27 Oct 2008

Pacific Islands may struggle if Australia scraps Patrol Boat Programme

8:19 pm on 27 October 2008

An Australian think tank says Pacific countries would probably struggle to fill the gap left by the likely non-extension of Australia's Pacific Patrol Boat Programme.

A recent Defence Department report recommended scrapping the Programme which provides 22 patrol boats and naval support staff to help 12 Pacific island nations secure their borders.

It has been operating successfully for 20 years, helping the countries' police forces deal with problems such as illegal fishing, smuggling and disaster relief.

A Defence Force white paper has recommended scrapping the Programme when the first of the boats reach retirement in 2017.

Dr Andrew Davies of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says not all Pacific countries involved in the Programme have developed their own capability to manage this area.

"What they would have to do if they wanted to maintain a capability like that would be to go out on to the world market and see what was available. And it might be that they could find similar capability boats elsewhere but the question is whether they'd have the resources to actually buy them."

Dr Andrew Davies