JOURNALIST: The Foreign Minister's comments this morning about China in particular, the South Pacific, influencing other countries with infrastructure, do you share those concerns, those views about the sovereignty of other nations?
STEVEN CIOBO: Well I've been pleased previously in one of my other portfolios to be Minister for International Development and the Pacific. So I have a reasonably good understanding of the requirements of the small island states in the Pacific. What's clear is that they need… Well, they all face particular challenges in relation to economic sustainability and economic sovereignty, because for many of them, they're relatively small populations, and they're looking to diversify their economies. Now Australia is a natural partner for these countries because we want to make sure that we can help them to achieve sustainability in relation to their economy. And ultimately though, they need to take decisions about the best vehicle that they can use to fund and develop infrastructure in their economies. Australia is a logical partner for them in that, but ultimately that's a question for each of these countries.
JOURNALIST: Do you think China is meddling in the South Pacific?
STEVEN CIOBO: No, of course not. The fact is that Australia and China and the United States and New Zealand and other countries, we all work with to provide support and assistance, but we adopt different models and different approaches from time to time.
JOURNALIST: But how concerned are you that China's taking this approach, to build infrastructure on islands and forcing up the debt of some of these island nations?
STEVEN CIOBO: You know, my focus is on what Australia's doing in the region. Australia is a country that as I said, has got a long-term warm and particularly strong relationship with these countries. As someone who used to have some oversight of the aid budget, I'm familiar with what we do, and as I said it's a natural partner for these islands. But ultimately, the decisions for these nations is what's the best vehicle that they can use to fund new infrastructure in their region. For many of them, they use the Asian Development Bank, but there's also a role that we've played by AIIB, and other countries in the region as well.
JOURNALIST: So China is not the best vehicle then for these nations?
STEVEN CIOBO: That's… I don't agree with the assertion of your question. As I said, they will have to take decisions about what is the best vehicle that they can use to fund new infrastructure in their countries. Thanks everyone, have a great day.
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