Various groups have spoken up in favour of the federal opposition’s plans to boost Australia’s involvement across the Pacific should Labor win government on election day.
The opposition has outlined a bundle of initiatives designed to strengthen Australia’s presence across the Pacific region.
Measures announced in Labor’s Pacific policy include funding of $6.5 million over four years for a new Australia-Pacific defence school, $12 million a year from 2024-25 for a Pacific Maritime security program, $32 million over four years for the ABC to broadcast Australian content to the Pacific region, and an increase in official development assistance for Pacific countries and Timor Leste by $525 million over four years.
Micah Australia executive director Tim Costello has welcomed the increase in foreign aid flagged by the Labor policy.
“We have always condemned cuts to aid as both morally and strategically wrong and we have unfortunately seen the consequences of this in both Afghanistan and Solomon Islands,” Costello said.
“Last year, Australia’s aid reached an historic low of 0.21% of Gross National Income and it is set to fall even further this year, before dropping to just 0.18% in 2023-24.
“When compared to other wealthy donor nations of the OECD, this ranks Australia 21st out of 29 countries.”
A further measure announced by the federal opposition is reform of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme, in order to reduce the costs to the agricultural sector.
The policy says a Labor government would meet upfront travel costs for workers under the seasonal worker program, which are currently met by Australian farmers, to make it more attractive for farmers to look to the program for a solution to labour shortages.
Australian Workers Union National Secretary Daniel Walton said that the Labor plan for the seasonal worker program was designed to eliminate the exploitation of workers who took part in it.
“Australia doesn’t need to run an agriculture sector that turns an intentional blind eye to worker exploitation and abuse. We can uphold Australian working standards on farms while continuing to grow our industry. Labor has laid out a plan for how this can be achieved,” Walton said.
“Crucially, under Labor’s plan, ethical farmers who do the right thing will no longer be undercut by dodgy operators whose business models rely on exploitation.”