Australia has a new Labor government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and Pacific nations are waiting to see what this means to the region.
More focus on climate change, renewable energy and an economy for its people, has been the Labor Party’s motto in their campaign. They had even claimed that the Scott Morrison led government had failed to foster relationships in the Pacific, pointing to the Solomon-China security deal.
Many Australian voters had been calling for stronger climate action and Mr Albanese assured the public he was listening in his victory speech.
He said Australia could become a renewable energy superpower. “We have an opportunity now to end the climate wars in Australia,” he said.
“Australian businesses know that good action on climate change is good for jobs and good for our economy, and I want to join the global effort.”
Pacific nations including Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Vanuatu have aired their concerns in the past about Australia’s commitment on agreeing to climate change requirements on attaining goals to bring a change.
Mr Albanese has signaled towards meeting those commitments.
After less than a day in office, the new Australian leader is off to Tokyo where the Quad conference is taking place.
The leaders of the United States, India, Japan and Australia are paving the way forward in terms of bilateral relations and shared goals.
Needless to say, China’s emerging presence in the region will be discussed. The US has already stated more assistance to the region and perhaps resolutions from this conference may reflect more inclination towards the Pacific.
A Pacific dialogue
Congratulatory messages have already started to pour in.
Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was one of the first ones to congratulate Mr Albanese from the region and has thrown in an invitation for Mr Albanese to visit Fiji.
“Of your many promises to support the Pacific, none is more welcome than your plan to put the climate first –– our people’s shared future depends on it,” Mr Bainimarama tweeted.
“With Fiji’s borders open, we hope to host you soon!”
In response Mr Albanese said he was going to have greater Pacific presence.
“I look forward to working with Pacific countries to build a stronger Pacific family,” he responded.
Papua New Guinea’s leaders have also wished well to Mr Albanese and hope to take the relationship between the two nations to greater heights.
In a statement on Sunday, Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare said his nation remained Australia’s steadfast friend and development partner of choice.
“The Solomon Islands are grateful for Australia’s financial, medical and security support over the years,” he said.
Mr Sogavare said he had had written to Mr Albanese and assured him of taking Solomon Islands’ relationship with Australia to another level under Albanese’s tenure.
Former prime minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga said he welcomed the incoming government.
“Time is running out on climate change not only for Small Island Developing States like us in the Pacific, but also for Australia and the rest of the world. Our security, together with our survival, is at peril,” he said.
While Mr Albanese has promised to adopt more ambitious emissions targets, he has so far refused calls to phase out coal use or block the opening of new coal mines.
After the Quad conference, Mr Albanese and his new Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong are headed back to Australia on Wednesday.
The Pacific leaders now look forward to dates where they will engage with the new Australian government.