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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

Boosting Australia’s Engagement with the Pacific

Australia continues to take our partnership with the Pacific to a new level. We want to work with our Pacific partners to build a Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced a range of new initiatives that respond to discussions that have taken place with our partners in the region, including at the Pacific Islands Forum. 

Over the next few months, we will be working hard to design these initiatives in consultation with Pacific countries, including with our partners in Fiji. Some highlights from the announcements include: 

Infrastructure financing

The Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) is a AUD$2 billion (US$1.3 billion) infrastructure initiative that will significantly boost Australia’s support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries. It will use grant funding combined with loans to support high priority infrastructure development, such as in telecommunications, energy, transport and water.

Efic, Australia’s export financing agency, has also been allocated an extra AUD1 billion in callable capital and a new, more flexible infrastructure financing power to support investments in the Pacific region that have a broad national benefit for Australia. These new measures will enhance its ability to support Australian businesses to be active in the region.

Expanded Pacific labour mobility

We will uncap the Pacific Labour Scheme and progressively roll it out across all Pacific island countries. The current cap of 2,000 places will be lifted, proving more opportunities for Pacific workers to undertake non-seasonal work for up to three years.

Pacific-Australia Card

The new Pacific-Australia Card will facilitate travel for Pacific leaders, heads of regional organisations, senior business travellers and high performing athletes. Eligible applicants will be able to access priority processing of their visa applications, access to fast track airport processing lanes, and a long term visa allowing multiple visits to Australia of up to three months’ duration each time. 

Church Partnerships Programme

To enhance our long-standing social and cultural links, we will encourage Australian and Pacific churches to work more closely together through a Church Partnerships Programme. The programme encourages greater engagement between Pacific and Australian churches, including at the leadership level. 

Enhancing educational links

We will deepen educational links by providing a new package of scholarships for Pacific students to study in Australian secondary schools. We will also increase the number of scholarships for vocational education and training and expand our school partnerships programme (BRIDGE) to support teacher training in the Pacific.

Cyber cooperation 

We will provide an additional AUD9 million over four years to expand our Cyber Cooperation Program in the Pacific. In consultation with our Pacific Partners, we will work to strengthen cybercrime prevention, prosecution and cooperation, enhance cyber incident response capability, and foster best practice use of technology to support economic growth and sustainable development. 

Australian media content

We will work with commercial media operators to ensure the Pacific has access to more quality Australian media content on TV and other platforms. This will include lifestyle programmes, news, current affairs, children’s content, drama and potentially sports.

Enhancing sporting ties

We will establish a new grants programme – the Australia Pacific sports linkages programme – to strengthen sports linkages between Australia and the Pacific. As part of this package, we will sponsor teams and athletes from the Pacific to participate in sporting competitions across Australia. The Australian Defence Force will also expand its sporting engagements in the Pacific, including new tournaments for Pacific rugby teams. We will also be providing additional aid funding to promote greater participation of women and girls in grassroots-level sports in the Pacific.

Australian Institute of Police Management – Pacific Faculty

Building on our close policing partnerships in the Pacific, Australia will establish the Pacific Faculty of Policing at the Australian Institute of Police Management. This faculty will bring together police executives from across the Pacific for professional and executive development opportunities.

Maritime deployments and training

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) will work with partners to build interoperability to respond together to the common security challenges that we face, including through the establishment of a new ADF Pacific Mobile Training Team.

We will also put in place arrangements to ensure Australia has a dedicated vessel to deliver support to our partners in the Pacific, including for humanitarian assistance and response.

This will complement our recent agreement with Fiji to redevelop the Blackrock Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Camp into a regional hub for police and peacekeeping training and pre-deployment preparation.

Joint-Heads of Pacific Security Forces event

In consultation with Pacific countries, we will look to convene an annual Joint-Heads of Pacific Security Forces event in Australia, hosted by the Chief of the Defence Force and Commissioners of the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force. This event will provide a powerful platform for engagement with key security figures on regional security issues of importance to all Pacific countries.

Security Alumni network

We will build an alumni network of emerging and senior police, civilian, and military leaders. This network will create a platform of regular communication to maintain strong people-to-people links and enhance situation awareness of regional security issues.

Office of the Pacific

To support Australia’s deepening engagement with the Pacific, we will establish an Office of the Pacific in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In support of Ministers, the Office of the Pacific will play a critical role in the implementation of recently announced new initiatives for the Pacific and will help to coordinate whole-of-government engagement with the Pacific and partner governments.

SOURCE: DFAT/PACNEWS

Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on Sunday, November 25, 2018. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article

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