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Labor’s 7 point plan for the Pacific

ABC shortwave radio aerial system
The ABC's shortwave radio service was shut down by the Morrison government, enabling China to grab the frequencies. If elected, the Labor Party says it will fund a project to rescue this trashed capability

| The Guardian | Extract

SYDNEY - Labor has vowed to increase foreign aid to Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste by $525 million over four years, as it makes an election pledge to ‘restore Australia’s place as first partner of choice for our Pacific family’.

The opposition is also vowing to reform Pacific worker schemes, ramp up patrols to fight illegal fishing, boost regional broadcasting, and ‘listen and act on Pacific island warnings of the existential threat of climate change’.

Labor is seeking to intensify political pressure on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, in the wake of China signing a security agreement with Solomon Islands.

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong, who outlined the Labor plan, accused Morrison of dropping the ball on the Pacific.

“The vacuum Scott Morrison has created is being filled by others who do not share our interests and values,” Wong said in a clear reference to China.

Labor’s seven-part plan includes a $525 million increase to Australia’s development assistance for Pacific countries and Timor-Leste over the next four years.

The party argued this funding would “help address the decade’s worth of development gains that have been lost due to the pandemic”.

It would include $5 million for a national critical care and trauma response centre “to strengthen regional health preparedness in the Pacific and Timor-Leste”.

Labor said it would ‘restore Australia’s climate leadership’ and establish a Pacific climate infrastructure financing partnership to support climate and clean energy infrastructure projects in Pacific countries.

Another plank of the plan will focus on regional broadcasting, which is seen as a key lever of ‘soft power’.

Labor will draw up an Indo-Pacific broadcasting strategy to ‘boost Australian content and to project Australian identity, values, and interests to the Indo-Pacific region’.

This will include an $8 million a year increase in funding to the ABC’s international program aimed at expanding ABC regional transmission and content production.

Labor will use the strategy to review the potential restoration of Australian shortwave radio broadcasting capacity in the Pacific.

It is planning to address Pacific economic challenges and ease Australia’s agricultural worker shortages by reforming the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme’s seasonal worker program.

The federal government will meet the upfront travel costs for Pacific workers rather than the costs being met by Australian farmers.

Labor said it will establish a dedicated agriculture visa under the labour mobility scheme, “creating a robust and sustainable four-year visa, with portability, strong oversight mechanisms, and protections and rights for workers”.

The opposition’s spokesperson for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the move would be accompanied by increased compliance activity.

He said that would include “putting a firewall between the Department of Home Affairs and the Fair Work Ombudsman” so temporary migrant workers would not risk their visa by calling attention to abuses.

Earlier, Labor released details of three other parts of the plan, including doubling Australia’s $12 million in annual funding for aerial surveillance activities under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, which helps the region combat illegal fishing.

An Albanese Labor government would consult Pacific countries about options for boosting aerial surveillance, such as increasing flying hours and the number of aircraft, improving sensors, and using drones.

Labor will also pledge to deepen existing links between the Australian defence force and its regional counterparts by setting up a new Australia-Pacific Defence School at a cost of $6.5 million over four years.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Sunny,

The federal government is now extending the Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme and Seasonal Workers Program to include aged care, tourism and hospitality sectors.

It is effectively peonage and reminiscent of blackbirding.

Most labour governments have done very little or nothing to achieve their founding objective and use the power provided by the franchise to represent organised workers and reduce the inequity between the powerful and the powerless.

In the past Labour ministers often apologized for this abject failure, now they boast about it.


Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights

Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song

So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Sunny Lim

Hi since now Labour won, would you know when they start action?

Chamroun Tek

I used to learn the language and culture of Australia about 10-20 years ago in Cambodia.

The shortwave radio programs have been such an enormous and helpful source as well as providing faster and accurate news to the rural countryside as well as to listeners around the world.

I really miss Radio Australia shortwave and hope it can restore the service as soon as possible.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The discussion about reinstating short wave services has to do with Australia's reach into the Pacific rather than local broadcasting Graham.

Last time I looked shortwave radios were still being sold in PNG. I imagine the Chinese wouldn't have snaffled the frequencies if they thought people didn't have radios.

Graham King

Shortwave radio may have been cutting edge in the 1950-60s but will young people tune in? Has anyone checked whether shortwave radios are still available in PNG stores?

Australia should fix the existing NBC provincial radio stations and supply content for re-broadcasting.

Programs could be prepared centrally (either in Australia or Port Moresby) and sent via the internet to the stations for transmission on AM and FM networks.

I set up a simple FM transmitter in Bialla, West New Britain, which transmitted YUMI FM sourced via satellite. We could record our own program content as well and plug in to the transmitter to transmit these programs.

The signal could be picked up in a 50km radius. It is not expensive. My memory tells me $20,000 was the cost in 2010.

Lindsay F Bond

It is mind numbing to see how migrant and seasonal workers are engaged in other jurisdictions.

Of Qatar, it is reported that no fewer than 6,500 migrant workers – from places like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – have reportedly died during stadium preparations for this year’s FIFA World Cup.

By way of comparison, while 16 workers were killed in the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 1930s.

Just one was killed, offsite, during the construction of the Opera House.

In 2000 no workers were killed building facilities for the Sydney 2000 Games.

But in Qatar, 6,500.


Johnny lm

It make sense to restore a shortwave service. I'm supporting this:)

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