Scott Morrison reveals multi-billion-dollar infrastructure development bank for Pacific

Former Timor Leste president Jose Ramos Horta says too much Australian aid is wasted on consultants

Earlier this week, Payne said she would register "serious concerns" over the huge facilities in northwestern Xinjiang region, where activists say up to one million Uighurs and other mainly-Muslim minorities are detained in political re-education camps.

But Mr Morrison attempted to play down suggestions that the new measures in the Pacific were aimed at China.

"But what is important about that is how we manage those and we are focused on managing them respectfully, mindful of the tremendous opportunities the relationship presents to both our nations".

While China is Australia's largest trading partner, ties between the two governments have been strained in recent years over allegations Beijing was interfering in domestic politics and using donations to gain access.

The move comes as Australia and China vie for influence in the Pacific.

He underscored a series of security, economic and diplomatic initiatives, including the donation of patrol boats and the development of a joint military base in Papua New Guinea.The centerpiece however is cold hard cash - much sought after by poverty-hit countries in the region - with Morrison announcing a 2 billion Aus dollar (USD1.5 billion) fund "to significantly boost Australia's support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste".He also announced a further 1 billion Aus dollar for export financing to support investments in the region.

"This is our patch, this is our part of the world", Morrison said in his most detailed foreign policy speech since becoming prime minister in August.


Declaring a "new chapter" in relations with the Pacific, Mr Morrison unveiled plans to establish a A$2 billion infrastructure bank to issue grants and long-term loans for telecommunications, energy, transport and water projects.

Mr Morrison will today pledge to open diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands, and strengthen defence cooperation in the region.

Morrison did not name China in the speech, but analysts said it was a clear response to China's spreading influence.

China would not be explicitly mentioned by Morrison, but the "reorientation would go some way to countering the [Chinese] largesse flowing into tiny nations such as Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands from Beijing", said the West Australian. "Australia needs more tools to engage with the Pacific", said Jonathan Pryke, a Pacific Islands foreign policy expert with the Lowy Institute, an Australian think-tank.

On Wednesday, Australia also blocked a bid of more than US$9 billion from Hong Kong giant CK Group for the country's biggest gas pipeline company, saying that it would be against its "national interest".

"We remain absolutely committed as a government to welcoming foreign investment into Australia".

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