Former prime minister Tony Abbott will head to India on behalf of the federal government this month, where he will work to strengthen Australia’s economic and trade relationship with the country.
Trade minister Dan Tehan announced the government-backed trip in a brief statement over the weekend.
“Mr Abbott will travel to India in early August to meet Indian ministers and business leaders. This will be an opportunity to progress Australia’s ambitious agenda to energise and expand our bilateral trade and investment relationship with India,” he said.
“The Australian government has partly supported Mr Abbott’s travel to India. Mr Abbott will not be remunerated for his work.”
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told Guardian Australia the five day trip would cost the government $19,000. They said Abbott would travel on commercial flights, and would undertake quarantine for at least 14 days upon return to Australia.
The DFAT spokesperson also confirmed that Abbott has signed a conflict of interest declaration ‘in relation to his work on this trip’.
Last August it was rumoured that Abbott had been appointed to the UK government’s Board of Trade. The appointment was confirmed in September, and the following month the former prime minister added his name to the foreign influence register, stating that he had joined the board as ‘an unpaid adviser’, and would ‘advocate for free and fair trade especially trade with the UK and its allies’.
The Morrison Government is backing failed PM Tony Abbott’s visit to #India.
Want to improve trade with India? How about implementing the 2018 Varghese Report?
Tony Abbott should be in NSW lockdown like his neighbours … not running away
— Madeleine King MP (@MadeleineMHKing) July 31, 2021
Shadow minister for trade Madeleine King has criticised the coalition for sending Abbott on the trade trip.
“Want to improve trade with India? How about implementing the 2018 Varghese Report?” King wrote on Twitter, referencing the 514-page report by former DFAT secretary Peter Varghese.
The report, which was handed to the government in 2018, made 90 recommendations to transform Australia’s economic partnership with India to 2035.
Australia and India have agreed to cooperate in areas such as scientific research, defence, and public administration under a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Last week, while in London, Abbott reflected on Australia’s relationship with China, and the free trade deal the two countries inked while he was prime minister. He told the UK think tank Policy Exchange that he couldn’t ‘imagine the deal going ahead today, ‘because it is hard to trust a country that uses spurious pretexts to block our exports to punish policy positions it doesn’t like’.