Before the ill-fated 2023 Quad leaders’ summit was hastily relocated to Japan, the Australian government spent more than $42,000 on Sydney-themed items for the event.
The planning group that was assigned by the government to prepare for the event that was going to be held at the Sydney Opera House spent more than $6 million in total. This information was obtained by media.
However, the government claims that not all of the monies were wasted after the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, cut short his trip to the area in order to work on a solution to the domestic debt ceiling situation.
Officials have stated that some of the costs were associated with the relocated meetings that Australia presided over in Hiroshima, Japan, over the margins of the G7 summit. This is the reason why this is the case.
Anthony Albanese, Australia’s current Prime Minister, had earlier announced that “Australia’s most recognisable building” will serve as the location for a meeting on May 24 with Vice President Joe Biden, as well as PM of Japan and India.
It is believed that several staff members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade were spotted in Canberra wearing badges associated with the Quad that featured the Sydney Opera House as the primary design element.
Stationery, media banners, and accreditation lanyards were some of the goods that were included in the order of merchandise because they are believed to be customary for an international summit. The term “Sydney” was included in the 2023 Quad Leaders’ Summit logo, which was used on the goods.
The expenditures were verified by the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (PM&C), which served as the organization in charge of coordinating Australia’s preparations for the summit.
Despite the fact that a total of $42,178 was spent on material to be used for the summit that was planned for Sydney, a PM&C spokeswoman stated that part of this merchandise was able to be used at the gathering that took place in Hiroshima.
To support the Quad Leaders’ Summit conference, as of the 3rd of August 2023, the Quad Leaders’ Summit Taskforce had spent $6.29 million, with some of these costs linked with the Hiroshima summit.
The event that was scheduled to take place in Sydney was called off with only one week’s notice because Vice President Biden made the decision to come home after attending the G7 meeting in Japan in order to negotiate with congressional leaders in order to avert a default on the United States debt. This resulted in the president of the United States cancelling his trips to Papua New Guinea and Australia.
In recent years, the diplomatic organization known as the Quad, which consists of the United States of America, Japan, India, and Australia, has increased the number of activities it participates in, including talks at the leader level. Beijing, which sees the Quad as a means to restrict China’s rising influence in the region, views it suspiciously despite the fact that it is not a formal alliance. Beijing sees the Quad as a method to contain China’s expanding influence in the region.
Albanese presided over a meeting with Biden and the other two prime ministers – Narendra Modi and Fumio Kishida – on sidelines of G7 summit in Hiroshima. The meeting concluded with the publishing of a “positive” vision statement as well as additional announcements that would have been made in Sydney.
Biden expressed his gratitude to the other world leaders “for accommodating the change of location, particularly you, Prime Minister Albanese, especially for your impressive leadership of the Quad this year and your gracious flexibility in holding the meeting here again in Japan.” Albanese was singled out in particular for his outstanding performance as the head of the Quad this year.
The gathering of Quad leaders that follows will head to India the year after next.
After the department’s responses to identical questions on notice through the Senate estimates procedure were labelled as “overdue” on the parliamentary website, media obtained the Quad expenditure statistics directly from PM&C. This was done in reaction to the fact that the figures were “overdue.”
Simon Birmingham, shadow minister for the foreign affairs, stated that the Coalition had been asking “simple questions” over the allocation of millions of dollars in financing from taxpayers for the Quad.
“The opposition accepts in good faith that when officials take detailed questions on notice, they will answer them within the required timeframe,” Birmingham said. “This is the opposition’s position.”
“The prime minister must be clear if he is holding up this process and failing his own promises of transparency and accountability. At this point, over one hundred questions from his own department are now overdue,”
The PM&C spokeswoman said the following: “Even though the number of Senate estimates questions on notice directed to the department has more than doubled over the course of the past 12 months, the department continues to work to methodically respond to questions from senators.”
It is believed that PM&C got an annual average of 220 questions on notice through Senate estimates in the decade leading up to 2022; nevertheless, this type of inquiry was asked 500 times in the most recent year.