DFAT increases AUKUS public servant resources to counter ‘disinformation’

By Jackson Graham

February 14, 2022

Marise Payne
Foreign minister Marise Payne. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has deployed additional staff to Vienna to assist with the AUKUS agreement as it works to counter “mischaracterisations and wilful disinformation”. 

The agreement, which aims for the US and UK to assist Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines, was recently the subject of a joint statement from China and Russia claiming the pact brought “serious risks of nuclear proliferation”. 

The Australian government has been working to appoint diplomatic leaders to reaffirm Australia’s commitment and leadership in international arms-control, non-proliferation, and disarmament, with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region. 

Foreign minister Marise Payne in recent weeks appointed arms control and counter-proliferation ambassador Ian Biggs and director-general of the Australian safeguards and non-proliferation office Geoffrey Shaw. 

A DFAT spokesperson told The Mandarin several additional staff had also been deployed to the Australian Permanent Mission in Vienna. 

The department has also redeployed additional staff to legal, engagement and other roles to support implementation of the AUKUS partnership. 

“There has been some mischaracterisations and wilful disinformation of the AUKUS partnership and Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed nuclear powered submarines,” the spokesperson said.

“Australia, the UK and US have been unequivocal in reaffirming commitments to respective non-proliferation obligations, including through the joint statement to the IAEA Board on 26 November.

“We expect all members of the international community to act responsibly and to engage in the accurate dissemination of information, not disinformation or misinformation.” 

The spokesperson said Australia was firmly committed to meeting all our obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and other relevant agreements, including with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

“The Australian government is pursuing the highest possible non-proliferation, safety and security standards for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines,” DFAT’s spokesperson said. 

“This is consistent with Australia’s track-record of leadership in this field.” 

A parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties gave a tick approval to the commencement of the AUKUS agreement late last year, finding Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation would not be weakened as a result of the first stages.

The committee flagged the potential for issues to arise during the proposed acquisition of the submarines and committed to remain informed about the government’s engagements with the International Atomic Energy Agency. 


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