together to create a more level playing field in agricultural trade globally.”
From 10-12 June, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited Singapore for the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue. Marles stated that “the Indo-Pacific is in the midst of the most consequential strategic alignment of our time” and that he “welcome[s] the role [the Shangri-La] Dialogue plays in shaping robust conversation on strategic challenges and regional security dynamics.” In his addressto the Dialogue, Marles noted that “Australia will embark on a new era of engagement in the Pacific” and will “become a more engaged and responsive partner to our Pacific neighbours.” He referred to Wong’s visits to “several Pacific Island nations” and Albanese’s first international trip being to Indonesia. Marles further noted that “this Government will be respectful, including with countries where we have complex relationships. This includes China. Australia values a productive relationship with China. China is not going anywhere. And we all need to live together and, hopefully, prosper together.” Following the Dialogue, Marles delivered a press conference where he noted that he had met with his Chinese counterpart on 12 June, the first such meeting in three years. Marles referred to the meeting as “important” and “one which the Australian government welcomes”, as well as being “an opportunity to have a very frank and full exchange” where Marles raised “a number of issues of concern to Australia, including the incident involving Australia’s P-8 aircraft on the 26th of May”.
While in Singapore, Marles also met with his United States and Japanese counterparts for the United States-Japan-Australia Trilateral Defense Ministers Meeting on 11 June. In a joint statement, the leaders noted that they had “exchanged views on the regional security environment and committed to work together to take concrete, practical steps to ensure the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.” They discussed concerns about Russia’s attack on Ukrainian territory, the “increasingly severe security environment in the South China Sea”, “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and the centrality of ASEAN. They also committed to increasing trilateral exercises, expanded trilateral cooperation “on advanced technologies and strategic capabilities”, and “effectively leverag[ing] trilateral mechanisms of information exchange.”
From 13-15 June, Marles travelled to Japan to meet with his counterparts and “key defence and national security figures” in order to “discuss our shares approach in the Indo-Pacific.” Marles stated that “Japan is a critical partner in achieving our regional objectives. Our partnership continues to grow as we pursue new and ambitious avenues for cooperation, including through the Reciprocal Access Agreement signed in January.” Following his meeting with his Japanese counterpart Kishi Nobuo on 15 June, the Ministers issued a joint statement on “advancing defence cooperation.” They committed to “continu[ing] the ambitious upward trajectory of defence cooperation” between the two nations, including through increasing space and cyber cooperation, “strengthen[ing] our mutual industrial bases through collaboration on supply chains” and “leverag[ing] our respective strengths to advance our cooperation on science and technology.”
On 22 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced his intention to recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of Jan Adams as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.Adams will commence her role on 1 July 2022, replacing current Secretary Kathryn Campbell. Albanese noted that Campbell “will be taking up a senior appointment in the Defence portfolio in an AUKUS-related role.”
Albanese, alongside Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, conveyedAustralia’s updated Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement to the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 16 June. This “formalises Australia’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and will put Australia on track to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.” The Ministers further noted that when Parliament resumes, the Government will “seek to enshrine these targets in legislation.” Albanese stated that “the new target reflects my Government’s resolve to urgently step up the pace of action, and work alongside global partners and particularly with our Pacific family, to tackle the climate crisis and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.”
On 16 June, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in Wellington for the biannual Australia – Aotearoa New Zealand Foreign Minister Consultations. The Ministers noted the two nations’ “close friendship” is “more essential than ever for the security and well-being of our citizens” and that they are “at their best when they stand united as allis.” They discussed “concerns at the growing strategic competition in the Pacific region,” while also agreeing “on the need to place the perspectives and priorities of Pacific Island nations at the forefront of both countries’ engagement in the Pacific.” The Ministers further noted “the clear and consistent message from Pacific Island nations that climate change is the most critical challenge they face” and emphasised their “shared commitment to working with Pacific Island nations to address the complex issues facing the region.”
Wong issued a joint statement with Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on the United Kingdom’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the United States on 17 June. The Ministers noted “that Mr Assange has several avenues through which he can appeal this decision” and that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “will continue to offer consular assistance to Mr Assange.” However, they further stated that “Australia is not a party to Mr Assange’s case” and that the Australian Government cannot “interfere in the legal matters of another country.” Wong and Dreyfus reiterated that “the Australian Government has been clear in our view that Mr Assange’s case has dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a close.”
On 20 June, Wong noted that Australia will provide $50 million in Official Development Assistance “to support Sri Lanka [to] meet urgent food and healthcare needs.” She stated that “Sri Lanka currently faces its worst economic crisis in seventy years” and that the assistance “will support health services, and economic recovery, with a strong emphasis on protecting those at risk, especially women and girls.” On the same day, Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil travelled to Sri Lanka to meet with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister, G. L. Peiris. The visit coincides with the 75thanniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. O’Neil issued a joint media releasewith Peiris, where the Ministers noted the “strong bilateral relationship” and discussed “opportunities to deepen the partnership … particularly the gold standard cooperation in the area of irregular migration.” The Ministers “recommitted their resolve to continue working together to thwart people smugglers and to prevent the loss of life and risk to livelihoods of innocent people.” O’Neil also “reiterated Australia’s strong support to Sri Lanka in its efforts to overcome the current economic challenges and agreed to cooperate with Sri Lanka in this context.”
Wong announced on 17 June that, following Solomon Islands’ request, Australia will deliver “up to 200,000 paediatric COVID-19 vaccine doses” to facilitate the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wong noted that “Australia is standing with Solomon Islands to ensure children can be vaccinated against COVID-19, protecting them and their communities from serious illness and minimising disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.”
On 16 June, Wong and Minister for International Development Pat Conroy issued a joint statementwhere they noted that Australia will provide “an initial $675,000 to assist Kiribati [in] respond[ing] to the country’s severe drought”, following the nation’s declaration of a State of Disaster three days earlier. Wong noted that “as Pacific family members, Australia is standing with Kiribati to meet the challenges of climate change and its impacts.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited India from 20-23 June. On his trip, he met with his counterpart Rajnath Singh for the bilateral Defence Ministers’ Meeting, where the Ministers reviewed the India-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, reviewed strategic challenges and reaffirmed their “shared objective of an open, free, inclusive, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.” While in India, Marles also addressed the National Defence College in New Delhi on 22 June, where he referred to his article in the Indian Express published that day, stating that “Australia must deepen its understanding of, and engagement with [India], one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations, the soon to be most populous nation in the world, and a deeply consequential power.” Moreover, in his address, Marles stated that “Australia stands ready to work even more closely with India for an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific” and that “one of the priorities of the new Australian Government is India.”
On 19 June, Marles noted that the first four M113AS4 Armoured Personal Carriers being gifted to Ukraine from Australia had departed RAAF Base Amberley. Marles stated that “we will continue to look at ways we can best help the people of Ukraine. Australia stand with Ukraine, and again calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
Marles will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 in Rwanda on 23-26 June alongside Conroy, who will attend on behalf of Wong. Marles stated that he “look[s] forward to engaging with leaders from the Commonwealth and promoting democratic values and human rights, action on climate change, and sustainable and resilient health systems as a key element of post COVID-19 recovery.”
In a joint release on 19 June, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres “welcomed the strong outcomes achieved at the 12th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC12) in Geneva.” The Ministers stated that “the success of the Conference provides a significant boost to confidence in the rules-based multilateral trading system on which Australia relies for stability and prosperity.” They referred to the new agreement on fisheries subsidies as a “significant achievement” following 20 years of negotiations. They further noted that “Australia will advocate for improved WTO rules to reflect new and emerging challenges, and to restore the health of the WTO’s dispute settlement system.”
