Albanian government will provide $900 million budget boost to Pacific countries

Funding will help tackle poverty and sustain security in the region and make Australia 'more influential in the world', said Penny Wong.

The Albanian government will increase aid to Pacific nations by $900 million as it says next week's budget will provide the biggest increase in Australia's official development assistance in more than a decade.

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, will announce the additional funding in a speech in French Polynesia on Friday, arguing the budget would be a "major step towards the goal of making Australia stronger and more influential in the world". And in a separate pre-budget announcement, Anthony Albanese will use the event in Western Australia to promote support for the essential mineral, which is expected to be a key issue in talks with Japan's prime minister, Fumio Kishida, on Saturday.

The budget will confirm a $900 million increase in official development assistance (ODA) to the Pacific over four years amid increasingly fierce competition with China for influence. The figure is 70% higher than the $525 million increase Labor promised during the election campaign.

Sign up for our free morning newsletter and evening email to get your daily news roundup. Southeast Asia, meanwhile, will see a $470 million increase in ODA over four years as promised.

In an apparent reference to China, Wong said that "others will continue to fill the void and Australia will continue to lose ground" if the government does not increase such investments. "Our assistance will help our regional partners become more economically resilient, develop critical infrastructure and provide their own security so they don't have to call on anyone else," he said in a statement.

The budget is also expected to include $139 million over four years to support security priorities and Pacific engagement, including $46 million for Australian federal police deployments in the Solomon Islands and $19 million to establish a network of Australian Border Force officers across the region. It will also fund Labor election pledges including $30 million to improve aerial surveillance across the Pacific, $7 million to create an Australia-Pacific defense school and training for defense and security forces across the region; and $32 million to expand ABC content and transmission in the region.

The government said it would increase support for infrastructure investment in the Pacific and Timor-Leste through the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific. It said about $500 million over 10 years would be allocated from the existing ODA program to support the grant and loan package of the facility. Year-by-year details have not been released, but the minister for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the budget would provide a significant overall increase in aid funding.

"Our additional investment in Australia's official development assistance will be the largest increase in four years since 2011-12 and follows a decade of Liberal cuts," he said. Setting out the rationale for the package despite broader budgetary pressures, Conroy said the measures would "advance Australia's interests by tackling poverty and supporting stability, prosperity and security in our region".

The announcement came a day after Australia and Fiji signed a status treaty of force, providing the legal framework for the presence of one nation's troops in another.

Fiji's defense minister, Inia Seruiratu, told his visiting Australian counterpart, Richard Marles, that the agreement marked "a new level of security cooperation between our two countries". Albanese and Kishida are expected to sign a new security declaration between Australia and Japan when the two leaders meet in Perth on Saturday.

Ahead of the talks, Albanese will announce that the budget will allocate $50 million over three years to the Critical Minerals Development Program. The program will provide competitive grants to support early and intermediate stage critical minerals projects. The government says this funding comes on top of the $50m committed last month for six major projects across Australia.

Labor will also say that the budget will include $50.5 million over four years to establish a research and development center for Australia's essential minerals, which aims to help unlock the potential of Australia's essential minerals. This is similar to the research and development center announced by the former Coalition government in March, but it is known that the funds were never allocated. In addition to actually providing funds in next week's budget, the Labor government said it had "reframed" the project.

It said the hub would combine expertise from Geoscience Australia, CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization "to work with Australian industry to address technical challenges and support international research and development collaboration".

In a statement, Albanese said his government is "committed to supporting the essential minerals sector and new clean technologies to achieve our goal of net zero, and to make our country an economic powerhouse with a clean energy future".

"Today's new initiatives will ensure we can create and support local jobs, diversify global supply chains, and meet the growing demand for batteries, electric vehicles and clean energy technologies," he said.

The minister for resources, Madeleine King, said the measures would "help Australia and its partners meet their net zero commitments".

Australia is Japan's largest supplier of coal and liquefied natural gas. Kishida is expected to use the meeting with Albanese to seek reassurance about the supply's reliability, while also pledging to work closely with Australia in the transition to net zero. Japan's cabinet secretary for public affairs, Noriyuki Shikata, said Kishida's visit to Western Australia was "timely" because of the state's importance as an energy hub. Supply chain resilience will be on the agenda

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