Interview with Temese Teloko, Tuvalu Broadcasting, Funafuti, Tuvalu

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Visit to Tuvalu, International Court of Justice case, action on climate change, Australia’s development assistance in the Pacific, the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme (PALM), relationship between Australia and Tuvalu

Temese Teloko: Development Minister, thank you for availing your time to talk to the media despite your busy schedule. Shall we start?

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy: Absolutely. Great.

temese teloko: My first question. Can you please share the main purpose of your visit to Tuvalu and what outcomes are you hoping to get at the end of this visit?

Minister Conroy: Well, Tuvalu and Australia are two proud members of the Pacific family. So, my trip here today is about bringing people together, talking and discussing matters of common interest with your government and seeing your beautiful country first-hand. You can't understand the impact of climate change on countries like Tuvalu without understanding it in person, without seeing it properly. And that's the purpose of my trip. And also working on our people-to-people connections. How do we grow our two beautiful countries together.

Temese Teloko: There is a video currently viral on social media where the Pacific community is calling Australia to make a strong submission on the advisory opinion on climate change and human rights to the International Court of Justice. What do you have to say about that?

Minister Conroy: Well, the Australian Government, the new Australian Government, is proud to be taking action on climate change, both domestically, we will achieve net zero emissions in our own economy, we'll achieve 83 per cent renewable energy by 2030, and we're also taking strong action internationally. So, we are supporting the Pacific's call for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change. We're supporting the work from the Tuvaluan Government to preserve your exclusive economic zones. And so, we're very committed to taking action on climate change because it is the number one threat not just to your beautiful country, but our region as a whole.

Temese Teloko: Tuvalu is at the forefront of this fight against climate change. Australia has committed to supporting Pacific, especially vulnerable countries like Tuvalu. Where does Australia stand on this and what federal assistance Australia is looking at providing Tuvalu?

Minister Conroy: Well, we're proud to be the biggest development partner for the Pacific. We provide $1.9 billion each year. That's in addition to us cutting our own greenhouse gas emissions and being a strong voice for international action. We've increased our development assistance to the Tuvaluan people by a third. And we're supporting projects such as the TCAP land reclamation project. So, I've been talking to your government about what more we can do. We've committed that 80 per cent of all our development projects will have a climate objective, and that obviously will help our development partnerships in countries like Tuvalu. But I want to assure your viewers that we take climate change seriously. We know it's the number one threat to our region. We are committed to taking action and we'll continue to do so in partnership with your government.

Temese Teloko: I believe you had a gathering with Tuvaluans, who will be working as aged care workers in Australia. During Penny Wong's visit early this year, she mentioned that your government is looking at improving and expanding PALM scheme. What exactly is there to compare, to improve and to expand? And what is the progress of that?

Minister Conroy: Yes, it was a great highlight of my visit to meet 17 Tuvaluan workers as they prepare to come to Australia and work in our aged care system. And we need those workers, and we want to improve their conditions. So, as Penny Wong announced, we are improving pay rates so that workers get paid the same as Australians doing the work. We're guaranteeing 30 hours of work a week, minimum. And we're guaranteeing that after deductions, workers will take home at least $200 Australian each week. We're also investing in more skills training and those 17 Tuvaluan workers will get a Certificate III in Aged Care. That's the exact same qualification an Australian gets to work in our aged care homes. And they'll come home having earned lots of money for themselves and their family and having great skills to look after senior members of the Tuvaluan community as well. So, it's truly a win-win opportunity for everyone.

Temese Teloko: Minister, this is my final question. Tuvalu looks up at Australia as a big brother. What is Tuvalu to Australia?

Minister Conroy: Well, you are a proud member of the Pacific family, you are our brothers and sisters, we share the blue ocean continent, the water that laps at your feet in the Pacific Ocean laps at my feet back in Australia and we have an obligation, as family members, to help each other, to support each other to fulfil their full potential. And so, the Tuvaluan people are my brothers and sisters and I have an obligation to support them, just as you have an obligation to support your brothers and sisters and family members here.

Temese Teloko: Thank you very much, Minister.

Minister Conroy: Thank you.

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