Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has recommitted to maintaining the regional processing centre on Nauru, which accounts for more than half of the island country’s budget.
Revenue from the processing centre accounts for $135 million (US$95 million) of Nauru’s $250 million (US$176 million) revenue stream in its 2022/23 budget.
Senator Wong says the Albanese government remains committed to offshore processing of asylum seekers under Operation Sovereign Borders.
“We’ve been clear about the government’s maintenance of (the centre),” she told reporters in New Zealand late last week.
But Australia and New Zealand would need to work with Pacific island nations to ensure long-term economic stability to avoid smaller nations becoming indebted to international actors such as China.
“The sustainability and debt financing for developing countries, particularly those in our region, is of interest to both our nations,” the foreign minister said alongside her New Zealand counterpart in Wellington.
“It goes to sovereignty and choice and it goes to stability. It also potentially goes to security of the region.
“Both our nations are seized, as are other members of the Pacific Islands Forum, about the importance of debt arrangements which are reasonable and fair, and which avoid countries being unduly burdened.”
Meanwhile Nauru’s President Lionel Aingimea says Australia has shown “absolute commitment” following meetings in Canberra last week.
The President met with the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy, the Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, and Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil.
The President held separate meetings with the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy, the Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, and Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil.
“I see them [Australian government] stepping in to Nauru at a bigger scale and doing things in Nauru and for the region, which shows they’re absolutely committed to what they want to do in the Pacific,” he said after the meetings.