Monday 10 Dec 2018 | 13:48 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

Australia finds itself at a Pacific crossroads

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the establishment of the multibillion-dollar infrastructure development bank for the Pacific, the overriding sentiment was that this pivot to the South Pacific was designed to curb the rising Chinese presence in the region. But is this renewed

Conflict, romance, and PNG: the APEC Summit

You get the sense that while Donald Trump didn’t make it to Papua New Guinea for the APEC Leaders Summit, his reality TV producers could have had a hand in how it played out. APEC 2018 had it all: conflict, romance, an exotic setting, and a dramatic finale that will keep trade diplomats on

Fiji election, from the polling booth

I arrived in Suva six days before the 2018 Fijian election, it was apparent that the country was bracing itself for a tight election contest. In 2014, Frank Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, won in an electoral landslide. Its main opponent then, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA),

Fiji: elections and the slow path to democracy

It is a busy month for the Pacific islands region. Ten days ago observers watched as an independence vote in New Caledonia came much closer than polling predicted. Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivered a surprise with one of the most significant Australian policy “step ups” in the Pacific in

PNG and APEC: who gets to keep the Maseratis?

Three weeks ago, the American Journal of Transportation reported that Air Bridge Cargo Airlines had delivered 40 Maserati sports cars to Port Moresby. One of the first social media outlets to report this news was in a Facebook post by Emmanuel Narakobi, runs the blog Masalai. Narakobi was then

The Orchids’ tale: PNG’s women’s rugby league team

I never set out to make a film. But, as many filmmakers seem to discover, the story found me. I have always been interested in the power of sport, and in 2014 I moved to Papua New Guinea to work in media and communications for the NRL-run, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded League

New Caledonia to remain part of France

The victory is clear, but certainly not as wide as the loyalists had hoped for. On Sunday, the people of New Caledonia voted for their territory to stay part of France. To the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?”, 56.4% (78,361 votes) voted “

Labor’s ambitions in the Pacific

Speeches on foreign policy made by prospective Prime Ministers or prospective Foreign Ministers in Australia are a bit like bingo games for foreign policy analysts. We listen (or read the transcript) eagerly to determine how many of the various recommendations we have all been making to the

New Caledonia’s independence referendum explained

On Sunday, 4 November, 174,154 voters will vote on the future of New Caledonia, a territory only a couple of hours flight east of Australia. They will be called to the polls to say “yes” or “no” to independence. How and why has this moment arrived, who can vote, and what will happen

Never too late to get the kids off Nauru

Over the past six years, we have witnessed the steady, if not accelerating, deterioration of the mental and physical health of refugee children on Nauru. Their suffering has been described by medical experts as worse than they have seen in war zones or refugee camps around the world. It is

Chinese whispers and Pacific agency

Over the past year, Pacific specialists have been caught between bemusement, frustration, and deepening concern as elements within the strategic community in Australia and the United States have sought to shape the regional security narrative to reflect their growing anxiety about Chinese influence

Deciding the future for PNG’s provinces

It’s been quite a week for Papua New Guinea’s national government and the evolving relationships it will have with the country’s provinces in the future. Last Friday, PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Autonomous Region of Bougainville President John Momis finally agreed on the

Pacific links: PNG, the fast and the furious, more

In preparation for APEC, Papua New Guinea has imported 40 Maseratis and other luxury cars to transport foreign delegates during the forum. PNG government says cars will be on-sold to “private sector”, and not everyone is happy. To protest against corruption in PNG, opposition MPs Bryan

Fiji and human rights, the limits of influence

Fiji, the country with perhaps the worst human rights record in the Pacific, has just been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The event unfortunately coincided with the death of 26-year-old Josua Lalauvaki, who had been allegedly beaten by police in Suva last month. As is

Reconciling with China in the Pacific

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Wang Yi struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone, expressing the wish to partner with Australia in the development of the Pacific

Facing ghosts of the past in Bougainville

There is disquiet among many for how post-conflict Bougainville society will evolve over the next generation if impunity reigns for the wartime horrors. Over the next few months, the spotlight in our immediate region will turn to Bougainville and its referendum on independence from Papua New

Mind the gap: views of security in the Pacific

As an onlooker at the intensifying debate about security in the Pacific islands, I see the danger of a widening paradigm gap between how Australia’s strategic community perceives the region, and how security is conceived by islanders themselves, as well as scholars of the region. Two distinct

Australia-PNG: relationships are what matter

Papua New Guineans tell each other with pride and excitement that the eyes of the world will be upon them 40 days from now, when they host the APEC Leaders Meeting in Port Moresby on 17-19 November. They are not fazed that Donald Trump won’t be there. His representative, Mike Pence, is

New Caledonia: the independence vote looms

One month out from New Caledonia’s 4 November independence referendum, the French State has announced a number of steps it has taken to ensure a credible and peaceful process. The campaign is generally proceeding smoothly, although tensions around a boycott call and an ongoing mining blockade 

Turning the dial on international broadcasting

Right when Australia finds itself with serious strategic interests in its neighbourhood, it has managed to turn its once influential international broadcasting voice into a whisper.  One that’s difficult to hear outside a handful of major cities across the region. 

