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Foreign affairs chief acknowledges Afghan interpreters who helped Australia are in danger

Australia’s foreign affairs chief has acknowledged that the locals who worked with the defence force in Afghanistan are in danger.

“We do recognise that the Afghans who have served us, some of them are in actual danger, some of them are in potential danger,” Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson said on Wednesday.

“We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Independent senator and veterans advocate Jacqui Lambie has said it is “absolutely shameful” to leave the interpreters in the lurch after the Australian government had seven years to get the job done.

“The world is watching how we treat our mates,” she said.

The Australian government is fast-tracking visas for the former interpreters.

This year has been a record year for visas granted to locally engaged employees, with more than 180 issued since April, according to the government.

But an Afghanistan veteran and long-time advocate for the interpreters last week criticised the government’s speed, with some of the visas being granted appearing to be from a backlog stemming back several years.

In her final speech to the National Press Club as department secretary, Ms Adamson also warned influence in the Indo-Pacific region would be determined by who contributes to the post-pandemic recovery.

“What matters is Australia’s ability to exercise choice,” she said.

Australia’s interests will be served by “a regional balance that favours freedom.”

Ms Adamson has led the department for five years and has been appointed as the next governor of South Australia.

As the first female secretary of DFAT, she said the power of women in leadership and embracing diversity is a strength for Australia.

She says “astute diplomacy and adhering to a rules-based approach” will help to navigate a more disorderly world.

Prior to her appointment as DFAT chief, Ms Adamson was international adviser to then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

As well as stints in London and Taipei, Ms Adamson was Australia’s ambassador to China from 2011 to 2015 and served in Hong Kong in the late 1980s.

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