Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne indicated that the Australian government is committed to providing COVID-19 vaccines to partners in the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and Timor-Leste, which is important to promote economic recovery and regional stability. The government therefore established a A$305 million (US$219 million) COVID-19 recovery fund as a component of its Pacific Step-Up, outside the development assistance program budget.
Stephen Howes of the Australian National University argued that the major reductions to sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, among others, in the 2020 budget were not significant enough to meet Australia’s need for increased allocations to the Pacific. The A$4.0 billion budget (US$2.9 billion) also had to provide for A$80 million (US$57 million) in multilateral commitments including vaccine-related funding.
Howes indicated that the government's additional allocation for the Pacific was an acknowledgment that an increase was needed in Australia’s overall development assistance budget after five years of cuts.