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Greens Want Australia To Act As A Good Neighbour In The Pacific Region

Australia needs to live up to its responsibilities in the Pacific Region by acting as a good neighbour to other countries according to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Human Rights, says the Greens have a comprehensive plan for Australia to play a proper role in the region and help improve health, educational and humanitarian outcomes in developing countries.

"Australia is one of the wealthiest and most stable countries in the Pacific region,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.

"If we want to be seen as a leader in the region, then we have a duty to be a good neighbour. That means, for example, not trying to pass off our responsibilities on the poorest countries in the Pacific, through a regional processing centre for asylum-seekers in East Timor or Nauru.

"Australia needs to work with our neighbours to achieve a real and humane solution - facilitating quick assessment of asylum claims in Australia, ensuring that those in need of protection are resettled swiftly, and making sure that those who are not found to be refugees are sent home safely.

"As the leaders of the Pacific meet in Vanuatu, the Greens think it is a perfect time for a plan to set out an approach for Australia in the region to meet the challenges of the 21st century.''

The Greens' plan would also:

• Increase Australia's total overseas development aid budget to 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2012

• Work towards fairer Fair Trade Agreements in the Pacific

• Create a new category of humanitarian immigration entrants - allowing permanent residency to Pacific Islanders displaced by climate change

• Increase funding to improve maternal health and reduce the rate of maternal deaths

• Share Australia's educational expertise with the region

• Provide Australia's fair share to the Global Climate Adaptation Fund

The target of 0.7 per cent of GDP assigned to overseas development aid was first raised in 1970. It now is seen as a vital target to meet Millennium Development Goals including ending hunger and poverty, ensuring universal education and gender equity, and improving child and maternal health.

"Many leading countries have already met these goals but Australia is lagging behind. The Greens believe Australia must raise its aid commitments so we can make a genuine difference in our region,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.

"The elements of our plan are all practical and achievable - it's time for Australia to show some leadership and take action to tackle the key challenges in our region.''

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