Friday, 10 November 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong. This week, the Prime Minister is attending the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit. Can the minister explain how the government is building a stronger and more united Pacific family, and a peaceful, stable and prosperous region?
Thank you, Senator Green, and thank you for your interest in and engagement with our Pacific neighbours. I know how important that is to you and to the people you represent.
As you know, our government is investing in all arms of statecraft to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous region. That requires a Pacific Islands Forum equipped to face our shared challenges together. As I said, obviously, we have travelled to every member of the PIF and listened to their priorities, and we're working to deliver for our shared interests. Over two budgets, we have boosted our investments in regional security cooperation; policing; labour mobility; climate and humanitarian responses; sport; media; and regional capability. We have delivered on our commitment to expand and improve the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme, with more workers in Australia than ever before. We have increased our investments in climate finance in the Pacific, for the Pacific, and we will rejoin the Green Climate Fund. We're determined to ensure that it delivers directly for our Pacific partners. We have increased our development assistance, and we have doubled the Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific's grants component.
Our investments will help our regional partners to become more economically resilient, to develop critical infrastructure and to provide their own security so that they have less need to call on others. We have also enhanced our support for the Pacific Islands Forum, the pre-eminent regional institution, to build a stronger and more united Pacific family and to deliver the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. We have also delivered a Pacific engagement visa, which will make a uniquely Australian contribution to building a stronger Pacific family.
Thank you, Senator Green. We know that Australia lost a decade in the Pacific because of those opposite—because of disrespect for the Pacific family. Who can forget Mr Dutton making jokes about water lapping at the door of the Pacific family? And we all remember how they dropped the ball. Unfortunately, they just haven't learned.
Last month, those opposite tried to block the Pacific engagement visa, and now they're looking to block legislation that supports Pacific workers. I know that senators Birmingham and Paterson actually understand the challenges Australia faces in a more contested region. I know they understand that Australia must work harder than ever to stay competitive in the region. But, unfortunately, we see senators Birmingham and Paterson being completely passive—not standing up to the reckless Mr Dutton. They're completely passive in standing up for the national interest and in working to keep— (Time expired)
The Pacific Islands Forum is where leaders come together to make decisions, including decisions on security in the Pacific family. It is a core national interest for Australia to show up.
Australia has not always been welcomed there with open arms. We all remember how Mr Morrison was received. What is disappointing is that Mr Dutton, recklessly, wants to drag us back to those days. Today he's out there questioning whether the Prime Minister of Australia should be at the Pacific Islands Forum. Really? When Mr Dutton had the chance to make Australia more secure he left us more exposed. He went around beating the drums of war but, do you know what? He just surrendered in the Pacific—he just surrendered! And, while he was beating his chest, he let our country get beaten to the punch. We are determined not to ever make that mistake.