Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Questions without Notice
Minister for the Environment
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Canavan. I refer to the opinion piece of the minister's close colleague Senator Fierravanti-Wells in The Sydney Morning Herald today titled 'Good work damaged by minister on L plates, but here's how to help our neighbours'. Senator Fierravanti-Wells writes that our relationship with the Pacific was:
… recently damaged by an Environment Minister on "L-plates" through the unfortunate incident with former President Tong of Kiribati.
Does the minister agree with this assessment of her performance by the former Minister for International Development and the Pacific? And, if the environment minister is still on her L-plates, who is supervising?
I thank Senator Kitching for her question. No, I disagree with my colleague's assessment on that matter. We have a very strong relationship with our Pacific neighbours. Indeed, it's a relationship that this government is continuing to invest in. In the past week, we have made very significant announcements and investments in regard to strengthening that relationship with our Pacific neighbours, including by establishing funds for infrastructure in Pacific regions. This week, of course, the Prime Minister will be visiting Papua New Guinea to meet with other leaders in APEC and also announcing further important investments in Papua New Guinea. We take our relationship with the Pacific extremely seriously, and Minister Price is part of a government that is progressing all of those relationships in a detailed, considered and substantive way. We will continue to work with our Pacific neighbours to make sure we strengthen their economies, along with the relationships and contributions they make to our country. I look forward to continuing to work with Minister Price on those matters.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells goes on to say:
It demonstrated a lack of diplomacy, understanding and respect for one of our nearest neighbours.
Can the minister now recall the conversation with the former President of Kiribati, and does the minister agree with the former minister's assessment of what took place?
As Senator Kitching has outlined, Minister Price has answered questions on this matter in the other place. I know that, like me and other members of this government, she supports and continues to work towards better relationships with our Pacific neighbours. As I outlined in answer to the earlier question, just in the past week the government has announced further funding to strengthen that relationship with our Pacific neighbours, including a $2 billion infrastructure financing facility, which the Prime Minister says will focus on energy, water and transport needs for our Pacific neighbours. We're also, of course, committed to helping our Pacific neighbours tackle challenges around climate change, and we've supported programs in that area as well. We will continue to work to strengthen our relationship with our Pacific neighbours, as we have done the whole time we've been in government.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells continues, 'During my tenure as minister, I found that respect and diplomacy can sit alongside frank and forthright discussion.' Will the minister seek advice from the former minister on how to be respectful towards our Pacific neighbours?
I've gotten to know Minister Price much better since she's been appointed to cabinet, and I know she's a strong advocate for environmental issues in this country. She's a strong advocate particularly for Western Australia as well—the importance of balancing the environment with economic activity in that state. And I know from my relationship with her and communication with her that she's a strong cabinet minister in this Morrison-McCormack government. She will continue to play a very important role in developing relationships with other countries, especially, of course, on environmental matters, many of which do require global cooperation. Minister Price is leading on many of these different issues, which she will continue to do, and I'm confident she will continue to be part of a government that will strengthen our relationship with our Pacific neighbours. We will concentrate on the substantive matters between our two different countries and regions to make sure we've a stronger Asia-Pacific region for the whole globe.