The governments of both Australia and New Zealand announced increases in aid to the Pacific. Boosts seen at least in part as responses to China’s growing influence. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
Most of Australia’s increase will be absorbed by projects directly or indirectly designed to counter China. The biggest is the undersea cable that will deliver high speed internet to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
The Australian cable displaces a project developed by the Chinese giant Huawei, which raised security concerns in Canberra. Australia will also establish a new Australia Pacific Security College, to train leaders from around the Pacific in security, intelligence and law enforcement.
Australia’s increase represents a larger share of a 3.1-billion-dollar foreign aid budget that’s unchanged overall. Last month, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, pointed to an opinion poll that showed 80-percent of Australians opposed to any increase in foreign aid.
By contrast, New Zealand expanded its foreign aid budget by 30-percent – 500 million dollars – over the next four years.
A big part of those funds will go to climate adaptation. Foreign Minister Winston Peters said that climate resistance projects help “protect Pacific homelands and cultures, and reduce migration challenges” in the future.
New Zealand’s Foreign Aid Budget took deep cuts under the previous conservative government. And even with this increase, New Zealand’s contributions still stand well below international averages.