Croatia will serve as a base for more travel with Dr Forrest and the Fortescue team clearly confident that with proper precautious in place it is safe to move around the world despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their travel schedule and Dr Forrest’s decision to use Croatia as a base reflects that Australia is now an outlier in restricting overseas travel by its residents.
Australians have been banned from leaving the country since March 23 unless granted a special exemption and Health Minister Greg Hunt this week extended that ban until at least December 17.
Mr Hunt said the decision was based on advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee that COVID-19 continued to pose an unacceptable public health risk.
A mask-wearing Dr Forrest signed what PNG Prime Minister James Marape described as a momentous deed of agreement with the developing nation on Tuesday that paves the way for progress on $5 billion Purari River hydro-electricity scheme and other renewable energy project.
The mining magnate and international philanthropist then moved on to Indonesia where he met with President Joko Widodo and Foreign Minister Retnu Marsudi, and revived earlier discussions with the President’s key adviser, the Co-ordinating Minister for Investment Luhut Pandjaitan.
On Friday, Mr Luhut and Dr Forrest announced broad agreements to co-operate on renewable energy – earlier discussions focused on Dr Forrest funding a hydro-power plant to power an iron ore smelter – and reduce plastic pollution in Indonesian waters.
Reports out of the copper-mining hotspot of Congo suggest Dr Forrest will meet President Felix Tshisekedi on September 17 with hydro-power projects on the agenda.
The move to forge ties in Congo comes after Fortescue last year missed out on a piece of the action in the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea despite submitting a tender reportedly in the order of $US9 billion.
Dr Forrest could also meet Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who lived in Australia for a brief period during his cricket career.
Volatile Pakistan is sitting on vast hydro-power potential, mainly in its north along the Indus River.
Mr Khan said this week that although Pakistan’s economic future was tied to China, it wanted to retain the United States as its long-time ally.
Hydro power is already the main source of energy in landlocked Afghanistan, where the government remains at war with the Taliban.
Fortescue would not comment on the travel plans of Dr Forrest and the company representatives.
The company said the Australian Border Force had authorised a business travel exemption for the group “which will allow early stage discussions on important philanthropic and investment opportunities across a number of countries, providing potential for contribution to COVID-19 economic recovery”.
“All relevant approvals have been obtained and a COVID-19 management plan is in place.
“For privacy and security reasons, we will not comment on the travel itinerary for the group.”
– with Emma Connors