Pacific $2b fund in foreign policy shift

09 Novembre, 2018, 07:59 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Former Timor Leste president Jose Ramos Horta says too much Australian aid is wasted on consultants

"My government is returning the Pacific to where it should be - front and centre of Australia's strategic outlook, foreign policy and personal connections, including at the highest levels of government", Mr Morrison said in a speech in Townsville on Thursday.

Australia will set up a permanent Defence Force training team for the Pacific, and increase its Navy deployments and exercises.

"This will mean Australia is represented in every member country of the Pacific Islands Forum", Mr Morrison says.

China has spent US$1.3 billion (RM5.4 billion) on concessional loans and gifts since 2011 to become the Pacific's second-largest donor after Australia, stoking concern in the West that several tiny nations could end up overburdened and in debt to Beijing.

A $2 billion Pacific infrastructure fund is Scott Morrison's centrepiece of a new push to make the island nations the main priority of Australia's foreign policy.

"This $2 billion infrastructure initiative will significantly boost Australia's support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor Leste", he said.

A further $US700 million will go to state export financing agency Efic, to support Australian businesses operating in the Pacific.

Australia's diplomatic network is already larger than any other country in the Pacific but it will be expanded with posts in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands.

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"It's time to open a new chapter in relations with our Pacific family", Mr Morrison says.

Ahead of next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation and East Asia summits, the Government has approached TV broadcasters about getting more lifestyle, news, current affair, drama and children's programs to the Pacific community.

The Federal Government will also offer billions of dollars in infrastructure grants and long-term loans as it moves to combat China's growing influence in the region.

Ties between the two countries have been strained since Australia accused China of meddling in its domestic affairs late previous year.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne is scheduled to meet her Chinese counterpart in Beijing today, the first visit by a senior Canberra in two years after bilateral relations soured.

He's announcing the creation of an Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific to develop energy, communications and transport projects.

Earlier this month, Australia said it would help PNG develop a naval base, beating out China as a possible partner for the port development.

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