Strengthening Australia’s Pacific relationships — Pacific Step-up policy and COVID-19 partnerships recovery

Issue date: Thursday, 3 September 2020

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The Foreign Affairs and Aid Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will today hold a public hearing with the two lead federal departments for the inquiry into strengthening Australia’s relationships in the Pacific.

The Committee will hear from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence on its coordinated efforts in planning for and delivering the development and capacity building ‘step-up’ program in the Pacific island region.

The Sub-Committee has been exploring means of Australia strengthening relationships with countries in the Pacific region, including helping island countries tackle current and ongoing challenges and be in a better position to seize opportunities of benefit to their people.

Sub-Committee Chair Mr Dave Sharma said “Although island and archipelago countries in the Pacific region have unique characteristics, all countries in the region face similar challenges—notably the current severe economic downturn as a result of shut-downs during the pandemic, health infrastructure preparedness, and the need to improve education, skills and employment opportunities. Other challenges include isolation, narrowly focused economies and low-lying topography subject to sea water inundation.”

“The health, prosperity and security of the people in countries in our Pacific region is of vital mutual importance.” Mr Sharma said.

The Committee is keen to hear about the impact of the Step-up program in the Pacific region to date. The Step-up program comprises a suite of development and security initiatives which commenced in 2018 and is now complemented by the Partnerships to recovery development response to the pandemic, announced in May.

The Sub-Committee will join the Trade and the Defence Sub-Committees in hosting a roundtable hearing in Canberra on Friday, where the success of the Pacific step-up can be further explored with Pacific island Heads of Mission and High Commissioners.

Public hearing details

Date: Thursday 3 September
Time: 11.00 am to 12.30 pm
Location: Committee Room 1R1, Parliament House, Canberra (and via teleconference)

The hearings will be audio streamed live at

The Sub-Committee has welcomed 64 primary submissions to date. The Committee is still particularly keen to hear views from within Pacific island countries, individuals who have participated in labour mobility schemes, and those who have settled permanently in Australia.

Further details about the inquiry, including terms of reference, contributing a submission and details of public hearings, can be obtained from the Committee’s website.

Media enquiries

Mr Dave Sharma MP, Sub-Committee Chair
Contact Miss Natalie Hissey
(02) 9327 3988

For background

Committee Secretariat
(02) 6277 2313

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