Labor welcomes the government’s long overdue recognition of the importance of the Pacific.
Today’s announcements echo many of the priorities outlined by Labor Leader Bill Shorten, in particular the need for a dedicated fund for infrastructure in the Pacific.
The Pacific has felt the impact of the record $11 billion in aid cuts under this government. While we welcome these new commitments, it is important the government clarifies what else is being cut to fund them.
As Labor has long argued, Australia does need to demonstrate greater leadership in the Pacific and play our part in ensuring a stable and prosperous region.
But Prime Minister Morrison’s actions since becoming Prime Minister have undermined Australia’s engagement in the Pacific.
No issue has done more damage to Australia’s standing in the region than the Coalition’s refusal to take seriously the issue of climate change.
September’s Pacific Islands Forum declared climate change to be “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.”
You can’t have a Pacific policy if you don’t have a climate change policy and yet the Prime Minister did not mention this issue once in today’s speech.
Mr Morrison has also undermined the existing highly successful Pacific labour mobility schemes in a desperate attempt to prop up the ailing Nationals Leader despite today hailing them as “life-changing” and promising to prioritise them,
Labour mobility schemes are highly valued by our Pacific neighbours and contribute substantially to economic development
Australia’s economy also benefits from the availability of Pacific workers. And our society benefits from the connections with Pacific communities.
For the past five years all Pacific leaders have seen from Australia is a succession of Liberal governments so bitterly divided they have been unable to work with them on the issues that matters to their future.
In his first weeks as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also:
- Downgraded the position of Minister for the Pacific from his new ministry
- Appointed to the post someone who claimed she has “no idea” why she was given the job
- Snubbed the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ meeting
- Refused to act after his Environment Minister insulted a former President of a Pacific nation.
The Pacific will be core business for Labor. We believe in a deep and comprehensive partnership with Pacific nations. We believe Australia should be a responsible and constructive partner.
And unlike the Coalition, we understand the need to reflect our commitments to our Pacific neighbours in our actions.
A Shorten Labor Government will work in partnership with Pacific island states to contribute to the security and prosperity of the entire region.