Doorstop - Samoa
JOURNALIST: The Lowy Institute has found thatAustralia is still by far the most significant donor to the Pacific Island butyour contribution has still fallen from$1.2 billion to $800 million. Will this strategy continue or will it be stabilised?
JULIE BISHOP: Those figures are, in fact, not correct. TheAustralian aid investment in the Pacific is at a record level, $1.3 billionthis year and in 2016 the figure you quoted, it was actually over $1.1 billion.I think the mistake was that people are using US dollars whereas the Pacificand Australia use Australian dollar statistics, and that doesn't take intoaccount the foreign exchange fluctuations. The Australian aid budget to thePacific is at a record high of $1.3 billion and that will continue.
JOURNALIST: Of the announcements you have made today infunding, the millions of dollars more you are committing to Samoa, how much ofthat would you consider part of your competition with China that you mentionedto give aid to the Pacific?
JULIE BISHOP: Our relationship with the Pacific islongstanding and enduring and we have been increasing our aid budget to thePacific over a number of years. It is targeted and it is focused and it isensuring that we reduce poverty in the Pacific, we build sustainable economiesand we lift standards of living. This is not about competition, it is about ourvision for the Pacific, a free and open and prosperous, safe and stable Pacificregion.
JOURNALIST: How do you maintain that, as you said,maintaining all of those good things happening in the Pacific, whilstnegotiating the relationship that China is growing with the Pacific and findinga way to make sure that goes, as in the debts that are growing in the Pacificare problematic?
JULIE BISHOP: We welcome all countries who have an interestin developing the Pacific to work with us and work with other countries inensuring that the assistance we provide in the Pacific builds strong, moreresilient communities. No one country can support all of the Pacific needs. Weneed groups to come together, China, Japan, the United States, the EuropeanUnion, the World Bank as well and the Asian Development Bank, are providingsupport so that we can meet the infrastructure, and health and education,defence and security needs of the Pacific.
We welcomemore investment in the Pacific but Australia and New Zealand together are stillby far the largest investors in economic and social development in the Pacificand I am sure it will be that way for some time to come.
JOURNALIST: One final question, the Lowy Institute mapshows that the EU and the US have actually been dropping in terms of their aid- does that worry you?
JULIE BISHOP: We have raised this issue with both the EUand the United States, and they both have committed to increasing theirengagement in the Pacific. Some countries, for example, the UK and the EU atpresent, have also committed to expanding their diplomatic footprint in thePacific, opening new missions in Samoa, and Tonga, and Vanuatu. The UnitedStates, the Secretary of State, yesterday gave a speech about greater economicengagement in the Pacific. So, I am confident that both the EU and the UnitedStates will continue to focus on the Pacific. For Australia, it is one of ourhighest foreign policy priorities to ensure we are supporting a strong, stable,prosperous, secure Pacific.