Doorstop - Press Gallery, Parliament House

  • Transcript, E&OE
19 June 2018

JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister's comments this morning about China inparticular, the South Pacific, influencing other countries with infrastructure,do you share those concerns, those views about the sovereignty of othernations?

STEVENCIOBO: Well I've been pleased previously in one ofmy other portfolios to be Minister for International Development and thePacific. So I have a reasonably good understanding of the requirements of thesmall island states in the Pacific. What's clear is that they need… Well, theyall face particular challenges in relation to economic sustainability andeconomic sovereignty, because for many of them, they're relatively smallpopulations, and they're looking to diversify their economies. Now Australia isa natural partner for these countries because we want to make sure that we canhelp them to achieve sustainability in relation to their economy. Andultimately though, they need to take decisions about the best vehicle that theycan use to fund and develop infrastructure in their economies. Australia is alogical partner for them in that, but ultimately that's a question for each ofthese countries.

JOURNALIST: Do you think China is meddling in the South Pacific?

STEVENCIOBO: No, of course not. The fact is thatAustralia and China and the United States and New Zealand and other countries,we all work with to provide support and assistance, but we adopt differentmodels and different approaches from time to time.

JOURNALIST: But how concerned are you that China's taking this approach, tobuild infrastructure on islands and forcing up the debt of some of these islandnations?

STEVENCIOBO: You know, my focus is on what Australia'sdoing in the region. Australia is a country that as I said, has got a long-termwarm and particularly strong relationship with these countries. As someone who used to have some oversight ofthe aid budget, I'm familiar with what we do, and as I said it's a naturalpartner for these islands. But ultimately, the decisions for these nations iswhat's the best vehicle that they can use to fund new infrastructure in theirregion. For many of them, they use the Asian Development Bank, but there's alsoa role that we've played by AIIB, and other countries in the region as well.

JOURNALIST: So China is not the bestvehicle then for these nations?

STEVENCIOBO: That's… I don't agree with the assertion ofyour question. As I said, they will have to take decisions about what is thebest vehicle that they can use to fund new infrastructure in their countries.Thanks everyone, have a great day.

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