Statement to ASEAN-Australia Ministerial meeting

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Thank you Minister Saleumxay for co-chairing this discussion today, and thank you for the ongoing support of Laos as Australia’s ASEAN Country Coordinator.

It is a pleasure to be here in Cambodia.

And it is a privilege to join you today as Australia’s Foreign Minister – the first Australian Foreign Minister who is from Southeast Asia.

I look forward to working with you in the years ahead – deepening the connections between our countries, and also partnering in our region.

We share a region, we share a future, and we share today’s challenges.

We welcome Cambodia’s chosen theme for its ASEAN Chair year: ‘ASEAN A.C.T. – Addressing Challenges Together’.

The challenges we face together include the recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic.

The urgent need to combat the climate crisis and support the transition to net zero.

The challenge of ensuring that we can continue to live in a region that is stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.

And how we address the consequences of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, which has caused deep food security challenges in our region.

Co-Chair, I respectfully raise the topic of Myanmar, which remains a serious challenge for ASEAN.

Developments in Myanmar are indeed a serious setback and a deep disappointment for us all.

I want to express Australia’s deep distress at the appalling execution of four pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar.

We continue to call for the release of Professor Sean Turnell, and thank Cambodia and other ASEAN members states for their advocacy.

We share your frustration with the lack of progress in implementing the Five-Point Consensus.

Like ASEAN, we urge an end to the violence, and open access for humanitarian assistance.

We will continue to support ASEAN’s leadership in responding to the crisis and strongly support the work of the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy.

Because what happens in Myanmar doesn’t just matter to the people of Myanmar.

It matters to ASEAN.

It matters to the world.

We will always work constructively with you to address these challenges and others.

We have a long and proud history of cooperating together to address these challenges together.

As ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner we will mark our 50th anniversary in 2024 – the same year that Laos will be the ASEAN Chair.

It was a Labor Government, under Gough Whitlam, who originally negotiated for Australia to be an ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 1974.

And as Foreign Minister in the Albanese Labor Government, I will seek to continue the deep ties between Australia and ASEAN.

It is a source of great pride to Australia that we have established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN.

We want to look for more opportunities to advance our CSP, and to listen and respond to your needs.

Our region is being reshaped and we seek to navigate this period of change together.

This is because while we may have our differences, we can all agree that we want to live in a region that is stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.

Where disputes are guided by international law and norms, not by power and size.

A region that is peaceful and predictable.

Where our countries and peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive.

Where our relations are based on partnership and respect.

A regional order with ASEAN at the centre.

A regional order guided by the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

A regional order in which all states can contribute to a strategic equilibrium, rather than be forced to choose sides.

Australia shares ASEAN’s wish for parties in the region to consider how they can best contribute to upholding regional peace and stability, and avoid the risk of miscalculation, including by de-escalating current tensions.

We encourage all dialogue partners to ensure they uphold the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.

Australia can work with ASEAN in a spirit of partnership to create the kind of region we aspire to. To address shared challenges.

The East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus – all structures for this regional engagement.

The EAS remains the region’s premier leaders-led forum for the discussion of strategic issues.

Australia remains committed to further strengthening the EAS to advance closer regional cooperation.

At a time of great challenge, ASEAN and ASEAN-led institutions-give space to states which have a legitimate interest in the region to contribute to a strategic equilibrium.

Institutions that do not constrain the space for discussion.

Indeed ASEAN’s enduring strength is in enabling the space for dialogue and for the peaceful discussion of differences.

To hold the centre of our region at a time of great change.

Australia has and will continue to support the valuable contribution of ASEAN to the peace and stability of our region.

We believe that all countries that seek to work with the region have a responsibility to engage constructively with, and through, ASEAN.

And Australia is committed to doing so.

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