Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Australia-India-Japan-United States Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. Will the minister update the Senate on the recent Quad ministerial meeting and advise how Australia, India, Japan and the United States are deepening cooperation on shared regional priorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
I thank Senator Henderson for her question and her interest in these issues. Australia regards the Quad as a positive diplomatic arrangement with an agenda to match. It brings together four like-minded democracies—Australia, the United States, India and Japan—committed to respecting and upholding international rules and obligations through positive, practical engagement to protect and support the sovereignty, the prosperity and the security of our region.
Late last week my three Quad counterparts and I discussed some of the most pressing issues facing our region, including our common recovery from COVID-19 in both health and economic terms and including our joint commitment to tackling climate change, the equitable distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and broader health security issues such as reducing the risk of future pandemics. Ministers and secretaries reaffirmed our commitment to strengthening the Indo-Pacific's health and economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis in a way that helps us all, all countries in the region, reinforce their sovereignty and their resilience.
We particularly welcomed the new US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, less than a month after his confirmation and welcomed strong engagement and energy from the United States, in relation to deepening Quad cooperation and regional engagement across the Pacific more broadly. This was the third meeting of the Quad at the level of foreign ministers following earlier in-person meetings in New York in 2019, last year in Tokyo in 2020, notwithstanding the COVID-19 challenges that travel presents, both of which I was pleased to attend. We have committed to meeting at least annually, and I am confident the value of these meetings will only grow and ensure our cooperation on tackling regional challenges deepens in a way that benefits our whole region.
Thank you, Senator Henderson. I think it is important to note that Thursday's Quad meeting was another chance to reaffirm our support for ASEAN centrality, particularly the principles set out in the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We're working to support and secure a prosperous region through ASEAN-led architecture, particularly through the East Asia Summit, which met, virtually, in the context of COVID last year.
We are longstanding supporters of Myanmar's democratic transition, so we discussed our concerns about the military coup. We reaffirmed our support for an ASEAN-led response to those events. We have multiple engagements of our four nations in a range of areas. Last October, for example, I joined counterparts from Japan and the United States to announce the first project under the trilateral partnership for infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific, the Palau cable spur. I think it was in December that Minister Birmingham participated in an Australia-India-Japan meeting on resilient supply chains— (Time expired)
These are very important engagements because the Quad's positive agenda complements Australia's other bilateral regional and multilateral engagements, including, of course, as I said in my previous response, with ASEAN, to support an open, inclusive and resilient region anchored in international law. We reiterated our commitment to ongoing practical work deepening Quad cooperation on regional priorities that were agreed at our in-person meeting in Tokyo last year.
They include maritime security, infrastructure, supply chain resilience, as I've mentioned, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber and countering disinformation, as just a number. We discussed the importance of deepening our cooperation to address climate change, including Australia's focus on supporting adaptation and resilience in the Pacific through our $1½ billion climate finance commitment through to 2025. So despite the significant disruption that COVID-19 is causing, Australia remains absolutely focused on working with our key regional partners to respond to these longer term challenges. (Time expired)