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Australia’s newly sworn-in Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, says the new Labor government “will be a generous, respectful and reliable member of the Pacific family”.

In a message addressing the region on Monday, Wong set the tone for Australia’s renewed priorities for its island neighbours.

Wong said Australia recognised climate change was “central to the security and well-being of the Pacific”.

She said the Labor government had heard the Pacific and would act to address the climate crisis.

She added Australia would also boost assistance to support the region’s pandemic recovery, enhance defence and maritime cooperation, as well as expand opportunities and improve the working conditions for more than 24,000 Pacific workers in Australia.

“I’ve become foreign minister at a time when our region faces unprecedented challenges. But we will face these challenges together, and we will achieve our shared aspirations together,” she said.

“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 Australian Labor Party’s win in the 2022 general elections was its first such victory in almost a decade, defeating a conservative coalition government led by Scott Morrison.

While the count continues, Labor currently has 74 seats with independents holding 15 and the Liberal Coalition 53.

Labor needs 76 for an outright majority.

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