17 Jan 2019

Former Australian minister criticises new Pacific loan programme

2:48 pm on 17 January 2019

A former Australian government minister has broken rank to criticise the government's new loan programme for the Pacific.

Australia's Minister for International Development, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells Photo: AFP

In an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said it was disingenuous for Canberra to launch the scheme while criticising China for debt-trap diplomacy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year announced a US$1.4 billion fund for infrastructure projects in the region, in a push-back against China's growing role.

But Ms Fierravanti-Wells, who was Pacific development minister under the last prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the fund would just saddle Pacific nations with more debt to pay for infrastructure.

She said this was exactly what Australia's had been criticising China for doing.

Mr Morrison has insisted Canberra's fund is more transparent and accountable than China's practices, but Ms Fierravanti-Wells said that was disingenuous.

The attack from within his own party comes as Mr Morrison visits Vanuatu and Fiji this week.

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