OCTOBER 5, 2018
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the former minister for international development and the Pacific, claims Papua New Guinea is being “used as a conduit for Beijing’s outreach into the Pacific”.
Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping hosting a meeting of Pacific leaders before the APEC leaders summit, Senator Fierravanti-Wells said China’s debt-trap diplomacy, where the communist nation helped countries develop infrastructure by providing large loans, was “just as insidious” as battles in World War II.
“Today, the sovereign threat is less confrontational but the debt-trap diplomacy just as insidious,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells writes in The Australian today.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells, who resigned from Malcolm Turnbull’s ministry and backed Peter Dutton ahead of the leadership spill, has previously accused China of building “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” in the South Pacific.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells goes further today, saying she is concerned the impact of lending by Chinese banks in the Pacific was costing taxpayers.
“Pacific countries need to use limited government reserves to meet their loan commitments to avoid defaulting. Domestic spending and important social programs are jeopardised,” she said.
“Consequently, the internal stability of these countries may be affected and greater demand is placed on overseas development assistance from countries such as Australia.
“In short, Australian taxpayers effectively will be subsidising repayment of loans to China.”
PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said he supports China’s Belt and Road Initiative but Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato has previously insisted that Australia was the country’s “major security partner and close neighbour”.
By Primose Riordan