Climate 'central' for Pacific relations

Penny Wong says climate change policy will be key to improving relations with Pacific countries. -AAP Image

Climate change will be placed at the forefront of the federal government's pitch to deepen ties with Pacific nations amid "unprecedented challenges". 

Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who was sworn in on Monday following Labor's victory, has released a recorded message detailing the government's plan to "build a stronger Pacific family". 

"The Australian government knows that nothing is more central to the security and well-being of the Pacific than climate change," Senator Wong says. 

"We have heard the Pacific and we will act, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Pacific as we address the climate crisis." 

Senator Wong says she looks forward to visiting the Pacific soon as the region faces "unprecedented challenges", with China becoming a more aggressive player and exerting its dominance. 

"We will face these challenges together. And we will achieve our shared aspirations together," she says. 

"We want to help build a stronger Pacific family, that is why we will do more. But we will also do it better.

"We will listen, because we care what the Pacific has to say."

The foreign minister reaffirms the government's commitment to boosting Australia's aid to support the Pacific's pandemic recovery, in addition to strengthening defence and maritime cooperation. 

She also pledges greater opportunities for Pacific workers in Australia, and improved conditions.  

"Currently over 24,000 Pacific workers are here contributing to vital Australian industries and sending money home to support their families while gaining skills they can use when they return," Senator Wong says. 

A "First Nations Foreign Policy that weaves the voices and practices of Australia's Indigenous peoples" into diplomacy with nations in the region will be delivered. 

Senator Wong promises Australia "will be a generous, respectful, and reliable member of the Pacific family".

"Our government is committed to being there for our Pacific family in times of need, as you have been there for us," she says.

"We know that together we can build a stronger future."