will tomorrow hear evidence of the almost ‘miraculous’ lack of Covid-19 cases in the Pacific islands. These Covid-free islands have, however, not been spared from the severe economic impacts of the global pandemic.
The Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will hear from Mr Jonathan Pryke, Director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program and Mr Shane McLeod, Research Fellow of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Network. They will appear together to discuss the problems of fragile economies, exposure to natural disasters, climate change impacts and the many Pacific island countries indebted with poorly structured debt arrangements. Mr Pryke has recently proposed the opening up of the borders between Covid-free countries like Australia and New Zealand with Covid-free Pacific island countries to stimulate economies with a return to tourist trade.
Prior to the pandemic the region was the major recipient of Australian development aid—and funding to these countries has been supplemented this year to cater for the indirect impacts of the global pandemic. Many Pacific island residents are now experiencing severe poverty.
The Sub-Committee will also hear from Professor John Blaxland, an academic expert in international security and intelligence studies who will discuss the reasons he has proposed Australia adopts a ‘grand compact’ of association with Pacific micro-states. He has cited climate change impact; martime, territorial and domestic security problems and inadequate governance as the major threats to these countries and Australia’s relationship with them.
The Sub-Committee has welcomed 68 primary submissions to date.