Australia outbids China to fund Fiji military base

The competition of who gets to fund the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Black Rock Camp in Nadi came to close late in August, with Australia coming out on top over China. The RFMF’s chief of staff for co-ordination, Captain Eronia Duaibe, said that Australia’s bid was successful because

Pacific links: Fiji finally sets a date, more

A jet from the Papua New Guinea national airline Air Niugini missed the runway in the Federated States of Micronesia and ended up in the ocean. One passenger died. After significant delay, Fiji has announced the date of its general election for 14 November. In preparation for polls,

Exploring Taiwan’s aid to the Pacific

In July, the Marshall Islands signed a visa-free entry agreement with Taiwan, a clear testament to the strong diplomatic ties that Taiwan has achieved with some Pacific states in recent years. However, the competition for the Pacific Islands is far from settled. Four countries have

Can small island nations of the Pacific survive?

Whenever a Pacific island leader starts insisting that his or her country is a proudly independent, sovereign state, standing firmly on its own two feet and not needing any help or advice from anyone else, it usually means the opposite. Baron Waqa of Nauru was using “independent” and “

Climate change, at the frontlines

When Pacific island leaders gathered in Nauru this month, they issued a security declaration affirming climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the region. That climate change is a threat to Pacific islands is in some ways obvious; indeed the climate change wording in the “Boe

Pacific links: polio in PNG, farm visa delay, more

Unfortunately for Papua New Guinea, new cases of polio have been detected since July. Jamie Tahana traces the origins of the pandemic in PNG, and explains how the disease could have been avoided. In Australia, the National party has been pushing for a new agricultural visa,

We already have an agricultural visa

It’s not all that often the National party – the junior member of the Coalition government – has an obvious influence over Australia’s relations with its neighbours. But a push for a new agricultural visa by the Nationals and supported by the lobby-group National Farmers Federation is

The pointy end for the Melanesian Spearhead Group

The biggest diplomatic row between Fiji and Vanuatu in modern times was not over climate change, good governance, or Chinese investment in the South Pacific, but biscuits. Two MSG members are facing independence votes within the next year or so, from opposite sides of the ballot box. Vanuatu

PNG: new friend versus old, APEC and polio 

The condemnation of China last week by Nauru’s President Baron Waqa at the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting may have been bolstered by Taiwan’s substantial investment in that tiny Pacific nation of 13,000 people. Nauru is one of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic relations with

Pacific links: who talks, who walks, at the Forum

The ABC’s Stephen Dziedzic analyses the current tensions of the region that might influence talks at the Pacific Island Forum underway on Nauru. Nauru’s government has limited the movement of journalists covering the summit and placed restrictions on who they can talk to. A

Will Solomon Islands abandon Taiwan?

Over the last couple of years Taiwan has been steadily haemorrhaging diplomatic allies. Countries from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean have switched allegiance to Beijing, leaving just 17 countries maintaining formal relations with Taipei. The largest bloc of such countries is in the

Regional security dilemma in the Pacific

After changes of leadership and of government in Canberra, those of us who work on Pacific island issues are usually inclined to be optimistic. We hope that the incoming Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister might care more about the Pacific, might be inclined to spend more time in the

New Caledonia’s referendum: the delicate dance

In only two months from now, New Caledonia will face an independence referendum. This will bring to an end the Matignon and Noumea Accords, which delivered 30 years of peace after a bloody civil war. France is overseeing preparations. Australia’s position continues to be simple support for

New Caledonia: boycotts and blockade

Preparations are under way for New Caledonia’s historic independence referendum just two months away. Ongoing constructive dialogue and peaceful campaigning have been marred by division and boycotts, and a worrying three-week long blockade over nickel mining by some young Kanaks. Broad media

New faces and absent friends in Pacific diplomacy

Ahead of next month’s meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Nauru, the region’s foreign ministers met recently in Apia, Samoa. The Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is one of two standing ministerial meetings in the region (the other is the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting). The 2018

Prime Ministerial persistence: Australia vs PNG

Remember when Australia used to refer to its near neighbours in the region as the “arc of instability”? The leadership shenanigans on Tuesday will have given the BBC’s former Australia correspondent Nick Bryant an opportunity to update his description of Canberra as the “coup capital of the

The new battle for Bougainville’s Panguna mine

Speculation about the future of the Panguna copper mine in Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville, which ignited a decade long civil war in the 1990s, peaked late last year when an application for exploration by former Rio Tinto subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), was put to a

Selling a Pacific paradise: upholding the façade

The image of Pacific Islands as a benign utopia – an exotic paradise of green palms, sandy beaches and smiling locals – is a lingering vestige of the first colonial era contact with Europeans. The same clichéd themes can be seen in modern day advertising campaigns to encourage

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

Foreign aid and religion in the Pacific

Sometimes we in developed nations fail to grasp that not everything we do, no matter how well intentioned, is entirely welcomed in developing countries. Often they’re just too polite to tell us. Once on a flight to a Pacific island nation, I was seated next to an NGO worker who

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