Australia to boost engagement with Pacific nations
Australia will bolster engagement with its neighbours in the Pacific amid growing tensions in the region, with almost $2 billion set aside to build on security ties.
The federal budget has included $1.9 billion over the next five years to expand relations with key Pacific allies, which includes boosting security and infrastructure in the region.
Partnerships between the Australian Federal Police and Pacific law enforcement will also be increased, along with support for cyber resilience.
Additional training places for workers from the region will be provided as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme in areas where there are skills shortages.
More than $370 million will be spent in the next four years to expand the scheme.
Estimates show the scheme's expansion will increase the budget bottom line by $300 million in four years, starting from the 2023/24 financial year.
The government will also set aside money as a financing package for Sasape International Shipyard in the Solomon Islands to support upgrades of the facilities, although the exact amount has been kept confidential.
The funding follows tensions in the Solomon Islands with China recently signing a security deal with the Pacific nation.
More money in the budget will also go towards military aid for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in 2022.
The budget has allocated $189.6 million over the next two years for the support, which will include Bushmaster vehicles, drones, infantry training and ammunition, which is part of a joint initiative with France.
Almost $4.1 billion will be spent on foreign aid in 2023/24, down from the $4.5 billion in the current financial year, but will rise to $5.1 billion in 2024/25.
The government will spend a further $10 million over four years on keeping an interim mission open to provide Australian diplomatic representation to Afghanistan.
The interim mission opened in Qatar's capital Doha following the closure of Australia's embassy in Kabul in the wake of the takeover by the Taliban.
The budget will also include a further $55.7 million to boost diplomatic engagement with southeast Asia and East Timor.