Aus­tralia to splash cash in the Pa­cific

The Press - - News -

Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son will pledge A$3 bil­lion (NZ$3.2b) to­wards much-needed in­fra­struc­ture in Pa­cific na­tions as part of a frank ad­mis­sion Aus­tralia has some­times taken its neigh­bours for granted and amid con­cerns that China is build­ing its in­flu­ence on Aus­tralia’s doorstep.

In what he badges a ‘‘step-up to the Pa­cific’’, Mr Mor­ri­son was to also an­nounce yes­ter­day the es­tab­lish­ment of an Aus­tralian De­fence Force mo­bile train­ing team that can travel to Pa­cific na­tions to help them with skills in­clud­ing in­fantry fight­ing, peace­keep­ing and dis­as­ter re­sponse.

The an­nounce­ments in a speech to sol­diers in Townsville will be widely read as aim­ing to edge out grow­ing Chi­nese in­fra­struc­ture-build­ing in Pa­cific na­tions and will come shortly after For­eign Min­is­ter Marise Payne ar­rives in Beijing for talks that sig­nal a thaw in the year-long diplo­matic frosti­ness be­tween the two coun­tries.

‘‘Aus­tralia has an abid­ing in­ter­est in a south-west Pa­cific that is se­cure strate­gi­cally, sta­ble eco­nom­i­cally and sov­er­eign po­lit­i­cally,’’ Mor­ri­son says, ac­cord­ing to speech notes pro­vided by his of­fice.

Rais­ing ques­tions about sovereignty have in the past been a way for Western lead­ers to ex­press con­cern that China is load­ing de­vel­op­ing coun­tries up with in­fra­struc­ture-re­lated debt they can­not han­dle, mak­ing them po­lit­i­cally be­holden to Beijing, though Mor­ri­son stresses Aus­tralia will co-op­er­ate with other coun­tries in­clud­ing China.

In sur­pris­ingly blunt re­marks, Mor­ri­son says Aus­tralia has in the past taken the Pa­cific for granted.

‘‘While we have nat­u­ral ad­van­tages in terms of his­tory, prox­im­ity and shared val­ues, Aus­tralia can­not take its in­flu­ence in the south-west Pa­cific for granted, and too of­ten we have,’’ he says.

He says the Pa­cific is es­ti­mated to need $US3.1 bil­lion (NZ$4.5b) a year in in­vest­ment through to 2030.

He will an­nounce the cre­ation of an Aus­tralian In­fra­struc­ture Fi­nanc­ing Fa­cil­ity, which will make avail­able A$2 bil­lion for grants and long-terms loans to sup­port in­fra­struc­ture in the Pa­cific and Ti­mor Leste, pri­ori­tis­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, en­ergy, trans­port and wa­ter projects.

Mor­ri­son says this money will ‘‘stretch our aid dol­lars fur­ther’’. But he does not say whether any of the money will come from within the ex­ist­ing aid bud­get or from bud­get sav­ings else­where.

He will also com­mit an ex­tra A$1 bil­lion to Aus­tralia’s ex­port credit agency – called Efic – which helps Aus­tralian com­pa­nies in­vest and ex­pand over­seas by giv­ing them loans and guar­an­tees. – Fair­fax

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.