LABOR’S PLAN FOR A STRONGER PACIFIC FAMILY
April 26, 2022
An Albanese Labor Government will restore Australia’s place as the partner of choice for the countries in the Pacific.
Labor will secure our region and build a stronger Pacific family, to help face our shared challenges and achieve our shared goals.
Scott Morrison has dropped the ball in the Pacific, and as a result Australia is less secure.
The vacuum Scott Morrison has created is being filled by others – who do not share our interests and values.
Our plan brings together Australia’s defence, strategic, diplomatic and economic power to reassure the region that they can rely on Australia.
By combining effective climate leadership, vital development assistance and improvements to Pacific worker programs – along with defence and security cooperation and enhanced diplomatic capability, we will leverage Australia’s strengths to secure our region.
An Albanese Labor Government will:
- Establish a new Australia-Pacific Defence School to provide training for members of defence and security forces from Pacific Island nations, ensuring Australia’s defence engagement in the region delivers practical support for the region’s needs and builds deeper institutional links between the ADF and its regional counterparts. The new Australia Pacific Defence School will be funded at $6.5 million over four years through existing Defence resources.
- Double Australia’s funding for the Pacific Maritime Security Program which provides aerial surveillance of Pacific Island countries’ enormous exclusive economic zones, helping Pacific governments to recoup some of the US$150 million a year in revenues which are estimated to be lost due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Labor will step up Australia’s support for aerial surveillance activities as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) by increasing funding by $12 million a year from 2024-25.
- Deliver an Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy that boosts Australian public and commercial media content to audiences in our region, increases training for Pacific journalists and enhances partnerships with broadcasters in our region. We will increase funding to ABC International by $8 million a year over the forward estimates to expand ABC transmission and deliver Australian television, radio and online media content to more audiences in the Pacific, as well as Southeast Asia and South Asia.
- Boost Australian Official Development Assistance for Pacific countries and Timor-Leste by $525 million over the next four years, to help address the decade’s worth of development gains that have been lost due to the pandemic. This will include $5 million for the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, to strengthen regional health preparedness in the Pacific and Timor-Leste.
- Restore Australia’s climate leadership, and listen and act on Pacific Island warnings of the existential threat of climate change. We will establish a Pacific Climate Infrastructure Financing Partnership to support climate and clean energy infrastructure projects in Pacific countries, in addition to our bid to co-host a future UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Australia with our Pacific partners.
- Reinstate regular bipartisan Parliamentary Pacific visits to demonstrate to the Pacific family that stronger Pacific partnerships are in Australia’s national interest. Bipartisan visits were undertaken under Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, but have been abandoned by Scott Morrison and Marise Payne.
- Address Pacific economic challenges and ease Australia’s agricultural worker shortages by reforming the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and expanding the PALM Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
- We will ensure the Federal Government meets upfront travel costs for Pacific workers under the Seasonal Worker Program – costs which currently have to be met by Australian farmers. This will increase the attractiveness of the Seasonal Worker Program for Australian farmers.
- We will make it easier for Pacific workers to fill labour shortages in Australia under the Pacific Labour Scheme by allowing participants to bring family members to live and work in Australia.
- We will establish a dedicated Agriculture visa stream under the PALM, creating a robust and sustainable four-year visa, with portability, strong oversight mechanisms, and protections and rights for workers. These protections will be consistent with the protections under the PALM-PLS and PALM-SWP.
- Boost our people to people links across the Pacific family by encouraging more Pacific permanent migration to Australia through a new Pacific Engagement Visa, modelled on New Zealand’s Pacific Access Resident visa.
Rather than just talking tough with no follow through, Labor will provide practical support for our neighbours to improve their security and protect their economies.
Nothing is more central to the security and economies of the Pacific than climate change. As Pacific leaders themselves put it plainly in the first article of the 2018 Pacific Island Forum’s Boe Declaration on Regional Security:
We reaffirm that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and our commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
But rather than help Pacific Island leaders, Morrison Government ministers have mocked their concerns.
It costs us little to tell a positive story about Australia in the region, but Scott Morrison has squandered Australia’s natural advantage of shared values with Pacific neighbours.
Labor will draw on the strength of who we are – a generous, respectful and reliable nation.
A country that many Pacific Islanders call home, and that will always step up in times of need.
A partner that will invest in the long-term stability and prosperity of our region.
A partner that will listen, and that will strengthen the Pacific family.