For the second time in just over three months, senior United States officials have urged the Morrison Government to ‘step up’ in the Pacific.
A report today outlines the former intelligence chief to the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet Captain James Fanell’s calls for the Government to “aggressively” offer our Pacific neighbours aid packages to minimise China’s influence in the region.
This comes after comments from the US Ambassador Arthur Culvahouse earlier this year calling for Australia to extend its Pacific Step Up to Southeast Asia.
It seems everyone except for the Morrison Government can see how important it is that Australia develops and implements close partnerships with Asia-Pacific nations.
Numerous aid cuts have diminished Australia’s relationship with our neighbours in the region.
Since 2014, the Morrison Government has slashed aid to Southeast and East Asia by 30 per cent, including a 50 per cent cut in aid to Indonesia.
Vanuatu assistance has been cut by 42 per cent and aid to Samoa by 14 per cent.
In advance of the COVID-19 crisis and in the aftermath of a measles epidemic, it is particularly troubling that health assistance to Samoa was cut by 36 per cent.
This region has been financially crippled by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Federal Government’s cuts and neglect have created a void which other countries are rapidly filling.
It is our nation’s strategic interest that we become the Pacific region’s partner of choice.
How many more times do Australia’s closest allies need to publicly call on the Morrison Government to step up and provide adequate support to the Pacific region?