While at MC12, Farrell and Ayres co-hosted a meeting with their Pacific counterparts, where they “discussed opportunities for Pacific Island countries to enhance their participation in global and regional trade and benefit further from the multilateral rules-based trading system.” They also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to ensuring that increased trade “continues to support our Pacific family’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”
Farrell also met with his Indian and European Union counterparts on 16 June while at MC12 to advance Australia’s free trade negotiations with the two nations. With Indian Minister Piyush Goyal, Farrell “committed to move rapidly to commence negotiations on the full Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement and [to] capitalise on the enormous potential for closer economic ties between Australia and India.” During his meeting with European Union Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, the leaders discussed “the important economic and strategic relationship between Australia and the European Union” and their “shared interest in concluding an ambitious free trade agreement, and in exploring new avenues for cooperation on climate and energy.” Farrell stated that “India and the EU are key economic and strategic partners for Australia, and the Australian Government is committed to using our trade links to strengthen these partnerships.”
On 13 June, Farrell spoke with his United States counterpart, Katherine Tai, at MC12, where he welcomed the United States’ “commitment to regional economic leadership through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework”. He stated that he “look[s] forward to working closely with Ambassador Tai to build an inclusive Framework that complements regional architecture and supports regional prosperity and resilience.” Farrell and Tai also discussed their intention “to work closely on policy approaches that address the challenges we face around climate, energy and supply chains”, as well as “exchang[ing] views on the WTO and how we can work together to strengthen its effectiveness.”
Farrell also announced on 16 June that Australia had concluded its market access negotiations with Timor-Leste in the sidelines of MC12, following discussions with his Timor-Leste counterpart Joaquim Amaral. He noted that “Australia looks forward to working with Timor-Leste to enhance its access to, and benefits from, the multilateral rules-based trading system” and that Timor-Leste’s “accession to the WTO will support [its] further integration in to the regional and global economy, and promote its sustainable growth and economic resilience.” Farrell stated that Australia “will continue to support Timor-Leste’s accession to the WTO through targeted technical assistance and capacity building to help Timor-Leste accede and implement its WTO obligations.”
On 26 June, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese travelled to Madrid, Spain for the NATO Leaders’ Summit Meeting. Australia was invited to attend the Summit as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner. Albanese noted that as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, Australia “has worked closely with NATO on interoperability, military training and exercise programs, and other issues of mutual interest.” He further stated that the Meeting “comes at a critical time” and that “[t]he conflict in Ukraine has significant consequences that reach far beyond Europe.”
While in Spain, Albanese met with Spanish President Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón for bilateral talks on 28 June. The leaders released a joint statement noting that Albanese’s trip marked the first bilateral visit to Spain by an Australian Prime Minister. They “reaffirmed the warm and productive relationship between Spain and Australia, underpinned by shared values, a commitment to multilateralism and the international rules-based order and close economic ties.” The leaders further discussed “the strong growth in the bilateral economic and trade relationship”, “reaffirmed their commitment to the swift conclusion of a comprehensive and ambitious Australia-EU Trade Agreement”, and their “long-standing defence industry cooperation.” Moreover, they condemned Russia’s “unilateral, illegal and immoral war of aggression against the people of Ukraine.”
Following his attendance at the NATO Leaders’ Summit Meeting, Albanese will then travel to Paris to meet with President Emmanuel Macron. He stated that he is “honoured” to accept the invitation from President Macron to visit Paris, and that “France is an important partner and friend to Australia, particularly in our shared vision for peace and stability in the Pacific.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to Malaysia and Vietnam on 25 June. She noted that “Australia’s future is tied to the future of Southeast Asia, a region we share” and that it is “important [that] we work closely together to capitalise on shared economic opportunities, strengthen regional security, and address climate change.” Wong met with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn, with discussions focused on “climate change cooperation, our shared trade and investment ambitions and Australia’s continued support for Vietnam’s COVID-19 recovery.”
While in Malaysia, Wong delivered a keynote address on 29 June, where she reflected on her personal ties to the nation, discussed the bilateral relationship, and reaffirmed ASEAN centrality. She noted the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that the two countries signed in 2021, referring to it as “a strong basis for deeper cooperation, but we can do more.” Wong further stated that she wants the two nations to “modernise [their] trade relationship, so we can take up more opportunities in the digital economy and face challenges like cyber security.”
On 26 June, Wong announced that Australia will provide an additional $1 million in emergency relief to support the people of Afghanistan, following the “devastating earthquake” a few days prior. She noted that this relief is in addition to the $140 million pledged to Afghanistan since September 2021. Wong stated that the support “will be delivered through UN agencies already operating in the affected area, and will go towards providing shelter, food and medical support for those in need.”
Wong and Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek issued a joint statement on 25 June noting that the Australian Government is contributing $80 million over four years to the Global Environment Facility. The Facility is an “international effort to help developing countries tackle urgent environment pressures and reduce the impacts of climate change.” This contribution “builds on Australia’s support for the Facility since its inception over 30 years ago”, and forms part of the Government’s $2 billion climate finance package from 2020-2025. Wong noted that “[c]limate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific” and that “[t]he urgency of climate action for our Pacific family is raised with me everywhere I go.”
Plibersek addressed the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal on 28 June. In her speech, she reaffirmed Australia’s endorsement of the Joint Declaration on the Creation of a Global Coalition for Blue Carbon, which she stated “has the potential to complement the research and programs that Australia helps coordinate through the International Partnership for Blue Carbon.” She further noted that “there is no such thing as a healthy environment or healthy oceans without action on climate change. And we can’t tackle climate change without action on our oceans. Ambition is our only option.” Finally, Plibersek stated that Australia is “not just willing to do our bit, we’re willing to step up to join our partners in showing global leadership.”
The Australian, Japanese, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States Governments launched the “inclusive, informal” Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) Initiative on 25 June. In a joint statement, the PBP members noted that the initiative “builds on our longstanding commitment to the region” and that they “maintain close people-to-people ties and are longstanding development partners in the Pacific Islands.” The PBP Initiative is directed “according to the principles of Pacific regionalism, sovereignty, transparency, accountability, and most of all, led and guided by the Pacific Islands.” It will seek to achieve three main goals: “deliver[ing] results for the Pacific more effectively and efficiently”, “bolster[ing] Pacific regionalism”, and “expand[ing] opportunities for cooperation between the Pacific and the world.”
On 4 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Kyiv, Ukraine, and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Following Zelenskyy’s request for further support, Albanese announced a new package of assistance to Ukraine, including A$99.5 million in military assistance, A$8.7 million to assist Ukraine’s Border Guard Service, the removal of tariffs on Ukrainian imports to Australia, targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on 16 additional Russian ministers and oligarchs, and a prohibition on imports of Russian gold. Albanese also announced that Australia “will intervene at the International Court of Justice in support of Ukraine in its case against Russia” and noted that “Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to Ukraine in the defence of their homeland.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will travel to Sydney from 6 to 8 July to attend the annual Australia New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting (ANZLM) with Albanese.The visit will also include a meeting of the Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), which is being held for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, and “provides business and government leaders a valuable opportunity to meet.” Albanese stated that he is “delighted to welcome Prime Minister Ardern back to Australia, along with her delegation of government and business leaders.” He also noted that this bilateral meeting is the second in the past month, “which is a reflection of the closeness of our trans-Tasman relationship. It truly is one of family.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong travelled to Singapore and Indonesia this week. While in Singapore, she met with her Singaporean counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan. In a joint press conference on 6 July, Wong noted that “Australia’s relationship with Singapore is one of our closest, and it is a relationship that is anchored in shared strategic interests and shared economic interests.” She further stated that “our relationship, of course, is more than official links … we trust each other. We like each other. We visit often. We study together.” Wong concluded by saying that “we see our future in this region. We see our security in this region. That is why we will bring deep engagement to our relationship with this region … We look forward to continuing to work with Singapore to that end.”
