Australia's step-up in the Pacific has come at the expense of aid programmes in Asia.
The government delivered its annual budget on Tuesday, announcing that the country's foreign aid budget had been cut again.
The Australian National University's Stephen Howes said programmes in places like Pakistan, Nepal, Cambodia and Indonesia have been slashed by as much as half.
But he said the Pacific has been spared.
"The government's caught between these two conflicting objectives. On the one hand, it doesn't want to increase overall aid," he said.
"On the other hand, it's implementing the Pacific step-up and an integral part of that is increasing aid to the Pacific. And so the only way it can achieve that is cutting elsewhere, and it was the Asia that bore the brunt."
Stephen Howes said the government had promised to increase the budget once it returned to surplus, but it appears that's not going to be delivered.