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Australia boosts Timor police as minister tours Pacific`

Dominic Giannini and Kat Wong -

Timorese workers and police will receive millions from Australia as the government expands its support in the Pacific.

Australia will provide East Timor with $35 million to continue the policing partnership between the Australian Federal Police and the Polícia Nacional de Timor-Leste.

The support will go to boosting natural disaster responses, improving communication systems, enhancing maritime capabilities and tackling organised crime.

Now in its 20th year, the partnership between the forces was established to boost Timor's efforts to tackle crime and instability.

"Australia is committed to working with Timor-Leste to deliver skilled and professional policing services," Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said in a statement while in the small nation.

Timorese workers in Australia as part of the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme are also set to receive an additional $4 million in support.

The money will provide approximately 4500 PALM Scheme employees with financial literacy skills assistance, separation support for their families and help connect them with employment and education opportunities when they return to Timor-Leste.

During his trip, Mr Conroy met with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao and senior East Timorese ministers.

The Australian government in December signed a $200 million policing deal with Papua New Guinea as Washington and Beijing jostle for influence in the Pacific.

Though the nation has previously referred to Australian and the US as its security partners, and designated China as an important economic partner, talks between Beijing and PNG have resumed after China approached the Pacific nation with an offer to assist its police force.

PNG Foreign Minister Justin Tkachenko said his country would assess whether it offered the same policing assistance already provided by Australia.

Mr Conroy is also set to visit Nauru on his trip after the tiny island nation ended its diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and recognised Beijing as the sole legal government of China.

He will hold talks with President David Adeang and Foreign Minister Lionel Aingimea.

Dominic Giannini and Kat Wong - AAP with Reuters


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