23 Mar 2018

Australia looks to up its help as it visits Tonga

12:42 pm on 23 March 2018

An Australian ministerial visit to Tonga is aiming to see where else Canberra can help the country in the recovery from Cyclone Gita.

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Photo: AFP

Australia has already made a substantial contribution in aid following last month's devastating cyclone which caused widespread destruction across the main island of Tongatapu and on 'Eua.

The minister of international development and the Pacific, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said she and the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who have travelled to Tonga, want to help the country to bolster its resilience to major climatic events.

"At the moment we are still in the emergency response phase, but certainly we want to sit down with the government and discuss how we can continue to work with the government to prepare them, assist with their resilience and further emergency response," she said.

Australia's Minister of International Development, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (L), arrives for the opening of 48th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Apia, Samoa on September 5, 2017.
The 48th PIF leaders meeting takes place from September 4-8. / AFP PHOTO / KENI LESA

Photo: AFP or licensors

The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is using the trip to Tonga and Papua New Guinea to tell Pacific nations that they are Australia's biggest beneficiaries.

Speaking in the PNG province of New Ireland, Ms Bishop said Australia is funding programmes which promote good governance and would strengthen relationships.

"We believe that we are the natural partner of choice along with New Zealand for the islands of the Pacific where we work across a whole range of areas," she said.

The Australian government is making a fresh push to establish itself as the dominant nation in the South Pacific and offset the rise of China in the region.