Anthony Albanese has touched down in the Cook Islands for three days of talks with Pacific Island leaders – the third leg of four consecutive international trips.
Mr Albanese will spend three days in talks with leaders of the region he has described as ‘family’.
It’s a crucial time for Australia to assert its place in the Asia-Pacific, after Beijing‘s efforts to make a bigger impact in the region.
This year’s leaders’ meeting aims to tackle thorny issues of climate change, geopolitical challenges and nuclear issues.
‘Working together, through the Pacific Islands Forum, is vital to securing a shared Pacific that is peaceful, safe and prosperous,’ Mr Albanese said.
Australia, with fellow regional heavyweight New Zealand, has put much stock in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in recent years, part of a renewed diplomatic focus.
And while it is a crucial relationship to maintain, the PM has copped increasing flak for his travels while Australians back at home struggle with soaring mortgages, petrol prices and grocery bills.
Mr Albanese was recently in China mending the tense relationship with Xi Jingping, and by all accounts the trip was a success.
Prior to that, he was rubbing shoulders with the President of the United States, Joe Biden, at a state dinner in Washington. He is due to return to the US next week to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco.
Mr Albanese’s first meeting in the Cook Islands after touching down on Wednesday was with Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano, who asked for help fighting and adapting to climate change.
‘It’s my duty as the leader of a country that is going to be under the water – that’s the way it’s going to be,’ Mr Natano told Mr Albanese.
The Polynesian leader emerged happy with the meeting, telling journalists he would support Australia’s bid to host a Pacific-focused COP climate change conference in 2026.
‘We know that Tuvalu is on the front line of climate change and the impact is certainly felt most acutely in island states such as Tuvalu,’ Mr Albanese said.
‘My government was elected on a platform of taking action against climate change and I look forward to working with you in the interest of both of our respective countries but also in the interests of the globe.’
Mr Albanese also met with Kiribati President Taneti Maamau and Cook Islands Prime Minister and PIF chair Mark Brown on Wednesday.
Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr said climate change would continue to be a large focus of the forum, along with the role Australia could play.
‘Australia’s climate policies have vastly shifted and we need to encourage Australia to continue in that direction and not go backwards,’ he told ABC Radio.
The centrepiece of the meeting is an overnight leaders’ retreat for the heads of the 18 member nations on the stunning island of Aitutaki.
The following day, non-members – known as ‘dialogue partners’ – will descend on the Cooks to lobby Pacific nations on a vast range of issues.
At last count, more than 20 nations are sending delegations, including the United Kingdom, Germany, China and the United States.
Showing the heightened US interest in the region, the Biden administration is sending cabinet official Linda Thomas-Greenfield, its Ambassador to the United Nations.
China’s engagement has also deepened, most notably through security ties with the Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare will be a notable absentee in the Cook Islands, with Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and New Zealand’s leaders also not attending for differing reasons.
International trips taken by PMs
Anthony Albanese has been criticised for his overseas trips. See how they stack up.
The record for most trips abroad by a Prime Minister during their first 12 months in office was set by Kevin Rudd in 2008, but later matched by Tony Abbott and exceeded by Scott Morrison.
Japan (May 23 – 25)
Indonesia (June 5 – 7)
United Arab Emirates (June 27)
Spain (June 27 – July 1)
France (July 1 – 2)
Ukraine (July 3 – 4)
Fiji (July 13 – 14)
United Kingdom (September 16 – 20)
Japan (September 26 – 28)
Cambodia (November 11 – 14)
Indonesia (November 14 – 17)
Thailand (November 17 – 19)
Papua New Guinea (January 12 – 13)
India (March 8 – 11)
United States (March 11 – 14)
Fiji (March 15)
United Kingdom (May 3 – 6)
Japan (May 19 – 21)
Singapore (June 1 – 2)
Vietnam (June 3 – 4)
Germany (July 10)
Lithuania (July 11 – 12)
New Zealand (July 26 – 27)
Indonesia (September 6 – 7)
Phillipines (September 7 – 8)
India (September 9 – 10)
United States (October 23 – 26)
China (November 4 – 7)
Cook Islands (November)
United States (November)
Indonesia (August 31 – September 1)
Singapore (November 13 – 15)
Papua New Guinea (November 17 – 19)
Argentina (November 30 – Dec 2)
Iraq (December 20)
Vanuatu (January 15 – 16)
Fiji (January 17 – 18)
New Zealand (February 22)
New Zealand (March 29)
Solomon Islands (June 2 – 3)
United Kingdom (June 4 – 6)
Singapore (June 7)
Japan (June 27 – 29)
Tuvalu (August 14 – 16)
Vietnam (August 22 – 24)
France (August 24 – 26)
East Timor (August 30 – 31)
United States (September 19 – 27)
Fiji (October 11 – 12)
Indonesia (October 19 – 20)
Thailand (November 3 – 4)
United States (December 16 – 21)
Japan (November 17 – 18)
New Zealand (May 30 – 31)
Singapore (June 10)
United Kingdom (June 11 – 15)
France (June 15)
United States (September 21 – 27)
Italy (October 30 – 31)
United Kingdom (November 1 – 2)