While in Singapore, Wong also addressed the International Institute for Strategic Studies on 6 July. She reflected on the diversity of the current Australian Government, noting that “at its core, foreign policy is an expression of national values, national interests and national identity. So it starts with who we are.” Wong reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to ASEAN centrality, including economic centrality, while also “draw[ing] out a couple of contemporary challenges to ASEAN centrality”, namely the military coup in Myanmar and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She noted that “I am not the first foreign minister in Australia’s history to recognise the importance of our relationships with Southeast Asia. But I am the first to make these statements as an Australian foreign minister who is from Southeast Asia.”
In Indonesia, Wong will participate in the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali.Wong noted that the G20 is “the premier forum for international economic cooperation and governance” and “has a vital role in ensuring food and energy security – both [of which are] threatened by Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.” She further “commend[ed] Indonesia for inviting Ukraine to participate as a guest.” Wong will also participate in the twenty-first meeting of Mexico, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, and Australia (MIKTA) Foreign Ministers, which “aims to play a bridging role between developing and developed countries on global issues including Ukraine, food security and migration management.”
On 30 June, Wong issued a statement on the two year anniversary of the imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong. She noted Australia’s ongoing “deep concern” at the “continuing erosion of Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and autonomy” and “urge[d] the Chinese Government and Hong Kong authorities to uphold and protect those elements which have been so crucial to Hong Kong’s success, including its high degree of autonomy, the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Sino-British Declaration, to which Beijing committed.”
Wong announced seven diplomatic appointments on 6 July: Berenice Owen-Jones is Australia’s next High Commissioner to Ghana; Katie Smith is the next Ambassador to Mongolia; Neil Hawkins is the next High Commissioner to Pakistan; Hae Kyong Yu is the next Ambassador to the Philippines; Paul Stephens is the next High Commissioner to Sri Lanka; Dr Angela Macdonald is the next Ambassador to Thailand; and Annelise Young is the next Consul-General in Noumea. All seven appointees are career officers with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
On 4 July, Wong met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi in Australia. She noted that “Australia is a longstanding supporter of the IAEA’s mission to harness the peaceful use of nuclear technology in areas like medicine, industrial processes and environmental monitoring, as well as upholding the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.” Wong further noted that they discussed Australia’s “approach for the acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines under AUKUS” as well as “the challenging international security environment” more broadly.
On 8 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issued a statement on the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Albanese noted that Abe “was one of Australia’s closest friends on the world stage” and that Abe’s “vision … helped elevate [the] bilateral relationship to a Special Strategic Partnership in 2014.” He further stated that “the Quad and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership are in many ways the results of [Abe’s] diplomatic leadership.”
Albanese also issued a joint statement alongside his fellow Quad leaders, United States President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Abe’s assassination. The leaders noted that “Prime Minister Abe was a transformative leader for Japan and for Japanese relations with each one of our countries” and that Abe “played a formative role in the founding of the Quad partnership, and worked tirelessly to advance a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.” They further stated that they will “honour Prime Minister Abe’s memory by redoubling our work towards a peaceful and prosperous region.”
On 8 July, Albanese met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting. The leaders discussed “the richness of trans-Tasman cooperation; their shared perspectives on regional and global issues; and [their] joint desire to see [their] world-leading cooperation grow from strength-to-strength.” They further acknowledged that their meeting was taking place during NAIDOC Week in Australia, and considered “the unique role of Māori and Australia’s First Nations peoples in the identity of both our countries.” They also committed “to working together to continue strengthening indigenous voices and perspectives in policymaking and diplomacy, including through the Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand Indigenous Collaboration Agreement.”
In a joint press conference following the Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting, Albanese announced that there will be “annual meetings between our economic ministers and international ministers”, and that “our economic ministers … include [our] climate change [ministers].” He also noted that Australia will “work on ways of a pathway to citizenship [for New Zealanders living in Australia] with a timeline of Anzac Day 2023”, as well as considering voting rights for New Zealanders living in Australia for at least one year.
Albanese travelled to Fiji on 13 July for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Suva, the first in-person Leaders’ Meeting since 2019. Of the visit, Albanese stated that “it is a privilege to visit Fiji to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum. I look forward to meeting my fellow Pacific leaders, hearing their priorities and learning from their experiences.” The visit will be Albanese’s first trip to the Pacific as Prime Minister. He further stated that “a strong, united Pacific Islands Forum is vital to protecting our shared interests in a peaceful, prosperous and resilient region and to addressing the pressing challenges our region faces.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong attended the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Bali, Indonesia this week, along with Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy. On 8 July, she addressed the Plenary Session on Strengthening Multilateralism. In her speech, she stated that “when countries act against [the multilateral] system … they act against the international community”, and that “we have all benefited from the multilateral system [and] we will all pay the price if we allow it to falter.” She reaffirmed Australia’s support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty, its territorial integrity and its people” and stated that “Russia alone is responsible for its actions and needs to end the conflict [in Ukraine] and the human and economic suffering it is causing.” Further, Wong argued that “it is only through [multilateral] cooperation that we will be able to deal with these serious threats to our livelihoods and ensure global peace and security.”
Wong also met with her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on 8 July at the conclusion of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a press release, she noted that she “welcomed” the discussion “on issues of concern between our two countries – as well as [on] the prosperity, security and stability of the region.” Wong stated that the two Ministers “spoke frankly and listened carefully to each other’s priorities and concerns”, and that she “raised Australia’s concerns about a range of bilateral, regional, trade and consular issues.” Further, Wong noted that “we have our differences, but it is in both our countries’ interests for the relationship to be stabilised” and that the Australian Government “will always seek to resolve issues calmly and consistently under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and in accordance with our national interests.” In a doorstop following the meeting, Wong referred to it as “the first step towards stabilising the relationship.”
Minister for Defence Richard Marles travelled to the United States on 11 July to meet with his United States counterpart, Lloyd J. Austin III, “as well as members of the United States Government, Congress, the defence and national security community, and industry partners.” Marles stated that Australia “ha[s] no more important defence partner than the United States” and that the ANZUS Treaty “has been a powerful demonstration that neither the US [n]or Australia stand alone.”
While in Washington, D.C., Marles addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies on 12 July, which he referred to as “an institution that has done so much to support clear-eyed national security decision making in a complex world.” Marles reflected on the United States-Australia alliance as “a unique and thriving project: driven not only by our nations’ geopolitical interests, but also by our profound commitment to democracy, open economies, [and] free and just societies.” However, he further argued that “notwithstanding our strong foundations, we can’t afford to stand still. Because in the years ahead, the US-Australia alliance will not only have to operate in a much more challenging strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific; it will need to contribute to a more effective balance of military power aimed at avoiding a catastrophic failure of deterrence.” Marles stated that “we will make the [United States-Australia] Alliance even stronger, as we all work together for a more secure, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and a safer world.”
On 12 July, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Minister for Resources Madeleine King issued a joint media release where they announced that Australia has joined the global Minerals Security Partnership, alongside the United States, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Commission. Farrell noted that the Partnership “seeks to catalyse public and private investment for mining, processing and recycling projects that adhere to the highest environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards.” King stated that “Australia is determined to play a constructive role in international efforts to reduce emissions, while preparing Australia to become a clean energy superpower.”
On 14 July, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with his Fijian counterpart Josaia V. Bainimarama in Suva following the Pacific Islands Forum, and announced the launch of the $83 million Maritime Essential Services Centre (MESC) in Lami, Fiji. The MESC will house the Republic of Fiji Navy Headquarters, Suva Radio Coastal Station, Fiji Maritime Surveillance Coordination Centre, and Fiji Hydrographic Office. Albanese stated that “Australia is helping to build a stronger Pacific family and I am proud to partner with Fiji in the next steps of our Vuvale Partnership.” He further noted that “consistent with [Australia’s] commitment to addressing climate change, these essential services will be housed in an environmentally sustainable facility designed to withstand natural disasters.”
