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There's a hearing in Canberra on Australia-Pacific Island relations. Labor MP @JulianHillMP asks @dfat officials if they agree with this study, which estimates up to 1.2 million people in the Pacific could be pushed into extreme poverty by COVID-19 1/…
Grim. Officials from @dfat so that analysis is "pretty solid" and "realistic" although it will depend on how governments and donors respond to the crisis. 2/
Now @dfat is asked about the 300 million dollar loan Australia made to PNG. Officials confirm we have suspended repayments, with repayment of the principle delayed until 2024 3/
Tonga and PNG have both asked China to defer debt repayments under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. Australia says it's also requested "other countries" to defer debts in the Pacific, although officials don't say which ones 4/
Now to the AIFFP. This is interesting. It sounds like it's finally ramping up, although COVID-19 has put a bit of a spanner in the works. Eight projects have now been endorsed. Two projects have been approved (Tina and Markham) while three are being scoped. Two others on hold 5/
Interesting again. Liberal MP @DaveSharma asks if Australia would contemplate arrangements with PI states like the US and NZ have with Realm and Compact states. Officials from @dfat say they are "actively looking" at those arrangements but emphasise no decision yet by govt 6/
Full quote here from @dfat - "there haven't been any firm decisions by government on this but it's an issue we're conscious of ... given the vulnerabilities in some of those small states long term, this is an issue we need to be thinking through" cc @JohnBlaxland1 7/
So how has covid-19 reshaped Australia's aid program? Quite profoundly. @dfat says many programs have been reshaped to deal with specific challenges posed by covid. Officials say some infra programs are "putting more wash within their stations" (I have no idea what this means) 8/
Some money is also being taken out of existing aid programs and straight into budget support, including in Fiji - "I would envisage there would be (another) component of budget support for Fiji" 9/
The @OfficePacificAU within @dfat continues to grow. It now has 175 full time staffers. Plus 153 people at embassies/high commissions in the Pacific. 10/
Back to this now. Officials say at least a third of @dfat staffers at the High Commission in PNG returned to Australia because of COVID-19 11/
Is @dfat thinking about opening up avenues for Pacific Island citizens to serve in the ADF? Officials say "that's one of the options that has been discussed … whether Defence wants to go down that path remains to be seen" 12/
Back to questions on the Grand Compact proposal(s). @dfat officials keep it pretty broad. They are keen to explore "pathways towards further integration" perhaps by expanding on existing education or labour mobility programs 13/
New Pacific posts update. @dfat has just opened its new diplomatic mission in Alofi, Niue. They are still aiming to open their new posts in Marshall Islands and French Polynesia early next year 14/
Will we see the Foreign Minister or International Development Minister visit Pacific Island nations any time soon? Probably not. @dfat has done some early exploratory work in "one or two countries" sketching out what a visit might look like, but no concrete plans 15/
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