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“It’s vitally important”: Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells on China in the Pacific

Luke Grant

After resigning from her position as the Minister for International Development and the Pacific during last week’s leadership coup, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the Morrison Government is now sending the “wrong message” in her old portfolio.

The position has been excluded from the ministry in Morrison’s government, downgraded to an assistant ministerial role. At a time when China is ramping up its debt-trap diplomacy in the Pacific to spread influence and secure strategic gains, the move isn’t a wise one.

 “I am concerned that the downgrading of the portfolio to a parliamentary secretary role does send the wrong message,” says Fierravanti-Wells.

“While it’s important to engage internationally, this is our neighborhood, this is our backyard. It’s vitally important that it be given priority in our region. There is an expectation from our allies that it receives the highest attention.”

To ensure China doesn’t encroach on our standing in the region, Fierravanti-Wells wants more of the foreign aid budget to be directed to the Pacific.

“We spend about $4 billion in overseas development assistance, of which about $1.3 billion goes to the Pacific. There should be more spent in the Pacific. A greater share.”

“Everything we do in that region is linked to our security, stability and prosperity.”

As one of the first “insurgents” to offer her resignation to Turnbull last week, Fierravanti-Wells also confirmed her vote went to Dutton in the leadership debacle.

“For many conservatives in the Liberal Party, they have seen their values and beliefs eroded. Not under a Labor government, but under a Liberal one. That’s really where the nub of this is.”

“If those votes drift, they’ll go to One Nation and other minority parties. We’ve got to keep that vote. Because once it leaves the Liberal Party, we don’t know if it will come back.”

“That’s why I felt it was appropriate that Dutton be elected leader.”

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Luke Grant