Thursday, 10 February 2022
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Fawcett for his question, and for his interest in the Pacific and in humanitarian relief. On the evening of Saturday 15 January, I received a call of a kind I dread, of course, as minister for the Pacific, with news that one of our Pacific family had just suffered a devastating natural disaster. The explosive eruption of underwater volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai and subsequent tsunami was declared an unprecedented disaster by Tonga's Prime Minister in the days following.
At the request of the Tongan government, Australia and New Zealand coordinated closely to provide initial surveillance flights to Tonga to assess what was needed. Australian donated patrol boats which, together with landing craft undamaged from the tsunami, went to survey the damage and evacuate people. Once the need was clear, we jumped into action.
We had pre-positioned supplies with the Red Cross in Tonga, which were delivered immediately. We've delivered 190 tonnes of humanitarian support to date with more to come. Thirteen RAAF humanitarian assistance flights have landed, carrying essential supplies and equipment, including food, water and shelter for families who lost their homes, medical supplies to support those who were injured and communications equipment so that friends and family in Australia and elsewhere could contact their loved ones.
HMAS Adelaide arrived in Tonga on 26 January, carrying additional supplies, including equipment to help with the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. All deliveries have been done in a COVID-safe way in close cooperation with the Tongan government and our partners in the region. I acknowledge the presence of one of our partners in the region: my good friend Jelta Wong, who is with us in the gallery.
This support will continue for as long as it's needed. That's our commitment to our Pacific family and they know this. They can see it in our actions. This government spent a record $1.76 billion in the Pacific in 2020-21. We don't just talk about support; we deliver, because that's the right thing to do for our neighbours and our family.