Scott Morrison will discuss an Australia-Singapore travel bubble when he visits his counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, but the high-level talks are expected to produce a political commitment to the idea rather than a fixed start date.
Australian and Singapore prime ministers will also discuss on Thursday how to manage China’s actions in the region, with Australia believed to have suggested including the language in their joint statement on the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the disputed. South China Sea.
Morrison flew in Singapore late Wednesday on the first leg of his trip to the UK to attend the G7 meeting of rich developed nations in Cornwall, England, where recovery from the Covid pandemic and further action to address the climate crisis are at the top of the agenda.
Talks for a travel bubble were first proposed from Singapore in October, but took a back seat as Australia finalized non-quarantine travel with New Zealand and the Commonwealth sought the opening of interstate travel .
While Australia has theoretically been open to expanding unrestricted travel when it’s safe to do so, talks with Singapore have only recently picked up a pace, with the aim of ironing out the practical details for the bubble to work.
These include correcting gaps in coverage of vaccination certificates so that all travelers from Australia can prove their vaccination status and setting the threshold for closing the bubble in the event of an outbreak.
Australia’s travel bubble with New Zealand allows each country to independently reset quarantine restrictions.
But Singapore’s travel bubble with Hong Kong saw them agree in advance that the bubble would be suspended if infection rates in both regions hit a seven-day moving average of more than five daily unrelated local cases – with similar rules that should be sought in relation to an Australian bubble.
Both sides are trying to make progress on the criteria to be applied so that the bubble can be “activated” when both Australia and Singapore are ready.
The growing strategic competition between the United States and China it is also likely to appear in talks, with leaders exchanging views on how to best manage these developments.
Lee has consistently argued that the countries of Southeast Asia are concerned that they are “at the crossroads of the interests of various great powers” and should not be “forced to make hateful choices” whether to side with the United States or China.
Morrison has nodded to these concerns in the past, using a speech at the end of last year to warn against countries “forced into binary choices”, but in recent times the Australian prime minister has been seen as increasingly outspoken towards China, and before his flight to Singapore he intensified calls for “a world order that favors freedom “.
Officials discussed the form of a joint statement to be published after the meeting, including a proposal to include a passage on the importance of supporting freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
It is unlikely to go as far as the joint statement released Wednesday by the Australian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers, who expressed “serious” or “serious” concerns about a range of issues involving China, including the situation in the East. and in the South China Seas, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
“We share serious concerns about the recent negative developments and serious incidents in the South China Sea, including the continued militarization of controversial features, the dangerous use of coast guard and” maritime militia “ships, and efforts to stop exploitation activities. resources from other countries, “Australian ministers Marise Payne and Peter Dutton said in a statement with Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.
The fallout from the military coup in Burma it should also be on the agenda of Morrison’s meeting with Lee in Singapore.
The Australian government has, to date, followed the example of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in not increasing sanctions on the junta, in contrast to the approach taken by other major players such as the United States.
After his engagements in Singapore, Morrison will travel to the UK to be a guest at the G7 summit from Friday to Sunday, when the hosts hope to coordinate more ambitious action on the climate crisis.
Ahead of the summit, the leader of the Australian greens, Adam Bandt, wrote to the embassies of the G7 nations in Australia, urging those countries to “shake this government into action” on the climate crisis.
“If the Australian government does not raise its 2030 targets, the G7 should introduce carbon tariffs, applicable to countries including Australia, to help support Australia’s clean industries and drive the transformation so desperately needed to protect our own. country, “Bandt wrote in the letters.
In a speech in Perth on Wednesday, Morrison argued that his government was “on the road” to zero emissions and wanted to “get there as soon as possible, preferably by 2050”.
But he omitted some of the prepared remarks that could have been seen as an attempt to dismiss the international pressure for further commitments.
According to a draft that the prime minister’s office had distributed to reporters prior to the speech, Morrison had to declare that nation states should be “responsible for charting their own path to net zero based on their unique economic structures and energy sources.”
But he didn’t say this when he addressed the Perth USAsia Center, and he also dropped the line: “Australia does not support setting sectoral targets or timelines for decarbonising particular parts of our economy or setting false deadlines for the phasing out of specific energy sources. “
Comment was requested from the Prime Minister’s office on the significance of the changes.