20 Sep 2012

Call for maritime focus in Australian aid programme

1:47 pm on 20 September 2012

Australia is being urged to spend more of its foreign aid on helping Pacific Island and other developing countries in its region exploit their maritime zones.

A new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute suggests assistance in developing and protecting the economic potential of the large exclusive economic zones of its neighbours would help alleviate poverty.

One of the report's authors says although Pacific Island countries are more sea than land, most of Australia's aid budget is focused on land-based activities.

Sam Bateman cites the example of the Australian-funded Pacific Patrol Boats, which he says are nearing the end of their lives but are needed for a huge range of tasks, from basic sovereignty protection to medical patrols and disaster relief.

"That's why we argue that that form of maritime assistance is not maritime security in a narrow sense but should be seen much more in a nation-building type context and a nation-building context of course is a legitimate area for international aid."

Sam Bateman says at the moment, Australia's defence department has responsibility for the patrol boats.