Pacific escapes unscathed after Australia's government cuts foreign aid in its latest budget.
Pacific countries appear to have emerged largely unscathed after the Australian Government made more cuts to foreign aid in its latest budget.
Despite cutting aid by a further $US 168 million this year, Australia's funding for programmes to countries in the Pacific region has remained steady.
Papua New Guinea also appears to have escaped punishment for its decision to close the detention centre on Manus Island.
Jo O'Brien reports
The latest cuts to Australia's foreign aid programme come after $US 750 million was slashed from last year's budget. Australian academic Jonathan Pryke says the Pacific has fared relatively well despite the cutbacks, with little change to bilateral funding to the region's countries. He says Australia provides 65 percent of aid flows to the Pacific and is the dominant actor in the region - and that's a position it wants to maintain.
JONATHAN PRYKE: "Our national interest is very much aligned with maintaining strong relationships with the Pacific. The Pacific is a collection of our nearest neighbours, we like to see them as being within our national strategic sphere of influence. It doesn't mean that there is not severe development needs in these countries as well. A lot of them are small remote and in need of a lot of external support to help them develop along growth pathways."
Jonathan Pryke, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, says the Pacific now receives a quarter of all Australia's foreign aid, with Papua New Guinea the biggest single recipient. Back in 2013, Australia promised PNG about $US 300 million of aid over four years in exchange for it hosting an asylum seeker detention centre on Manus Island. Jonathan Pryke says there had been concerns PNG's decision to close the Manus camp because it is is illlegal could lead to the shutting down of some aid programmes in retaliation. But he says it's no surprise no changes were made to PNG's aid in the budget.
JONATHAN PRYKE: "No I'm not convinced that any sort of punishment from the aid programme would have any sort of bearing on the PNG government. I think they see the influence of the aid programme as really quite insignificant these days when it comes to political decision making. And remember this was a decision made by the courts of Papua New Guinea this was not an executive or legislative decision by the government, and I think both sides expected it for quite a while."
Fiji has received an additional 12 million US dollars from Australia in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, which has been offset by a ten percent reduction in Australia's Pacific Regional Programme that addresses growth and development challenges across the region. But while Australia is highlighting the assistance it's provided to help rebuild after recent cyclones in Fiji and Vanuatu, a spokesperson for the aid agency, Oxfam, Joy Kyriacou, says it should be taking a more proactive approach to climate change.
JOY KYRIACOU: "We know that the Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change but climate change itself hardly featured at all in the government's entire federal budget. And when it comes to the aid budget we're very disappointed to see that the increase in climate funding wasn't really there."
Joy Kyriacou says there needs to be more funding to help communities to be ready and prepared to save lives when disasters hit.
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