Australia promises millions in climate, security aid for Pacific

Australia has promised millions of dollars in support for Pacific island nations to address the “existential threat” of climate change, as well as funds for Australia’s police deployment in the Solomon Islands, regional aerial surveillance, and an Australian Border Force network.

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 1.4bn Australian dollars (around $878.3m) over the next four years. Some 900 million Australian dollars (almost $565m) will go to the Pacific region.

“This additional assistance will directly support action in the region to strengthen climate resilience, including on climate science and renewable energy,” Wong said in a speech on Friday.

Australia will update its federal budget next week and 46 million Australian dollars (some $29m) will be set aside to fund the country’s police deployments in the Solomon Islands, where officers are helping to provide security since last year’s riots in the capital Honiara.

Wong described the assistance as a way of supporting regional partners to “provide their own security so they have less need to call on others”.

“Without these investments, others will continue to fill the vacuum,” Wong was reported to have said, according to Reuters, and she pointed to previous Australian governments for losing ground in the Pacific where “we have a lot of catching up to do”.

Wong said the budget commitments would be a “major step towards the goal of making Australia stronger and more influential in the world”, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

According to the ABC, an extra 30 million Australian dollars (almost $19m) will be spent on boosting aerial surveillance in the Pacific region, and some 19 million Australian (almost $12m) will be allocated to establishing “a network of Australian Border Force officers across the Pacific”.

The ABC will also receive 32 million Australian dollars ($20m) to expand the transmission of content across the region, the national broadcaster reported.