In his capacity as Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Richard Marles issued a statement on 17 July acknowledging the eighth anniversary of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Marles stated that “since 2018, Australia has maintained that the Russian Federation is responsible under international law for the downing of Flight MH17” and that “Australia and the Netherlands are committed to our pursuit of accountability through our dispute against the Russian Federation in the International Civil Aviation Organization.” He further noted that “Australia condemns Russia’s unilateral, illegal, and immoral aggression against the people of Ukraine. It is a painful reminder of the tragic circumstances surrounding the downing of Flight MH17.”
On 14 July, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced that Australia will provide $1.5 million to support Indonesia’s response to the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The funding will provide at least 1 million FMD doses for Indonesia’s vaccination program and follows a formal request for assistance from the Indonesian Government. Wong stated that “safeguarding the biosecurity of our region is a shared concern for Australia and Indonesia – this was something confirmed during the recent Indonesia-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting.” She further noted that the provision of the vaccine doses “underscores Australia’s commitment to supporting Indonesia’s response to the outbreak.”
Wong, alongside Minister for Trade Don Farrell, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy, and Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland, issued a joint statement on 14 July noting that Telstra has finalised its acquisition of Digicel Pacific. The Ministers stated that the Australian Government “welcomes” the announcement, noting that Digicel Pacific “is the leading mobile telecommunications and network services provider in the Pacific and plays a vital role in the economic development of the Pacific region.” They further noted that the Government is providing USD 1.33 billion in a financing package, through Export Finance Australia, to support Telstra’s acquisition. Wong stated that “the Australian Government’s support for this transaction reflects our commitment to help build a stronger Pacific family through investment in high-quality infrastructure.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a media release noting that they had hosted a delegation from the Republic of Korea for the inaugural Space Policy Dialogue between Australia and the Republic of Korea in Canberra on 15 July. First Assistant Secretary of DFAT’s Security Division, Ciara Spencer, met with the Korean delegation, “to discuss approaches to and policies on multilateral space cooperation, space security, and the commercial space sector.” The Dialogue was an outcome of the Australia-Republic of Korea Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 meeting in September 2021.
On 14 July, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles met with his United States counterpart Lloyd J. Austin III at the Pentagon. Both leaders “reaffirmed the importance of the Australia-United States Alliance and their shared resolve to preserve the rules based global order that underpins our security and prosperity.” Marles stated that “the Alliance is founded on an enduring friendship, common vision, and shared experience over seven decades.” During the meeting, the leaders “acknowledged the critical importance of enhancing their diplomatic, economic and security investments in the Indo-Pacific, including addressing the threat of climate change.” They also reaffirmed their commitment to the AUKUS trilateral partnership.
While in the United States, Marles also addressed the Australian American Leadership Dialogue on 14 July. In his speech, he acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Dialogue and referred to it as “fundamentally important in terms of the way in which it gives expression to the Australian-American alliance.” Marles recalled former Prime Minister John Curtin’s speech in 1941 where he noted that “Australia looks to America”, and referred to this as “a call that was not made by virtue of a set of existing personal relationships … It was much more a call made out of necessity.” He further stated that “both our countries face the most complex set of strategic circumstances that we’ve had since the end of the Second World War. The global rules-based order that started to be built at Bretton Woods, by America, by Australia, by so many other countries, is under pressure.” Marles referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea as examples of this. He reaffirmed the importance of AUKUS as the “next chapter” of the alliance and commended former Minister for Defence Peter Dutton “for the role that he has played” in its establishment. Finally, Marles stated that “as we look ahead to a future which is fraught with danger, which has difficulties ahead, we can nevertheless do so with a sense of optimism, knowing that, whatever challenge is presented to our two countries, we can lead together and with success.”
Marles opened the new Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Office in Washington, D.C. on 14 July, which he described as a “tremendous honour”. He reflected on his personal connection with ASPI, saying it was “fundamentally important to me in giving me the education that I needed around strategic policy [and] defence” and that the Institute serves to “not only inform the Australian public, but those of us in government who seek to play a role in this space.” Marles noted that “it makes complete sense that ASPI would open its first overseas office right here [in Washington]”, and that “it’s not just about sucking in information, it’s about inserting into the stream of thought here, how we see the world and the challenges that Australia faces and giving an Australian flavour to the nature of the discussion which is so important that takes place in this town.” He also acknowledged his predecessor and Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, who made the decision to open the office in Washington, stating that “it’s to his credit that this day is happening, and he is worthy of praise in this moment.”
On 20 July, Marles virtually addressed the Australian Defence Science, Technology and Research Summit (ADSTAR) where he referred to the Government’s commitment “to the importance of defence science and supporting innovation.” Marles noted Labor’s election promise to establish the Australian Strategic Research Agency, which “will undertake pivotal research in breakthrough technologies for defence and national security.” He also reiterated his line at the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, that “Australia faces the most complex set of strategic circumstances that we’ve seen since the end of the Second World War” and that, consequentially “the work of everyone at this Summit has never been more important.” He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment “to backing Australian defence science researchers … through partnerships, grants and support.”
Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil and Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland issued a joint statement on 15 July following bilateral Ministerial meetings in Melbourne and Sydney with their Japanese counterparts to establish the Australia-Japan Policy Dialogue on Telecommunications Resilience. Their discussions included “opportunities to harness critical and emerging technologies and build resilient and secure telecommunications networks”, as well as “reaffirm[ing] cooperation and deepen[ing] engagement on telecommunications resilience and security.” O’Neil stated that “Japan and Australia are united in our vision of a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific. This is demonstrated by our commitment, today, to deeper cooperation on secure and resilient telecommunications networks” and that she “look[s] forward to working together, harnessing opportunities generated by critical and emerging technologies, bilaterally and through the Quad.”
On 26 July, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statement noting that “Australia is appalled by the execution of four pro-democracy activists in Myanmar and strongly condemns the actions of the Myanmar military regime.” She further stated that “Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances” and that “sanctions against members of Myanmar’s military regime are under active consideration.” Wong also issued a joint statement alongside her counterparts from the European Union, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United Sates, “condemning the military regime’s execution of pro-democracy and opposition leaders in Myanmar.” The statement further noted that the executions “are reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law.”
From 25 to 27 July, Australia co-hosted the 2022 Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defense conference in Sydney, alongside the United States. Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Angus J. Campbell, AO, DSC jointly held the event with Commander U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John C. Aquilino. General Campbell stated that “Australia is honoured to co-host the 2022 Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defense conference with the United States.” During the conference, the leaders hosted a joint press conference where they “underscored the deep relationship between Australia and the United States and discussed the growing importance of force posture cooperation, including Marine Rotational Force Darwin and Enhanced Air Cooperation.”
Minister for Trade Don Farrell announced the appointment of Brad Williams as Australia’s Consul-General and Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for New Zealand and the Pacific on 27 July. Williams was previously Chief Executive Officer at Australian Logistics Council. Farrell noted that New Zealand “is one of the top ten investors in Australia” and that “two-way trade was valued at $23.7 billion in 2020.”
Farrell issued a statement on 25 July on the appointment of John Hopkins as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Export Finance Australia (EFA), Australia’s export credit and overseas infrastructure financing agency. Hopkins previously held “senior leadership roles in Sydney, London, and New York with Westpac, Goodman Group and National Australia Bank.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese issued a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles on 3 August announcing the Defence Strategic Review. The Review “will examine force structure, force posture and preparedness, and investment prioritisation, to ensure Defence has the right capabilities to meet our growing strategic needs.” Albanese and Marles appointed former Minister for Defence, Professor the Hon Stephen Smith, and former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston AK AFC, to lead the review.The Review and its recommendations will be delivered in “early 2023.” Albanese noted that “this work will help ensure that the Australian Defence Force is well positioned to meet the nation’s security challenges over the next decade and beyond.” Marles stated that the 2020 Defence Strategic Update “identified that changes in Australia’s strategic environment are accelerating more rapidly than predicted in the 2012 Force Posture Review”, which “necessitates an immediate analysis of where and how Defence assets and personnel are best positioned to protect Australia and its national interests … Exploring how our capabilities can better integrate and operate with the United States, the United Kingdom and other key partners will also be an important element of the Review.”
