Foreign aid rethink on cards as Aus PM eyes Pacific

The PM presses the flesh with locals in Townsville on Wednesday night. Photo: Bryce Heaton/Twitter
The PM presses the flesh with locals in Townsville on Wednesday night. Photo: Bryce Heaton/Twitter

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged his intention to reprioritise foreign aid and slash migration to Sydney and Melbourne.

As he continues his bus tour of Queensland, the Prime Minister told voters in Townsville on Wednesday night that foreign aid will be reprioritised closer to home.

“I’m going to be having a lot more to say about how we are going to refocus assistance on our part of the world,” he told Sky News.

“We are not increasing our (foreign) aid budget. It’s been kept largely at the same level because we’ve had other priorities.”

 

Mr Morrison will pledge $3 billion on Thursday towards infrastructure in the Pacific, an investment driven by concerns about Chinese influence.

He will also announce a flying squad of Australian Defence Force teams that can travel to Pacific nations to assist with peacekeeping and disaster response.

“While we have natural advantages in terms of history, proximity and shared values, Australia cannot take its influence in the south-west Pacific for granted, and too often we have,” Mr Morrison will say in a speech to be delivered in Townsville.

It follows Mr Morrison confirming he wants to reprioritise Australia’s foreign aid to nearby countries in the Pacific region instead of ‘useless international club-joining exercises’.

He’s expected to also announce more sports programs to build relationships in the region and challenge the influence of China in the Pacific.

In a sign an election is not far away, he also predicted that electricity prices would rise if Bill Shorten was elected prime minister.

But he stopped short of pledging to dump the Paris agreement on climate change.

“We will meet the commitments we make. We’re Australians if we make commitments we keep them,” he said.

“But I’ll tell you this, I was down at the Boyne Island Smelter today and Bill Shorten wants to have a 45 per cent emissions reduction target.

“If that target comes into effect after the next election … the smelter is done. Thousands of jobs?  Done. Coal-fired power stations? Done.

“And that means you will be paying more for power and you will have fewer jobs to do it. That’s why we’ve got a sensible target.

“Fair dinkum power … I call it. People have mocked me for saying that. Fair enough, knock yourself out. All I care about is getting electricity prices down.”

Victorian Liberal President Michael Kroger praises the PM’s warning on jobs.

“He gets to the point very quickly and he’s very threatening and very believable,” he said.

Mr Morrison also pledged to continue his fight to introduce drug tests for welfare recipients.

During the Sky News broadcast, Mr Morrison was confronted by the sister of a woman who died after a battle with drug addiction.

She was close to tears as she urged more money for rehabilitation but also urged governments to get drug users off welfare and into jobs.

Mr Morrison also vowed to consider funding a medal for the mothers and wives of servicemen who died serving their country.

Labor leader Bill Shorten conducted his own town hall meeting in Sydney last night, his 74th town hall meeting with voters since the last election.

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