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Transcript of interview: Radio Australia: 29 November 2010: visit to the Pacific

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The Hon Richard Marles MP Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Radio Australia: Transcript of interview

Subjects: Visit to the Pacific.

Transcript, E&OE

29 November 2010

MARLES: There's clearly a lot of work that needs to be done in the islands in terms of development, and we've got much to do in relation to that. But I think when you look at the way in which our aid dollar is being spent, there are fantastic things being done in health and in education and indeed this afternoon we're going to the Nauru secondary school, which is an $11 million dollar commitment and has done fantastic things here in terms of raising the rates of study in Nauru in just a matter of a few years. So that's all very positive. And I think our relationships are fundamentally sound, but certainly we're keen to increase our engagement with the region and to make sure that it's very much on a solid footing.

MOTTRAM: Nauru's an interesting case isn't it because Australia supports it very, very strongly, and there is a view that Nauru actually couldn't survive without aid and maybe never will be able to? Is there an issue for Australia to address there in the wider Pacific as well, the question of whether Pacific states can actually ever be self-sustainable, and what the aim of Australia's aid in particular is?

MARLES: Look I think that's an interesting question and it's a valid one. Certainly we are keen to talk to countries like Nauru about their future and about their future industries if you like. Nauru as you say is interesting, it's had a history of phosphate mining, which came to a conclusion but then has re-started and is an important part of the economy here. They're also though looking at other areas of economic interest. For example coral marble I think is the term, but it's actually the coral pillars that are left as a result of the phosphate mining, which they now believe can be used as a building product. So that's of interest. And throughout the region fisheries are very important. So I think one of the questions that we'd really want to examine with each of these countries is how can they get the most out of their natural resources, what industries they've got, how we can support them, and I think in the background the question that you've asked is there for us to think about.

MOTTRAM: You're also going to Kiribati, Tuvalu, American Samoa and Niue. What are the key issues in each of those places for you do you think?

MARLES: Well I think in Kiribati climate change is going to be a very critical issue. President Tong, of course, has played a very significant international role in relation to climate change, and indeed both President Tong and President Marcus Stephen of Nauru are heading off to Cancun in the next few days. So climate change will be an issue for all of the countries. In Tuvalu we're keen to meet the country particularly in relation to a new government, which has been formed there, they're going through a budgetary process and we're keen to talk to them about how all of that is going.

American Samoa I think will be interesting because it's really the first visit as I understand it by an Australian political official to the area and I think we're keen to firstly send a message that American Samoa is very much a part of the Pacific, and we also regard America's

participation in the region as very important and I think our visit to American Samoa highlights that.

Niue is a Forum island country, it's a very important part of the region, and we're keen to look at what industries Niue has going forward as well. And I think we're particularly interested in examining the relationship that it has with New Zealand.

MOTTRAM: Now your visit comes in a context of Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announcing a review of Australia's overseas development assistance delivery. Clearly that's going to affect the Pacific one way or another. What are you going to be telling leaders what this review might actually mean for them?

MARLES: The first thing to say is that we think the spend of the aid dollar within the Pacific has yielded very good results, but it is a very significant amount of money, it's more than a billion dollars, and we want to make sure that the spend is the best it can be. There's always room for improvement, and we're very keen to hear what they have to say about the delivery of our aid program. We'd be keen to get their voices included in the review so that we can

understand how the program is actually working in the eyes of those who are the recipients of that aid. So we really want this cast as being a positive step forward, and the context of it is that as Minister Rudd has said on a number of occasions, the aid budget is going to double in the next five years, and we need to make sure that we've got the best framework possible in order for that ramping up of our aid commitment to occur, and also for the spend of it following from that.


Media inquiries

• Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330 • Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555