The Morrison Government’s decision to cut two positions from the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea will damage Australia’s standing in the Pacific at a critical time for our regional relationships.
Of the cuts to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s overseas postings announced by the Government yesterday, 20 per cent will come from Papua New Guinea.
While Scott Morrison talks up his Pacific Step Up, the cuts to diplomatic representation in Papua New Guinea show a Prime Minister whose actions are at odds with his rhetoric.
Pacific islands policy and governance expert Dr Tess Newton Cain told Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade today that the decision was “a mistake”.
“In terms of the optics of this and of the timing … I think it’s very disappointing to see that DFAT is going to be undermined in Papua New Guinea,” Dr Newton Cain told the Committee.
“When it comes to literacy and knowing what’s going on, it’s really important that more Australian diplomats spend time in Pacific island countries including Papua New Guinea, not fewer.
“I think the timing is extremely poor from the messaging point of view, and I think it’s something that should be revisited.”
Mr Morrison recently said Australia had not seen the current conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty in our region since the 1930s and 1940s.
If that is the case, why is he cutting crucial diplomatic positions like those at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby?
The Prime Minister needs to be putting additional resources into our relationships with our Pacific neighbours, not taking them away.