On 3 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced that she would travel that night to Cambodia to attend the ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Wong noted that she “look[s] forward to meeting with regional leaders and ministers to continue to deepen the Australian Government’s engagement with Southeast Asia.” In her ASEAN meetings, she will “underline Australia’s commitment to ASEAN centrality, furthering cooperation through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in areas of shared interest including combatting climate change, building health security, and advancing the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.” At the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum, Wong “will outline Australia’s vision for the region and our positions on the Myanmar crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
Wong noted on 2 August that she welcomed her Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičsto Australia this week for the opening of Latvia’s first embassy in Canberra. Wong stated that the bilateral relationship is one “based on strong people-to-people links and the pursuit of common interests.” Wong and Rinkēvičs “will discuss [their] shared interest in supporting Ukraine and holding Russia to account for its unilateral, illegal and immoral aggression against the Ukrainian people”, as well as “the urgent challenge of climate change and … how an Australia-EU free trade agreement can accelerate our clean energy transition.”
On 28 July, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, Kiribati, Nauru and the United States issued a joint media statement noting that they had signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding for the East Micronesia Cable project. Australia, Japan and the United States are “collaborating to facilitate effective funding arrangements” for the project. Senior officials representing the six countries met virtually on 26 July at the inaugural Project Executive Board meeting, where they discussed “the importance of coordination and information sharing in order to deliver internet connectivity and improve access to digital technologies for sustainable development.”
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced further visa support for Ukrainians on 28 July. Giles noted that the Government is providing “access to additional visa pathways” for Ukrainians and their immediate family members in Australia. He stated that since February, the Government has granted over 8,600 visas to Ukrainians in Ukraine, and “hundreds more” to Ukrainians elsewhere in the world, 3,800 of whom have now arrived in Australia. Giles said that “we want to ensure this cohort, both onshore and offshore, can continue to reside in the Australian community for as long as they need, through a range of short and long term visa pathway options” and that “visas for Ukrainians will also continue to be processed as a priority.”
On 5 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong addressed the ASEAN-Australia Ministerial Meeting on 4 August in Phnom Penh, where she introduced herself as “the first Australian Foreign Minister who is from Southeast Asia.” She further stated that “we share a region, we share a future, and we share today’s challenges … includ[ing] the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic [;] the urgent need to combat the climate crisis and support the transition to net zero [;] the challenge of ensuring that we can continue to live in a region that is stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty [;] and how we address the consequences of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, which has caused deep food security challenges in our region.” Wong also addressed “developments in Myanmar” expressing “Australia’s deep distress at the appalling execution of four pro-democracy protestors in Myanmar”, and called for the release of Australia Professor Sean Turnell. She noted that “what happens in Myanmar doesn’t just matter to the people of Myanmar. It matters to ASEAN. It matters to the world. We will always work constructively with you to address these challenges and others.” Wong reflected on Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN as “a source of great pride to Australia” and that Australia “wants to look for more opportunities to advance [it]”. She concluded by stating that Australia “believe[s] that all countries that seek to work with the region have a responsibility to engage constructively with, and through, ASEAN.”
Wong met with her United States and Japanese counterparts, Anthony Blinken and Hayashi Yoshimasa, in Phnom Penh on the margins of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a joint statement, the Secretary and the Foreign Ministers “expressed their commitment to deepening the trilateral partnership among Australia, Japan, and the United States to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” They also “reaffirmed their resolve in supporting ASEAN centrality, and the importance of the Pacific Islands Countries as partners in the region.” Moreover, Secretary and the Foreign Ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and stated that they “share the region’s desire for diplomacy to avoid the risks of miscalculation.” They also “condemned the PRC’s launch of ballistic missiles” and “urged the PRC to immediately cease the military exercises.”
Wong also issued her own media release on 5 August on the launch of ballistic missiles by China into waters around Taiwan’s coastline, labelling the exercised as “disproportionate and destabilising.” She described the launches as “a serious matter for the region, including for our close strategic partner, Japan”, and that “Australia shares the region’s concerns about this escalating military activity, especially the risks of miscalculation.” Wong stated that “it is in all our interests to have a region at peace and not in conflict” and that “Australia does not want to see any unilateral change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. There is no change to Australia’s bipartisan one-China policy.” She noted that she expressed Australia’s concerns to her Chinese counterpart “along with other regional foreign ministers” while attending the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, and that officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have also reiterated these concerns to the Chinese Government.
On 9 August, Wong and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt announced a new $10 million biosecurity cooperation package to assist Indonesia with its outbreaks of both food and mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD). The Ministers also noted that Australia “will deliver personal protective equipment and disinfectants, train staff on the ground, and [will] provide biosecurity expertise to tackle these outbreaks.” The package further includes $4 million for the purchase of FMD and LSD vaccines, on top of earlier support to provide 1.5 million doses of vaccines. Wong noted that “Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours and partners in the region and the Australian Government wants to offer whatever help we can at this time.” She further stated that “safeguarding the biosecurity of our region is a shared concern and this package will build on our longstanding health cooperation including through the Australia Indonesia Health Security Partnership.”
Wong issued a joint statement with her Latvian counterpart, Edgars Rinkēvičs, on 9 August, after the two met in Canberra for the opening of Latvia’s first Australian Embassy the day before. The Ministers “emphasises the historic moment in the bilateral relationship and the deepening engagement offered” by the Embassy’s opening. They also noted their strong people-to-people links, and “firmly committed to uphold human rights, the rule of law, and the rules-based international order.” Moreover, the Ministers condemned Russia’s “illegal, unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine and its people that has serious implications for international security and stability.”
Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to the United States on 7 August. He attended the opening of the Australia Marketplace North America in Los Angeles on 8 August, where he “promote[d] Australia as a tourism destination and discuss[ed] opportunities and challenges for the industry.” He also met with “business leaders from space, climate technology and entertainment companies, and promote[d] Australian premium food and wine to US importers, wholesalers, and retailers.” Farrell will meet with “ministerial counterparts and other members of the Biden Administration responsible for economic policy, as well as representatives of US unions and business” in Washington. During these discussions, he will “explore areas of common interest, including improving conditions for workers, making climate a pillar of our Alliance, building resilient supply chains, strengthening the rules of digital trade, and combatting economic coercion and non-market practices.” Farrell will also discuss “furthering our shared vision of a resilient and inclusive Indo-Pacific, and the implementation of the Indo Pacific Economic Framework.” Farrell will then travel to New York to meet with the American Australian Association and “members of the investment community”.
On 4 August, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles hostedthe Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Minister for National Defense, Lee Jong-sup, at Parliament House in Canberra. During their meeting, Ministers “reaffirmed the importance of the Australia-ROK defence relationship, which is a key pillar of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership announced in December 2021.” Marles noted that the meeting built on their “productive discussions at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June this year.” He further stated that “the security of Australia and the ROK is tied to the openness, inclusiveness and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and an enduring rules-based international order.” The Ministers also discussed their commitment to deepening the bilateral defence relationship, and Marles noted that “the ROK is an important partner for Australia, particularly in the areas of military training and exercises, science and technology and defence materiel.” In his statement, Marles also noted that Australia “continues to support the ROK to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, including through an ongoing commitment to the United Nations Command in its role enforcing the Armistice Agreement” and that Australia “remains committed to strictly enforcing UN Security Council sanctions and our own autonomous sanctions against North Korea.”
Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy visited Solomon Islands from 6 August “to represent Australia at events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the 80thanniversary of the sinking of HMAS Canberra.” Conroy was joined by Australia’s Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond. In a statement, Conroy noted that “representatives from the Governments of the United States, Japan and New Zealand will also participate in commemorative events.” He further stated that “Australia is Solomon Islands’ largest development partner, supporting all areas of society and the economy” and that Australia “values [its] position as Solomon Islands[’] first security and development partner of choice.” Conroy addressed Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers Commemorative Service on 7 August, where he reflected on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and discussed Australia’s focus on “building up the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force’s own explosive ordnance disposal capability and supporting Solomon Islands’ status as a regional explosive ordnance disposal leader.” He stated that “this is ultimately about supporting the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to ensure the safety of Solomon Islands people, the safety of people whose ancestors were caught in the crossfire of a global conflict and yet still chose to risk their lives to save so many Allied personnel.”
On 13 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statementacknowledging that it has been two years since Australian citizen Cheng Lei was detained in China. Wong noted that Cheng has not had any contact with her family since her detention and faced a closed trial on 31 March this year, of which she is yet to learn the outcome. She stated that since Cheng’s detention in August 2020, the Australian Government “has consistently called for basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment to be met, in accordance with international laws” and that they “will continue to support Ms Cheng and her family, and to advocate for Ms Cheng’s interests and wellbeing.”
Wong announced this year’s Australia-India Council (AIC) grant recipients on 15 August. Recipients include a space start-up exchange, research identifying drought-resilient chickpeas, and a disability-inclusive virtual healthcare pilot. In her statement, she also acknowledged the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and the 30th anniversary of the AIC. Wong noted that “the AIC has helped advance Australia’s foreign policy and trade interests [by] strengthening the people to people and institutional bonds between Australia and India.” She further stated that “the grants program is key to fostering understanding and encouraging collaboration between our two countries.”
On 15 August, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) issued a statementnoting Wong’s intention to designate gold as an “import sanctioned good” for Russia under subregulation 4A(3) of the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations 2011.This is in addition to other goods already designated under the Autonomous Sanctions (Import Sanctioned Goods – Russia) Designation 2022, including coal, petroleum oil, and tar.
Wong issued a joint statement with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles and Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles on 15 August acknowledging the anniversary of the fall of Kabul. The Ministers noted that their thoughts “are with the people of Afghanistan, as well as the Afghan community in Australia and around the world.” They also acknowledged the contributions of more than 39,000 members of the Australian Defence Force, including the 41 Australian soldiers who died on operations in Afghanistan. Moreover, the Ministers stated that the Australian Government “is committed to standing by those who helped Australia, including by supporting former locally engaged employees to apply for visas and re-settle in Australia” and that it is “considering its response to recommendations from the Senate inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.” They further noted that Australia will offer 31,500 places to Afghan nationals under the Humanitarian Program and Family stream of the Migration Program over four years, and that “Afghan citizens continue to be prioritised for processing within Australia’s Humanitarian Program.”
On 17 August, Minister for Trade Don Farrell and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announced that Australia has joined the Global Cross-Border Privacy Rules (Global CBPR) Forum, “a multilateral initiative which aims to better facilitate the flow of data across borders.” The Forum “will establish a certification system to help companies demonstrate compliance with internationally recognised data privacy standards” and builds on the APEC CBPR formed in 2011. The Ministers stated that “the Albanese Governmentencourages interoperability and cooperation between economies to help bridge differences in data protection and privacy frameworks” and that they “support the development of an open and reliable digital trade environment, that strengthens consumer and business trust in digital transactions, and promotes global trade by facilitating the secure flow of data.”
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Matt Keogh issued a statement on 15 August during a visit to Sandakan in Malaysia for Sandakan Memorial Day. He noted that “the bonds of friendship between Malaysia and Australia are strong, and nowhere are they better demonstrated than through the commitment of the local community and the Malaysian Government in recognising this sad chapter in our shared history.” Keogh also delivered a commemorative addresswhile in Sandakan, where he reflected on stories of Australians who became prisoners of war of Japan.
On 19 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy jointly announced that Australia will provide an additional $25 million to help Sri Lanka meet urgent food and healthcare needs, as it confronts its “worst economic crisis in 70 years”. The Ministers noted that “Australia stands with the people of Sri Lanka, especially those experiencing severe hardship.” The additional humanitarian assistance is on top of the $23 million in ongoing development assistance to Sri Lanka in 2022-23. The Ministers further stated that “Australia’s continued assistance to Sri Lanka supports our mutual interest in a secure and resilient Indian Ocean and reinforces our 75 year-strong relationship build on cooperation and community connection.”
Conroy also issued a statement on 22 August announcing the Australia-Pacific Cricket Linkages Program, which the Australian Government will develop in partnership with Cricket Australia, as well as the Vanuatu Cricket Association and Cricket Papua New Guinea. The Program will be funded under PacificAus Sports and “will facilitate access to elite competitions for Pacific athletes, support pathway programs and offer opportunities to strengthen ties between First Nations and the Pacific family.” It will also allow Pacific cricketers to access “Australia’s high-performance coaching, training and development pathways to take their performances to the next level.” In addition, Papua New Guinea’s national women’s and men’s cricket squads will also compete in Australian competitions under the program, including the Top End T20 and the Australian Country Cricket Championships.
On 22 August, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts hosted a Roundtable on Asian Literacy and Skills, to inform the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit next week. Watts noted that the Roundtable explored “the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to transform Australia’s economicand people-to-people links in Asia.” He further stated that “Asia’s rapid economic growth trajectory is estimated to account for over half of global GDP by 2030” and that “equipping our businesses and community with Asian literacy and skills will ensure we are part of this success story.” Watts noted that “the Australian Government is committed to deeper engagement with Asia, which must be supported by strong language skills and real cultural understanding.” However, the study of “key Asian languages at the high school level is the lowest it’s been in a decade, and the proportion of Australian university students studying an Asian language has fallen by 43 per cent since 2010.” He further noted that “research has also shown low levels of Asia capability on boards and senior leadership teams in Australia’s biggest companies,” and argued that “we must harness the diversity of modern Australia and better utilise the skills and expertise of Asian-Australian communities.”
Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced an additional $550,000 in funding for the Ukrainian-Australian community on 19 August. This funding supplements$450,000 previously provided to the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, and is part of “the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to support displaced Ukrainians and their immediate family members.” Giles stated that “this additional funding will enable community organisations to effectively respond to the ongoing needs of Ukrainians seeking safety” and that it “will help ensure that the Ukrainian cohort can continue to find safety in the Australian community for as long as they need.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong announced her upcoming visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste on 28 August, “to renew and strengthen Australia’s ties with two of our dearest neighbours.” In PNG, Wong will meet with Prime Minister James Marape and her counterpart Justin Tkatchenko, as well as the two women newly elected to PNG’s Parliament, Rufina Peter and Kessy Sawang. Wong stated that she “look[s] forward to hearing views from PNG’s leaders” and that her priority “will be to ensure we are pursuing our shared ambitions on the basis of trust, open communication and mutual support.” While in Timor-Leste, Wong will meet with President José Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak, as well as her counterpart Adaljiza Magno and Minister for Finance Rui Augusto Gomes. She stated that her “approach will be to listen” and that she “look[s] forward to discussing how Australia can continue to support Timor-Leste’s economic development, ASEAN and WTO bids, and labour mobility priorities.”
On 28 August, Wong issued a media release noting that the Australian Government is “deeply disappointed that the tenth Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) did not reach a consensus outcome, despite the urgency of the international security environment.” She stated that “after four weeks of negotiations in New York, all State Parties except Russia were ready to agree to a meaningful and balanced outcome across the treaty’s three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” Wong further said that “Russia has deliberately obstructed processes and “its actions directly challenge core tenets of the NPT.” She reiterated Australia’s “steadfast” support of the NPT “as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime” and that “we must redouble our efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons.”
