Australian Labor pledges $525 million Pacific aid

Australian Labor pledges $525 million Pacific aid

Labor has promised to boost foreign aid to the Pacific by more than half a billion dollars as part of its broader election package to bolster Australia's diplomatic and strategic links in the region.

Australian overseas development assistance to the Pacific will be increased even further from the record $1.85 billion that is due to be hit next financial year.

Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the boost of $525 million would help address the decade worth of development gains that have been lost due to the Pandemic and Coalition cuts. She told reporters in Darwin that they would work with our Pacific family to support specific projects that deliver real change in areas of health, economic growth, education, climate change adaptation and resilience.

Labor will reveal that figure after the federal election, but it hasn't yet revealed its full foreign aid policy for countries outside the Pacific.

Aid groups have welcomed the promise, but they have urged the ALP to boost funding to other countries around the globe.

Matt Tinkler from Save The Children said the pledge was heartening but stressed that the ALP should also ramp up spending in the Middle East and Ukraine.

He said that these commitments should not be made at the expense of vulnerable children facing conflict and crisis elsewhere in the world, such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine.

The aid pledge is part of a wider policy package that is designed to burnish Labor's foreign policy credentials and highlight its attacks on the Coalition over the security pact struck by China and Solomon Islands.

The ALP also promised to develop a new climate infrastructure partnership for the Pacific, although details are so far scant, and overhaul Australia's Pacific labour mobility schemes, including abolishing the Nationals plan for a standalone agriculture visa and wrapping it into existing Pacific programs.

It also pledged to increase parliamentary exchange programs with Pacific Islands countries and introduce a new Pacific Engagement visa designed to boost permanent migration to Australia from the region.

Senator Wong said the package would restore Australia's place as the partner of choice in the Pacific and leverage Australia's strengths to build diplomatic and strategic capital in the region. We will leverage Australia's strength, because we understand that we are in a time of competition, so you have to look at your competitive advantage, power of Australia's voice, power of our proximity, power of our people-to-people relationships and power of our economic relationships. It comes with a plan to increase the ABC's budget to broadcast into the region, along with a new training program for Pacific Island security and military personnel, as well as a plan to increase the ABC's budget to broadcast into the region.

The Coalition hasn't yet responded to the aid announcement but earlier today Prime Minister Scott Morrison scoffed at other elements of Labor's plan, including its promise to boost funding to the ABC.

According to Morrison, the way to solve the problem with the Solomon Islands is to send in the ABC.

It is farcical when their answer to solving the Solomon Islands program is to have Q&A in Honiara.

I don't think that's a reflection or an understanding of the challenges we face. No Australian government has stood up more firmly to the Chinese government's coercion of our region and Australia and our government will keep doing that.