PNG Deal Doesn’t Make up for Leadership Failures in Our Region

05 August 2020

After years of ignoring our neighbours, Scott Morrison has today signed an overdue Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP) with Papua New Guinea.

The need for such an agreement has been clear for some time now, and delays in our Government stepping up in the Pacific have only increased risks to Papua New Guinea and ultimately Australia.

While this agreement is a good start, it only scratches the surface of what is needed.

More needs to be done to ensure we are the partner of choice in the Pacific and to strengthen our region’s stability.

Successive aid cuts have undermined our relationship with these nations, and in many ways the Pacific Step Up has simply been a slogan.

For example, Papua New Guinea would be in a much stronger position to confront the COVID-19 pandemic if the Coalition Government had not cut health aid by 15.1 per cent between 2014 and 2018.

And just last month, it was revealed that the Morrison Government was cutting two positions from Australia’s High Commission in Papua New Guinea – right when we need to be signalling our commitment to regional relationships.

While the COVID-19 preparedness and response package is a step forward, it again underlines the general poor leadership in the regional health response to the pandemic.

We have been urging the Australian Government to provide additional support to the Pacific region since the beginning of this pandemic.

Equally, Scott Morrison’s promise to build the Markham Valley Solar Project, underlines his failure to take effective action on climate change here in Australia.

Climate change is a huge challenge in our region, and the Coalition’s inaction has strained our relationships with our neighbours.

The Boe declaration makes it clear that climate change is the greatest security threat to the Pacific, yet Australia under the Coalition is seen as an impediment to combatting this existential threat.

So while the CSEP is a good start, more needs to be done to ensure Australia remains a partner of choice for our Pacific neighbours.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.