Wong issued a joint statement alongside her European Union, Canadian, New Zealand, Norwegian, United Kingdom and United States counterparts on 25 August, marking the fifth anniversary of the Myanmar military’s attack against Rohingya. The Foreign Ministers stated that “five years ago, the Myanmar military launched a violent attack on Rohingya communities in Rakhine, killing, raping, and torturing thousands of Rohingya men, women and children and forcing over 700,000 to seek refuge in Bangladesh.” They stated their concern towards the United Nations Fact Finding Mission’s establishment of “consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses.” The Foreign Ministers urged the military regime “to cease its violence against those who have suffered under its rule” and called on the international community “to help ensure justice for Rohingya victims, support host communities, and foster conditions that will allow for the safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return to their communities.”
On 27 August, Wong issued a statement acknowledging that 2022 marks the 20thanniversary of the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people, including 88 Australians, were killed. She announced that the Australian Government will host a memorial service at Parliament House to mark the anniversary on 12 October. In addition, the Australian Consulate General in Bali, Indonesia, will also hold a commemorative ceremony. Wong further noted that “we recognise the ongoing work that Indonesia and Australia do together to counter the scourge of violent extremism, and the strength, courage and cooperation of our peoples.”
Wong and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt jointly announced on 26 August that the first shipment of one million foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine doses supplied by the Australian Government had arrived in Indonesia. The doses “will be distributed by Indonesian authorities to ensure they are delivered to the areas most in need.” Wong further noted that “in the months ahead, Australia will supply a further $4.4 million in FMD vaccines as part of a $10 million biosecurity package recently announced for Indonesia” and that “the successful delivery of these vaccines demonstrates Australia’s commitment to supporting Indonesia’s response to the outbreak and underscores the close collaborative relationship between our two countries.”
On 30 August, Wong issued a statement noting that Australia will provide $2 million in urgent humanitarian assistance in response to devastating floods in Pakistan.Wong stated that the support “will be delivered through the World Food Program to assist the Pakistan Government and its people to respond to immediate humanitarian needs, particularly those disproportionately affected by the floods, including women, children and the vulnerable.”
Officials from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the second Australia-ROK Indo-Pacific Dialogue in Canberra on 25 August. In a media release, DFAT noted that the Dialogue is a “key part of Australia-ROK cooperation to support a peaceful, prosperous, and secure region, respectful of international rules and sovereignty.” Moreover, the Australia-ROK Strategic Partnership was held to be “underpinned by shared values, an extensive trade relationship, deep people-to-people links, and common strategic interests.” During the Dialogue, officials discussed “their respective approaches to the Indo-Pacific and ways to deepen cooperation with regional partners and institutions to advance their shared interests and promote stability and prosperity in the region.”
On 29 August, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts attended Australia-Africa Week in Perth, and delivered the opening address at the Africa Down Under mining conference. Watts noted that his visit “underlines the importance the Australian Government attaches to our relationships with the governments and people of Africa” and that the Government is “committed to advancing our shared interests with Africa.” In his address, he acknowledged that “the Australian government has not always engaged with African countries as deeply or as knowledgeably as we could have” and that “reinvigorating our relationships with African nations is a key focus for me in my role”. Watts announced that he plans to visit West Africa later this year to meet with Ghanian and Nigerian leaders, and to open the 2022 edition of the West Africa Mining Security Conference in Accra.
While in Perth, Watts also discussed Australian foreign policy priorities in a roundtable dialogue at the Perth USAsia Centre on 30 August. In his opening remarksat the Roundtable, he noted the Perth USAsia Centre’s “distinctive contribution to the national debate on foreign policy [which draws on] its unique vantage point … on the shores of the Indian Ocean” and that Western Australia “is our gateway to the ‘Indo’ in ‘Indo-Pacific’”. Watts stated that “like the Pacific Ocean, the future of the Indian Ocean region will be shaped by strategic competition between great powers – India, China and the United States. But Australia doesn’t have to be just a passive bystander as this unfolds.” He outlined Australia’s steps towards “stabilis[ing] the relationship with China [and] build[ing a region that is stable, peaceful and properous”: “a strong, mature alliance with the United States”; “deeper engagement in Southeast Asia and the Pacific”; and “productive and practical cooperation with our Quad partners and all those who share our aspirations for a peaceful region underpinned by international law and robust institutions.”
Watts travelled to Indonesia on 1 September to attend the G20 Digital Economy Ministers’ Meeting in Bali to “discuss connectivity, digital skills and literacy, and cross-border data flows.” He stated that Australia “is committed to Indonesia’s priorities as G20 President, including efforts to leverage digitalisation to assist post pandemic recovery.” While in Indonesia, he will also meet with senior Indonesian officials to “discuss digital policy and regional security” and to “build on the work of the new government to strengthen our relationships across Southeast Asia.” Watts noted that “close cooperation with Indonesia is fundamental to our vision for the region, and builds on our longstanding partnership in many areas of shared interest.”
From 29 August to 1 September, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles visited Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Marles met with “each of his counterpart defence ministers, [as well as] members of the defence and national security communities, think tanks, and industry partners.” He also participated in a roundtable with defence industry in Germany, and visit key shipyards in the United Kingdom. Marles’ visit to France aims to “build on the Albanese Government’s commitment to restore and renew the defence relationship with one of Australia’s oldest and most capable partners.” He stated that the visit “reflects the importance we attach to our European partnerships and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to working together towards shared strategic goals that transcend geography.”
On 7 September, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste signed a reciprocal Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) in Canberra. The DCA “will allow Australia and Timor-Leste to increase defence and security cooperation, especially in the maritime domain, given our shared border and adjacent maritime zones.” During their meeting, the leaders also discussed “economic security, economic cooperation, labour mobility and skills, the green economy and Australia’s support for Timor-Leste’s ASEAN membership bid.” Albanese noted that “we have been working towards a DCA for over a decade and today’s signing is a significant step forward in our partnership.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong issued a statement on 1 September noting the that the Australian Government is “deeply concerned about the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on Xinjiang.” She noted that Australia has “consistently condemned human rights violations against the Uyghurs and other ethnic and Muslim minorities in Xinjiang and across China” and has also “emphasised the importance of transparency and accountability, in calling on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts, and other independent observers.” Wong urged the Chinese Government “to address the concerns raised in this report” and stated that “Australia expects all countries to adhere to their international human rights obligations.”
On 2 September, Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus issued a joint media release announcing the Australian Government’s support for Judge Hilary Charlesworth’s re-election as a Judge of the International Court of Justice. The election will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in late 2023, and the Australian National Group will formally nominate Judge Charlesworth as a candidate when nominations open in early 2023. Wong noted that “Judge Charlesworth is an outstanding candidate, and an eminent scholar and jurist who has made an exceptional contribution to the study and practice of international law” and that she is “the first Australian woman elected to the Court and only the fifth female permanent judge in the Court’s 77-year history.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles was hosted by then-United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace at the commissioning of HMS Anson at BAE Systems, Barrow on 1 September. Johnson and Wallace announced the “training of Royal Australian Navy submariners aboard the newly commissioned HMS Anson”, which will take place as part of the AUKUS partnership. Marles stated that “Australia is eager to learn from our counterparts, and who better to learn from than our friends in the United Kingdom” and that “the technology, capability and lethality on show is truly impressive and Australia looks forward to progressing our talks through the AUKUS partnership.”
On 1 September, Marles met with his French Counterpart, French Minister for Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu, in France. This was the second meeting since their respective appointments and discussions centred on underlining the Ministers’ “shared commitment to strengthening the Australia-France defence partnership”, including through opportunities for strategic cooperation. They also committed to “developing projects that will further enable the French-Australian defence relationship to advance our shared interests as neighbours in a prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific” and “discussed opportunities to strengthen the rules-based order in the face of an increasingly contested strategic environment.” Moreover, the Ministers welcomed the upcoming dialogue between armaments officials in the coming weeks, which will explore “a new, mutually beneficial bilateral framework to guide defence equipment and industry collaboration.” Finally, the Ministers will explore opportunities for bilateral collaboration in the development of space defence capabilities.
