As far away tensions on the edge of Europe between the world’s great powers draws focus from the destabilising of Indo-Pacific regional security, the government is moving to assure Australia’s neighbours that its investment in shared security and economic growth will not wane under the Coalition.
ACT senator and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja will tell the Asialink Leaders’ Summit the government will seek to broaden engagement in the region with additional infrastructure funding and increased access to Australia’s education system. It will also look at ways to strengthen Pacific media to confront disinformation.
Using the example last week of a Chinese military vessel targeting Australian maritime surveillance aircraft with a laser, the Minister will warn that the risks of miscalculation and conflict were growing.
“Denial and inaction are the most dangerous of traits in these times,” Senator Seselja said in his keynote address to business leaders on Monday.
“Coercion, disinformation and foreign interference are on the rise. These trends hinder development, trade, and economic growth but, most worryingly, undermine the trust and strong bonds we share.”
The government will soon announce the deployment of a Pacific support vessel to aid natural disaster recovery, with procurement of the vessel now in the advanced stage.
However, the region also faces economic exploitation due to the vulnerabilities of expected economic contraction. Predatory lending – such as from China – is of particular concern to Senator Seselja. He will contrast China’s “opaque loans for uneconomic assets” with Australia’s loans which have been offered on a transparent basis following assessments of debt sustainability.
“Loans for unviable assets, which stand little chance of making an economic return, are saddling Pacific countries with unmanageable debt” the Minister said.
“It will be up to those governments to justify this to their people.”
Australia has increased its diplomatic footprint to all Pacific Islands Forum countries, the only country to do so.
SOURCEl CANBERRA TIMES/PACNEWS