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Question: Climate Change Aid Strategy

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:45): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister Payne. Pacific nations have identified climate change as the single greatest threat to their security, calling on Australia to do more to reduce its carbon emissions. Minister, you have said that Pacific leaders should be pleased with Australia's action on climate despite rejecting their demand to end coal-powered generation and approving the Adani coalmine, which will be a massive contributor to climate change. With the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum in August, are you still planning on rejecting the demands of Pacific nations for Australia to do more on climate change?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:45): I thank Senator Faruqi very much for her question. In fact, I was in Fiji at the end of last week for the Pacific Islands Forum's ministerial meetings. The week before that, I was in the Cook Islands to underscore our efforts to deepen the bilateral relationship there. In the previous weeks, I was in Papua New Guinea, in New Caledonia and in New Zealand and meeting with a range of my counterparts across the region.

We have made it very clear that we are making a record contribution to Pacific development this year of $1.4 billion, which is all about addressing the issues that are of greatest concern to the Pacific. When we signed on to the Boe declaration in Nauru at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting last year, we acknowledged the fundamental nature of the challenge that climate change presents to this region. So we are working very closely on a range of initiatives with their counterparts across the region. We are working very hard to demonstrate our commitment through a number of initiatives.

The conversation last Friday in Suva illustrated the cooperative and collaborative way in which ministers around that table are working towards the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting in Tuvalu in August. Of course Australia continues to support that process of the development of the Tuvalu meeting, which they are very much looking forward to hosting. They will be holding a roundtable with key leaders and ministers on climate issues on the Monday of the Pacific Island Forum, absolutely acknowledging our commitment in the region to make that contribution.

Of our commitment, we have expended hundreds of millions of dollars with our partners bilaterally and in a regional sense to address the things that concern them the most. The introduction of the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific is predicated on addressing climate change, adaptation and resilience for all of the investments that will be made under that facility. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a supplementary question.

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:47): Minister, a climate change strategy for Australia's overseas development program has been languishing in your office for over six months after you confirmed at Senate estimates in February that you received it. Why are you hiding the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's climate change strategy from the public? When will you release it? I'm asking for a specific date, please.

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:48): I would've thought somebody of Senator Faruqi's experience would be way past believing everything she reads. I would not have believed those reports if I were you, Senator Faruqi, because the position was made quite clear to those who requested the information and was not reported—in our view—as it was intended. The strategy is clearly being updated by DFAT to better reflect our international climate change engagement prior to the Paris Agreement coming into effect in 2020, particularly noting—for those who are oblivious—that we have just had a federal election. The government wants to take the opportunity to make sure that strategies such as this and other relevant documentation are contemporary and are relevant to the changes in our commitments, which will be seen under the Paris Agreement.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi on a point of order.

Senator Faruqi: The point of order is on relevance. I did ask for a specific date of the release of the report from the minister.

The PRESIDENT: As I have said repeatedly, I cannot instruct the minister on how to answer a question. When senators are making points of order on direct relevance, they must remember if they asked a longer question. Senator Payne is being directly relevant to the question asked.

Senator PAYNE: I think it's also important to remember that the climate change action strategy is essentially a departmental strategy. It's designed to provide strategic guidance to the aid program managers on climate change and on international development issues. The department is already integrating climate change across Australia's aid programs and policies, in close consultation with our Pacific neighbours, as I indicated in my previous answer. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a final supplementary question.

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:49): Minister, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu has said that his nation could be totally destroyed by the breakdown of the climate unless countries like Australia take some real action. So, how can Australia actually go to the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August without a strategy for climate change in the foreign aid program, when you know that it is their No. 1 priority?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:50): I would remind Senator Faruqi that in the Pacific Islands Forum in 2016 Australia committed $300 million to address climate change and disaster resilience in the Pacific. We have spent nearly $200 million of that funding in the past two years, and we will keep the international commitments we have made in these areas. We remain on track to meet our $1 billion climate finance commitment over the five years from 2015 to 2020. As I said—in fact, as Senator Faruqi said—we remain on track to meet our Paris commitments. We are providing practical and meaningful support to our Pacific neighbours on climate resilience.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator PAYNE: Those at the other end of the chamber might not be interested in these practical outcomes, but others are. I've already mentioned our Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility in the Pacific, which will support high-priority, climate-resilient projects, including telecommunications, energy, transport and water. We've committed $16 million to address marine litter in our vast Pacific Ocean. We continue to work to mainstream climate change through our development program. (Time expired)

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