BY DAVID MCLENNAN
The federal government needs to better explain the national security benefits of Australia's aid program to ensure longer-term support for overseas assistance, a new report says.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report, A better fit: national security and Australia's aid program, also identifies climate change and its impact on neighbouring counties ''as a potential national security problem''.
''Over a period of decades, entire national populations of atoll countries in the Pacific and Indian oceans may need to migrate, and the international community may expect Australia to play its part in accepting them,'' the report said, and went on:.
Some politicians, talkback hosts and commentators find spending to help others beyond our shores an easy target, especially at times of natural disaster in Australia.
Therefore, accounting for what Australia spends on aid matters more than ever, because public support for the program must be maintained not only to alleviate poverty internationally but also to protect Australia's national security and our broader national interest.
Australia's foreign aid should help build regional stability and improve the country's security.
The top four recipients of bilateral Australian aid are Indonesia, PNG, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, all of which are important to Australia's security, whether by virtue of strategic proximity or terrorist potential.'
The island Pacific is becoming a more contested space. China is fast growing in importance as an aid donor, investor and trade partner… Australia has compelling security interests in remaining predominant in this region.
The report suggested revisiting the seasonal worker pilot scheme, where Pacific Islanders were able to work on farms in Australia, and called for changes to immigration policies that prevented unskilled Pacific islanders from working in Australia.
It also calls for a new federal Minister for development assistance.
Source: The Canberra Times