Marles published an opinion piece in the United Kingdom newspaper, The Times, on 31 August, reflecting on the “increasingly uncertain world” that Australia and the United Kingdom inhabit. He referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as proof of the fact that “events in one region can have devastating effects across the globe.” Marles stated that “both our countries see lessons for the Indo-Pacific … where the strategic circumstances are as complex as they have been since World War II.” He noted that “military build-up in the region is occurring at an astonishing rate, with the largest investment in new capability occurring in China.” Moreover, he argued that “only by ensuring such tactics fail in Ukraine can we deter their future employment elsewhere.” Marles reflected on the importance of the AUKUS partnership, stating that it has “breathed new life into the UK-Australia relationship”, and also noted Australia’s support for the United Kingdom’s ‘tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific.
On 1 September, Marles published another opinion piece in the French newspaper, Le Figaro, where he reflected on the history of the Australia-France relationship and acknowledged that “the past year has been a difficult one for our bilateral relationship, testing longstanding bonds of friendship and amity.”Marles stated that “given the ever-increasing strategic uncertainty our nations are facing, both Australia and France need strong partnerships more than ever.” He noted the importance of Albanese and President Macron’s agreement to “rebuild the bilateral relationship” in July, and expressed his own commitment to increased collaboration with France, including in military exercises in the Indo-Pacific.
Marles published a third opinion piece on 30 August in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, where he noted that this year is Germany’s first time participating in Exercise Pitch Black, the joint military exercise hosted in Northern Australia which brings together 17 nations. He stated that Germany “is an important, close and likeminded friend of Australia” and that Germany’s participation in Pitch Black “demonstrates the growing resolve of Australia and Germany to work together to foster security in the Indo-Pacific region.” Marles also noted that Germany will participate in the maritime Exercise Kakadu in September, and has been invited to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre in 2023. He reflected on the opportunities to explore renewable energy, critical minerals, and climate change, stating that “we may be geographically distant, but our values are the same.”
On 2 September, Minister for Trade Don Farrell issued a joint media release alongside his United Kingdom Counterpart, Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan, following their meeting in Adelaide. The pair discussed “ways of strengthening the Australia-United Kingdom economic and trade partnership” and reflected on the “significant and comprehensive relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom.” They both “noted the importance of progressing the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, which will liberalise trade between our countries, and create jobs and opportunities for our citizens.” Farrell and Trevelyan also attended the launch of the Australian office of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd while in Adelaide, which is a subsidiary of Airbus and “represents an important addition to Adelaide’s space ecosystem.” Farrell stated that “our economic and trade relationship will continue to grow from strength to strength with the finalisation of the Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement.”
Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy travelled to Solomon Islands to deliver a speech on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal on 7 August. He reflected on the Battle and its lasting effects, and acknowledged “the roles of the Solomon Islands Scouts and Coastwatchers in that campaign.” Conroy acknowledged that the “curse of unexploded ordnance still afflicts Solomon Islands today” and that Australia “remains committed to working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force” to solve this issue. He noted that explosive ordnance disposal cooperation is a key part of Australia’s defence partnership with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, and that Australia is “focused on building up [the Police Force’s] own explosive ordnance disposal capacity.”
On 2 September, Conroy announced that Australia will provide $500,000 to assist with Tuvalu’s response to drought and acute water shortages. He stated that the support “will transport emergency relief items to improve water security and deliver supplies in a COVID-safe way, including mobile desalination consumables and items for water purification and storage.” Up to $100,000 of the assistance will be directed to UNICEF’s water and sanitation activities, which are run in partnership with local providers. Conroy stated that “Australia is standing shoulder to shoulder with Pacific Island countries in response to the climate change crisis” and that “the people and Government of Tuvalu can rely on Australia in a crisis, as a steadfast partner and fellow member of the Pacific family.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to the United Kingdom for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth IIon 19 September, alongside Governor-General David Hurley, Australia’s Heads of State, and ten other “everyday Australians”. The delegation will join the acting United Kingdom High Commissioner, Lynette Wood. While in the United Kingdom, Albanese will meet with King Charles III, as well as the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Albanese noted that he had spoken with Truss on 9 September and that they discussed “the depth of mourning that is occurring in the United Kingdom” and “the depth of sadness of the Australian people at the loss of Queen Elizabeth II.”
From 26 to 28 September, Albanese will visit Japan to attend the State Funeral for Abe Shinzo, former Japanese Prime Minister. Former Prime Ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott, and Malcolm Turnbull, who all worked with Abe during his two terms as Japanese Prime Minister, will also join the official delegation. In a press release, Albanese noted that Abe “was instrumental in elevating Australia’s relationship with Japan to a Special Strategic Partnership and did more than anyone to advocate for a free and open Indo-Pacific.” He also stated that the two nations “will continue to strengthen our partnership and build upon the significant contributions of Mr Abe”, including the Quad and the Australia-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong met with her Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son, in Canberra on 12 September for the Australia-Vietnam Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a media release following the meeting, Wong noted that this is the first visit to Australia by a Vietnamese minister since 2019, and that the Ministers had “warm and productive discussions about how we can further expand our Strategic Partnership.” She further stated that they “discussed ways to strengthen our climate change cooperation as both countries work towards meeting our commitments to net zero emissions by 2050.” Wong also announced that Australia will provide Vietnam with an additional 4.2 million adult Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses, in addition to the 22.2 million delivered to date.
On 14 September, Wong met with Mongolian Deputy Prime Minister S. Amarsaikhan, to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations. She noted that “our business, educational, and people-to-people ties have grown year-on-year since we officially established relations”, and that Mongolia’s decision in 2007 to “designate Australia a ‘third neighbour’ was a significant milestone for our relations.” Wong stated that she and Amarsaikhan both “look forward to supporting the Australia-Mongolia relationship to grow even stronger in the years ahead.”
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts addressed the Australia China Business Council Networking Day Gala Dinner on 13 September. In his speech, he referred to the bilateral Australia-China relationship as “both complex and consequential”, and that “interest in China has never been higher”, while “access to China has never been lower.” Watts described “business, people-to-people and government relationships” as each being “important and complementary strands of effort as we look to the future.” He reaffirmed Wong’s message when she met with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in July, that “at this juncture, Australia and China have an opportunity to pursue stabilisation [and] move forward with a better understanding of how our two countries can interact to our mutual advantage.” Watts further stated that “if China engages with Australia directly and constructively, we will respond in time.” He also acknowledged that 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, and referred to this as a “significant milestone.”
On 9 September, Minister for Trade Don Farrell attended the first in-person ministerial meeting of the new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in Los Angeles. In attendance were the Trade Ministers from Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam. The members released a series of joint ministerial statements on each of the four pillars of the IPEF: “trade, including digital trade”, “supply chains”, “clean energy, decarbonisation and infrastructure” and “tax and anti-corruption”. In a media statement, Farrell referred to the IPEF negotiations as “a significant step in the future of greater economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region”, and that attending the negotiations was “a privilege”. Farrell also stated that IPEF members “agreed to start work immediately to develop projects that develop projects that provide tangible benefits across the IPEF membership.”
Farrell will travel to Cambodia this week for the 54th ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Siem Reap, the first meeting of economic ministers since ASEAN leaders agreed to a new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Australia in October 2021. Farrell noted that “Australia is committed to working closely with ASEAN to deliver real substance under our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and our regional trade agreements, for the benefit of Australia, ASEAN and the broader Indo-Pacific region.” While in Cambodia, Farrell will also attend the inaugural Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) Ministers’ Meeting. He stated that RCEP “provides a platform for economic cooperation and sends a strong signal of regional support for trade liberalisation and the rules-based order.”
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.