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Ministerial Statement: Partnerships for Recovery


Senator The Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women

11 February 2022

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we have seen its devastating health and economic impacts, both at home and in our region.

All countries have had to face the consequences of COVID-19, at the same time as our Indo-Pacific region is facing multiple challenges − ranging from rising strategic rivalry to humanitarian crises, each of which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. In our region, COVID-19 has had the greatest impact on developing countries.

In May 2020, I launched Partnerships for Recovery to guide Australia’s development response. It has ensured Australia is at the forefront of responses to COVID-19 in our region, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in partnership with our neighbours to save lives and livelihoods.

To deliver on our commitments under Partnerships for Recovery, the Government is providing an additional $1.1 billion through our official development assistance (ODA) program, on top of the current baseline annual ODA budget of $4 billion.

We are partnering with countries in our neighbourhood as the pandemic continues to severely impact the social and economic fabric of our region. We have worked intensively to respond to their priorities and needs. We will continue to support the region’s economic recovery and support efforts to prevent resurgent poverty and inequality. In a region where crises can amplify instability, we are acting now to provide support where it is most needed.

Health security, particularly access to vaccines, is a very high priority in the pandemic. Australia is contributing $750 million and accelerating our sharing of 60 million vaccine doses with the Indo-Pacific by the end of 2022 – we have already shared more than 21 million with our neighbours so far.

Our support for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment has helped provide over 200 million doses to Southeast Asia and the Pacific - of one billion doses delivered globally.

Australia is also providing end-to-end support to ensure vaccines reach those in need.  For example, we are working to train hundreds of nurses and doctors to administer vaccines in Solomon Islands, purchasing 1,900 cold‑chain refrigerators for Vietnam, and investing $35 million to combat vaccine hesitancy across our region.

Our impact is greater because we work with our closest partners. Through the Quad Vaccine Partnership, Australia, the United States, Japan and India committed to share more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses to countries around the world.

And we invest in the multilateral system to extend our reach. Australia is stepping up its investments in global health, including the Global Fund ($242 million, 2020-22) and GAVI ($300 million, 2021-25). In 2020, our support helped these organisations vaccinate 64 million children, provide 21.9 million people with antiretroviral therapy for HIV and treat 4.7 million people for tuberculosis – making a real difference to lives in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit our Pacific family particularly hard.

Our response has required new approaches and flexibility – going beyond traditional development cooperation to effectively bring together all our tools of government including partnering with the private sector.

We have supported Tonga’s response to the volcanic eruption and tsunami in January, with HMAS Adelaide and Australian assistance flights delivering more than 150 tonnes of essential supplies and equipment so far – in a COVID-safe manner that protects the Tongan people.

We responded rapidly to the request for assistance by the Solomon Islands Government, deploying more than 200 AFP, Defence and DFAT personnel – alongside those from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand – to help restore calm in Honiara. Twenty-four RAAF flights have arrived in Honiara since November 2021, with the last four delivering critical COVID-19 support, including medical equipment and supplies.

We are providing the Pacific and Timor‑Leste with an additional $300 million economic recovery package to keep essential services delivering for communities. In 2021-22, this supported the Government of Fiji to extend essential welfare to over 102,000 people – more than 10 per cent of the population.

Our Pacific family’s road to recovery will be further supported by the new Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme, which will help fill workforce shortages in rural and regional Australia while providing a vital means for seasonal workers to support their families back home. There are more than 20,000 Pacific and Timor-Leste workers now in Australia helping to keep critical supply chains and businesses open and who are able to earn an average of $1,061 per month to support their home economies. Our new PALM scheme allows us to deliver for Australian businesses, better protect Pacific workers and support our Pacific family.

We have backed this up with high quality loans of over $2 billion to our nearest neighbours, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, to help address their economic needs, without adding crippling debt stress to budgets. And our recent $580 million investment in redevelopment of PNG ports stands to make a significant contribution to economic recovery, and to regional trade. Just as our support for Telstra’s acquisition of Digicel Pacific will ensure people can continue to access quality and reliable communications – which has never been more critical.

We are providing $2 billion in climate finance over 2020-25, including at least $700 million for the Pacific. Australia and our region are on the front line of climate impacts. That is why more than 70 per cent of our bilateral and regional climate support is focused on resilience and adaptation.

We will continue to support our region to manage climate impacts by improving food and water security, preparing for disasters, and building more climate adapted, resilient infrastructure and economies.

We are pioneering new approaches to mobilise private sector financing for developing countries to transition their energy systems and economies for a low-emissions future. This will include increasing access to affordable renewable energy, essential for developing nations to reduce emissions.

Australia is also leading the establishment of the Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme, providing $104 million over 10 years to support our neighbourhood to access established carbon markets. I am pleased to have welcomed Fiji and Papua New Guinea as the first international partners to join the scheme.

We recognise that supporting the leadership of women and girls in the response to COVID-19 is essential to better outcomes for all.

We are providing an estimated $1.3 billion each year to support gender equality. Our Pacific Women program reached almost 250,000 women and girls in 2020-21 – providing crisis services, training and upskilling, and financial literacy support to help them mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on their lives. Australia will build on this with the new Pacific Women Lead program ($170 million 2021‑2026), to advance gender equality and women’s leadership in the region.

In the broader Indo-Pacific, we are helping sustain essential sexual and reproductive health services that will reach almost 7 million women and girls and help address the additional challenges in accessing information and care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are also investing more than $580 million to support education systems in the Indo‑Pacific – so school closures don’t rob children, particularly girls, of a brighter future. And in Indonesia, our assistance helped the government triple its own financial support for poor families in 2020 to almost $20 billion, reaching more than 146 million people – with a particular focus on women and girls.

In Afghanistan, one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises has left an estimated 18.4 million Afghans (around half of the population) in need of humanitarian assistance. We are contributing $100 million in humanitarian assistance to respond to the current crisis, with targeted support for women and girls.

We are responding to the acute needs of the crisis, while also strengthening the long‑term security and resilience of our partners in the region.

Our landmark $500 million package to support COVID-19 recovery in Southeast Asia is bolstering the capacity of partners to navigate a changing world. Our $232 million Mekong-Australia Partnership is promoting economic resilience in this strategically important region, from strengthening renewable energy production in Cambodia to supporting Laos to improve public financial management. We are also spending at least $120 million to help deliver high-quality, climate adapted and resilient infrastructure.

Recognising its central role in the Indo-Pacific and importance to Australia, we are also investing nearly $160 million in ASEAN as part of our new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, helping neighbours like Indonesia strengthen health and energy security, tackle transnational crime and transform their economies for a digital age.

Australia will continue to be a strong and reliable partner across our region and a good global citizen as we collectively chart a course out of this pandemic. Together, we will advance our shared vision for an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo‑Pacific, and a safer neighbourhood for all.

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