Some 900 million Australian dollars ($565 million) will be allocated to the Pacific region, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.
Australia has pledged millions of dollars in support to Pacific island nations to address the “existential threat” of climate change, as well as funding for Australia’s police deployment to the Solomon Islands, regional air surveillance and a Border Force network. Australian.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong, speaking at the Pacific Way Conference in French Polynesia, said Australia would increase its total budget for overseas development assistance by A$1.4 billion (about $878.3 million) during the next four years. Some A$900 million (nearly $565 million) will go to the Pacific region.
“This additional assistance will directly support action in the region to strengthen climate resilience, including in climate science and renewable energy,” Wong said in a speech Friday.
Grateful for the opportunity to discuss Pacific institutions and our shared priorities in the region with the French Spitz High Commissioner in French Polynesia.
We are committed to working closely together, including in regional disaster response together with New Zealand. pic.twitter.com/DVXzASNTaM
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) October 21, 2022
Australia will update its federal budget next week, setting aside A$46 million (about $29 million) to fund the country’s police deployments to the Solomon Islands, where officers have helped provide security since last year’s unrest in the capital, Honiara.
Wong described the assistance as a way to help regional partners “provide their own security so they have less need to call others.”
“Without these investments, others will continue to fill the gap,” Wong said, according to Reuters, singling out previous Australian governments for losing ground in the Pacific, where “we have a lot to make up.” .
Wong said the budget commitments would be a “big step towards making Australia stronger and more influential in the world,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.
According to ABC, an additional AU$30 million (nearly $19 million) will be spent to boost aerial surveillance in the Pacific region, and some AU$19 million (nearly $12 million) will go toward establishing “a network of Australian Border Forces. officers across the Pacific.
ABC will also receive 32 million Australian dollars ($20 million) to expand streaming content across the region, the national network reported.
China in the Pacific region
Australia, the United States and New Zealand have expressed growing concern that China has made strong economic, political and security gains in the Pacific island region, including a security pact with the Solomon Islands that they feared would allow Beijing to establish a military post around the corner. .
During an official visit to Canberra earlier this month, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said that foreign military installations would never be allowed in his country and asserted that the Solomon Islands would not “undermine” regional security. In the pacific.
Stating that his trip to French Polynesia was the 12th Pacific island country or territory he has visited since the election of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in May, Wong said his commitment underscored “the priority that the new Australian government places on this region.” ”.
The official opening on Friday of an Australian Consulate General in Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, also marked Australia as the only country in the world with a diplomatic presence in every country or territory of the 18 members of the Pacific Islands Forum. (PIF). ), Wong said.
“Our region faces many challenges. PIF leaders have outlined the triple challenges of climate change, recovery from COVID-19, and strategic competition. The most pressing of these is the existential threat of climate change,” he said.
Noting that climate change was “the single greatest threat” to lives, livelihoods and security in the Pacific, Wong said: “We have been asked to act. We have heard you. And we have responded.”
Wong also addressed the effect of COVID-19 on economic development in a region heavily reliant on tourism and Russia’s “illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine” that had caused global volatility in economies, food security and supply. of energy.
The foreign minister also highlighted Australia’s commitment to establishing an Australia-Pacific Defense College and addressing illegal and unregulated fishing by doubling down on the aerial policing component of the Pacific Maritime Security Programme.