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.
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.