Analysis

Why Samoa and PNG Have Not Been as Direct as Fiji Against Australia

Their muted reaction to what transpired in Funafuti in the negotiations is because of their heavy reliance on Australian aid.
21 Aug 2019 12:33
Why Samoa and PNG Have Not Been as Direct as Fiji Against Australia
L-R: PNG PM James Marape, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Samoan PM Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi

Analysis:

Samoa and Papua New Guinea walk the tightrope in trying to criticise Australia like Fiji and other Pacific Island Forum leaders did on climate change.

Their muted reaction to what transpired in Funafuti in the negotiations is because of their heavy reliance on Australian aid.

Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has downplayed tension between Australia and other Pacific nations.

He said the tension was to be expected.

But Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and other forum leaders, despite the substantial Australian aid they get, were scathing in their criticism of Australia.

Mr Bainimarama called Australian PM Scott Morrison “insulting and condescending”. Mr Bainimarama also hit out at Mr Morrison’s deputy Michael McCormack for saying that Pacific Islands would survive climate change because their workers go to Australia “to pick our fruit”.

Mr Bainimarama said it was a “big step backwards”.

He said if this was Australia’s idea of a step-up in its relations with the Pacific “it’s certainly not a step forward”.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga threatened to pull out Tuvaluan seasonal workers from Australia. He described Mr McCormack’s comments “very abusive and offensive”.

The Samoa Observer reported Tuila’epa saying the leaders’ retreat at the forum summit was a place where leaders were encouraged to have frank exchanges of ideas to resolve difficult issues confronting the region. He said part of the tension in Tuvalu was the way Australia drove its perspectives home by reminding leaders of the aid Canberra had provided the region.

“But Australia should pay attention to climate change for its own benefit,” Tuila’epa said.

“Australia’s prolonged drought, forest fires, cyclones, flash flooding, bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and the consequential threat to marine resources are well-known effects of the climate crisis.”

PNG Prime Minister James Marape said: “Australia put to the table their fulfilment in regards to what they commit in as far as the Paris Agreement is concerned and I note substantial effort made by Australia to stick to the intention of the Paris Agreement.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that Australia and Samoa have “an enduring and co-operative relationship that extends across political, security, economic and people-to-people links”. Australia is the largest destination for Samoan merchandise exports and it’s Samoa’s fifth-largest source of merchandise imports.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated A$32 million in total Official Development Assistance to Samoa in 2019-2020.

This will include an estimated A$23.6 million in bilateral funding to Samoa.

PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbour and close regional partner. They share a border, economic interests and common legal framework.

Australia’s Bilateral Budget Estimate for PNG in  2019-2020 is A$512.3 million while the total Australian Overseas Development Assistance Estimate for PNG in 2019-2020 is A$607.5 million

In comparison, Australia is providing an estimated A$58.8 million in total Overseas Development Assistance to Fiji in 2019-2020.

It includes an estimated A$35 million in bilateral funding.

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