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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1120

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Senator ASKEW (Tasmania) (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Could the minister please update the Senate on the government's priorities in enhancing Australia's relationships in the Indo-Pacific region?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:48): I thank Senator Askew very much for her question, because this government recognises that Australia's values and interests are best served by an Indo-Pacific region that is open, prosperous and inclusive, and where the rights of all states are respected. To help promote those goals, I am travelling this week to attend ASEAN related and foreign ministers' meetings in Bangkok. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has an absolutely central role in supporting a rules based regional order. It has helped to underpin regional stability and prosperity for over 50 years.

Australia is ASEAN's oldest external partner. We are celebrating 45 years of diplomatic relations, and the government remain committed to strengthening our engagement with ASEAN. Both the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum provide opportunities to bolster what are already strong and growing economic ties. Our two-way trade relationship with ASEAN countries last year was worth $121 billion. These are fora which present Australia with opportunities to register our views on a range of regional security and diplomatic issues, including the important denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula; stability in the South China Sea; both the regional and human rights challenges of the Rohingya crisis; and, of course, countering terrorism and violent extremism.

We warmly welcome the adoption of the ASEAN Outlook On The Indo-Pacific. It is a statement from ASEAN that sends a very powerful signal about the member countries' commitment to international rules and norms, and it strengthens ASEAN's position at the centre of the region's most important architecture. So I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to take up these meetings this week and also to meet with a number of counterparts in a bilateral context to further commit to our deepening relationships in the region.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Askew, a supplementary question.

Senator ASKEW (Tasmania) (14:50): Could the minister advise how Australia will use the ASEAN-Australia Post Ministerial Conference to further Australia's priorities with ASEAN?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:50): Again, I thank Senator Askew for her question. We will be co-chairing, with Malaysia, the ASEAN-Australia Post Ministerial Conference, where I'll be able to discuss our shared commitment, as I said, to enhance relationships, including through support for ASEAN's outlook on the Indo-Pacific. It is a chance for us to welcome agreement on a new ASEAN-Australia plan of action, which will cover 2020-24, and also to advocate for ASEAN-Australia leaders summits, which is a priority for Australia.

The post ministerial conference will give us a chance to update our counterparts on regional initiatives that complement Thailand's focus as the 2019 ASEAN chair, including on connectivity, on cyber and on border management. It's a very valuable opportunity to highlight the strength of the ASEAN-Australia relationship and to progress implementation of the outcomes from the very successful 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, which was held in Sydney.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Askew, a final supplementary question.

Senator ASKEW (Tasmania) (14:51): Could the minister also advise how Australia is working with ASEAN partners to counter transnational crime?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:51): That is a very important question. Countering transnational crime is one of Thailand's key priorities, and they are the current ASEAN chair. As part of the visit this week I want to demonstrate our strong support for that issue, so, as well as co-sponsoring a proposed East Asia Summit leaders statement, there will also be some important announcements I will be able to make on Australia's behalf.

I'm going to co-host a joint ministerial launch of the new ASEAN-Australia countertrafficking investment with Thai and Malaysian counterparts and the Secretary-General of ASEAN. That will enable us to highlight Australia's status as a very valued and longstanding partner for ASEAN and our shared commitment to countering human trafficking as well as other transnational crimes. I look forward to announcing a new investment, which targets transnational crime in the Mekong subregion, because our priority is to work with our regional partners—those I've named and others—to enhance border security and to counter transnational crime through that strengthened cooperation.