News that the Indo-Pacific region will receive overdue but necessary funds to assist them throughout the coronavirus pandemic is welcome, but more needs to be done to support the region’s recovery.
After successive aid cuts that have diminished Australia’s standing as a partner of choice in our region – including an 80 per cent cut to health programs in Indonesia – this additional funding is crucial to help our neighbours with their pandemic responses.
Scott Morrison has funded his Pacific Step Up with a Southeast Asia step down – including a 50 per cent cut to Indonesia. This mistake cannot be repeated and Labor calls on the Government to guarantee this assistance won’t be funded by more cuts.
And while the Government has responded positively to our calls to pause its aid review and immediately redirect aid funding to support tour neighbours’ health outcomes, more must be done.
From the very beginning of this crisis, Labor called on the Government to develop a comprehensive COVID-19 plan to support our Southeast Asian and Pacific neighbours respond to the health and economic crises brought on by the pandemic.
The Government should boost Pacific labour mobility and migration opportunities to provide these countries with enhanced flows of remittances through the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program.
And Australia must use our diplomatic weight to help galvanise international efforts to address the region’s financial shocks – including through the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Australia’s long-term recovery will be tied to our region’s success. Scott Morrison can’t repeat past mistakes and must show he’s serious about helping our region.