Partnering with our neighbours to respond to COVID-19

  • Joint media release
  • Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women
  • The Hon Alex Hawke MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Assistant Defence Minister
29 May 2020

The Australian Government’s Partnerships for Recovery policy presents Australia’s priorities in working globally, and especially with our near neighbours, to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unprecedented scale of this crisis requires us to do things differently. Australia is stepping up to respond to immediate and critical issues, especially in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

We are pivoting our development partnerships in support of the health security, economic recovery and stability of our region.

We are redirecting over $280 million from the existing development program to support the critical medical and humanitarian needs of our Pacific family, Timor-Leste, and other partner countries in Southeast Asia. This will support the health responses of our neighbours to deliver essential medical and social services.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, said Australia was working with partners on economic support and stimulus measures to support them through the worst.

“This is an unprecedented pivot of our development program,” Minister Payne said. “In partnership with our neighbours, we are responding directly to their essential needs during this pandemic.”

In the Pacific, with Pacific Islands Forum partners, we have acted quickly and constructively to manage the threat of COVID-19. We have restricted travel and implemented strong and effective quarantine measures. We provided over 2.6 million items of personal protective equipment (PPE), strengthened COVID-19 testing capacity across the region, and provided advice on clinical management.

We are also helping Pacific governments to manage the economic impacts of COVID-19, assisting local communities to prepare, and providing support to people most vulnerable to its effects, including women impacted by gender-based violence.

Australia is contributing to the Pacific Island Forum’s Humanitarian Pathway to ensure the continued supply of essential medical and testing equipment, critical personnel, and food and essential supplies.

Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, said this critical and necessary response would save lives and jobs in a region that was highly dependent on connectivity.

“Australia has a reputation for delivering high-quality development assistance. In response to this fast-moving pandemic, we have adapted our development programs to respond to emerging needs. We will reduce overheads and deliver strong value-for-money outcomes,” said Minister Hawke.

We are drawing on the full range of Government assets to address the impacts of COVID-19 in our region, working with the Australian Defence Force, Home Affairs and other government departments. This combined effort benefits from our deep community and people-to-people links and the strengths of our educational and scientific institutions.

Our efforts across the Pacific and Southeast Asia are complemented by support to global efforts. This includes the vital search for an effective vaccine, in which Australia’s world-leading health and medical research institutions are deeply engaged.

Australia stands with our neighbours as we work in partnership to minimise the human, economic and social costs of this pandemic, and chart a course to economic recovery.

Our shared security, prosperity and stability depends on it.

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