The Australian government announced plans to step up engagement in the Pacific in late 2017. One of the reasons for increased political interest in the Pacific is China’s growing presence in the region. In 2019, seven in ten Australians (73%) agreed that ‘Australia should try to prevent China from increasing its influence in the Pacific’. More than half of Australians (55%) believe that China opening a military base in the Pacific would be a critical threat to Australia’s interests.
The Pacific Islands are the largest recipient of Australian aid, receiving $1.3 billion in aid in 2018–19. A sizeable majority of Australians (77%) agreed in 2019 that ‘Australia has a moral obligation to help the Pacific’. However, their views on the role of aid in the Pacific are complicated: most Australians (60%) disagree with the statement that ‘Australian aid to the Pacific has little impact on life in the Pacific’. But they are evenly split about the broader Pacific step-up, with 49% agreeing and 48% disagreeing that ‘Australia should spend more than it currently does on helping the Pacific’.
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