Australia and Tuvalu, which is an island nation in the Pacific, have just announced that they have signed a treaty that includes two important provisions: first, Australia will grant permanent residency to persons who have been impacted by the climate issue, and second, Australia will make a security guarantee that will link both countries together more firmly.
Both the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, and his counterpart from the Cook Islands, Kausea Natano, spoke with members of the media on Friday in the Cook Islands on the margins of the Pacific Islands Forum.
They said that they would strengthen the relationship between the two countries, which they would refer to as “the Falepili Union.” This name is derived from a Tuvaluan phrase that describes the traditional principles of being a good neighbor, showing care for one another, and respecting one another.
Additionally, a new bilateral pact was signed by the prime ministers in order to “give effect to our closer relationship,” notably in regards to climate and security.
Commitments on ensuring “human mobility with dignity” are included in the treaty. The government of Australia has made a commitment to “arrange for a special human mobility pathway for citizens of Tuvalu” so that Tuvaluans can reside, further their education, and find employment in Australia.
In addition, upon arrival in Australia, they would have access to the country’s educational and healthcare systems, as well as to crucial income and family assistance programs. Although the amount is not specified in the treaty itself, according to the government, a maximum of 280 inhabitants of Tuvalu would be granted access to this alternative route on an annual basis.
They will be granted access to permanent residency as a result of the new pathway, which will be housed within the already established Pacific involvement visa. They have the potential to submit an application for Australian citizenship in the future.
The criticism coming from the Pacific that the Australian government should be taking tougher climate action has gotten the attention of the Australian government. It is expected that the government will wish to counteract such criticism in order to continue expanding ties with Pacific counterparts; nonetheless, the administration views Tuvalu as a unique circumstance.
About 11,200 people call the nine low-lying islands that make up Tuvalu’s nation home. These islands are located in middle of Pacific Ocean, roughly in the middle of the distance from Australia to Hawaii. Due to the fact that the country’s highest point is only 4.5 meters (15 feet) above sea level, it is particularly susceptible to the effects of the climate catastrophe.
During his trip to Tuvalu in August, the Australian minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, was given a submission by Natano to pass on to Albanese describing the plan. Natano gave the submission to Conroy to give to Albanese. After that, we made rapid progress in the talks, which culminated in a statement on Friday.
Natano provided the following explanation of his stance to Albanese two days ago: “It is my duty as the leader of a country that is going to be under the water if that is the way this continues. It is my responsibility to make sure that my people have confidence that they can continue to stay if they want or move to another new home.”
The new treaty recognizes what it calls “the special and unique circumstances faced by Tuvalu” and “that climate change is Tuvalu’s greatest national security concern.” Additionally, “the desire of Tuvalu’s people to continue to live in their territory wherever possible” and “Tuvalu’s deep, ancestral connections to land and sea” are mentioned in the document.
Indeed, Australia has stated that they intend to collaborate with Tuvalu “in the face of the existential threat posed by climate change.”
That may entail assisting the nation in adjusting to the effects of a changing environment. These kinds of projects can involve making coastal areas more resistant to the effects of natural disasters and enhancing early warning systems. The Australian government has given their word that they will advocate for Tuvalu’s needs in regional and international venues such as the United Nations.
In Tuvalu’s capital city of Funafuti, a coastal adaptation project that would reclaim land in the hopes of expanding the area’s land mass by 6% – a bid to create more space for housing and other essential services, and “enabling people to remain living in Tuvalu in the face of sea level rise” – is receiving additional support from Australia, which has pledged to continue its cooperation on the project.
However, there is nothing in the text that specifically addresses limiting the growth of coal and gas in Australia, which is something that a lot of people in Pacific island countries would like to see happen.
The phrase “cooperation for security and stability” is mentioned in Article 4 of the new treaty; nonetheless, the unremarkable title gives the impression that this component of the agreement is less important than it actually is.
It says that Australia will respond to requests from its partner to respond to significant natural disasters, pandemics, or “military aggression against Tuvalu.” However, there is a proviso that this action is subject to factors like “domestic processes” and “capacity.” It says that Australia will act on requests from its partner to respond to major natural disasters, pandemics, or “military aggression against Tuvalu.”
Tuvalu will be obliged to “mutually agree with Australia” if it wants to form a contract with any other country on security and defense-related topics if this is the price that needs to be paid in order to receive this security guarantee.
These subjects are characterized in a wide sense to encompass “defence, policing, border protection, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure, including ports, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure” – all of which are of importance to China.
In the event that it is determined that such actions are required in order to give aid, the Australian military may be granted access to Tuvalu and may maintain a presence there; however, this would only be done in response to a request made by the Pacific nation.
It is significant because it comes at a time when there is considerable struggle for influence in the Pacific and amounts to a veto from Australia on Tuvalu engaging into security arrangements with other parties.
Although numerous countries in the Pacific, such as Solomon Islands, have switched allegiances to Beijing in recent years, Tuvalu is currently one of the few countries in the region that maintains a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan rather than China. This is despite the fact that China claims Taiwan as one of its provinces.
The Australian defense establishment was concerned about China’s relationship with Solomon Islands after it reached a security deal with the island nation last year and began supporting the police force there with training and equipment.
The agreement with Tuvalu most likely would not require a consensus on a particular aspect of international relations, such as diplomatic relations; nevertheless, things that can follow from that, such as security accords, would be covered.
Albanese stated on Friday that the new deal will secure Australia’s place as “security partner of choice” for Tuvalu.