Saturday 28 Nov 2020 | 22:12 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

PNG budget: Pluses and minuses

Papua New Guinea’s 2021 National Budget was passed in the parliament on November 17 under unusual circumstances. The traditional pre-budget lockup for economists and media was cancelled, and no opposition was present. Parliament was reconvened quickly by the Speaker following a defection of

What does a Biden administration herald for New Zealand?

Joe Biden’s election victory will be greeted in Wellington, as in many other world capitals, with a collective sigh of relief. That’s understandable. But what will the Biden presidency actually mean for New Zealand? The government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will welcome a Biden

Next steps in advocating for the Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific Islands countries face the classic challenge as strategic competition unfolds across the Indo-Pacific, finding themselves wedged, like the proverbial meat in the sandwich, between two great powers. Small states do have agency, of course, and can influence the behaviour of larger powers.

New Zealand’s landslide election and the challenges ahead

The weekend ballot wasn’t really an election contest so much as a question whether Labour could govern in its own right. Since the introduction of proportional representation in New Zealand in 1996, no single party has won an outright majority. This year, circumstances combined to make that

Keeping West Papua on the agenda

When Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman addressed the UN General Assembly last month, he echoed a concern that has often been expressed by his predecessors, not about the Pacific directly, but about alleged human rights abuses in West Papua. “The world is taking a selective approach

PNG electrification: Spend on solar to help meet targets

The Maseratis are still collecting dust in sheds on a wharf in Port Moresby, but the sun has started to shine on at least one of the major deals Papua New Guinea gained from hosting the APEC Leaders Summit back in 2018. The PNG Electrification Partnership committed the leaders of Japan, the United

Evaluating aid in the Pacific

Each year, more than US $2 billion of foreign aid is invested in the Pacific Islands region, equivalent to roughly 8% of the region’s GDP. This aid comes in the form of thousands of projects from more than 60 donors. Information about these projects is often messy and opaque, with public

Bougainville: A new captain at the helm

Following weeks of anticipation, the people of Bougainville woke on Wednesday to news of a new president-elect. Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army Commander Ishmael Toroama, from Central Bougainville, will take up the mantle of president from John Momis. Toroama was a popular

Book Review: Where borders aren’t always badlands

Book review: Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb (eds) Too Close to Ignore (Melbourne University Press, 2020) Borders have been in the news in Australia, with the novel if frustrating experience of interstate pandemic restrictions leaving residents unable to cross previously free borders to access

Debunking the myth of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”

Against the fear and distrust that increasingly characterise Australia’s relationship with China, the Belt and Road Initiative looms large. Australian politicians from both major parties rarely agree on much openly, but nearly all agree that China uses the BRI to achieve geopolitical goals. Many

Australia needs the workers, the Pacific needs the jobs

Finding a consistent stream of agricultural labour in Australia has long proved a challenge. With Australians often unwilling to accept this type of work in the numbers required to get food to market, the government has sought to use visa schemes to remedy the problem, welcoming foreign labour. Yet

A force to combat climate change?

The Defence Strategic Update 2020 has provoked a significant amount of debate in Australia. The reaction across the Tasman in New Zealand has been much more subdued, but Defence Minister Ron Mark reportedly suggested that increases in Australian capability would increase the ability to respond to

The way to post-Covid recovery in the Indo-Pacific? Act now

Australia plans to spend a lot more on defence to confront what Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will be “a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly”. A chorus of voices have responded that Australian foreign policy risks becoming unbalanced, with

Covid and crime: Twin tests for Papua New Guinea

There must be days when Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner David Manning wonders what he has signed himself up for. On Friday night, he revealed that his officers had found a ute-load of plastic-wrapped cocaine, just days after discovering an Australian-registered light plane that had

Brunei, ASEAN and the South China Sea

On 20 July, after a long period silence on the issue, the Brunei Darussalam Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement declaring that it “maintains its two-step approach in addressing the South China Sea”. As bland as this statement sounds, it represents a critical development in the tiny

Five Eyes: Blurring the lines between intelligence and policy

The public aura around the decades-old “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand has expanded rapidly since the name was first publicly acknowledged. In 2014, an Australian prime minister publicly referred to the “Five Eyes” for the

Solomon Islands gets a lesson in Chinese diplomacy

China’s efforts to marginalise Taiwan and promote its “One China” policy has been a challenge for many countries. Some have diplomatic relations with Beijing while continuing to pursue trade and cultural links with Taiwan. The US can do this because it is a global power. This was clearly

A crowded house on the Bougainville ballot

There’s been little rest for democracy in Bougainville. After a break of a few months, the Autonomous Region of Papua New Guinea is plunging back into politics, with elections formally launched this week for its regional House of Representatives. Coronavirus had forced a delay to the process,

Debt threatens Digicel’s Pacific dominance

When it comes to mobile networks in the Pacific Islands region, Digicel is dominant. More than 2.6 million subscribers mean its SIM cards power more handsets in the region than any other provider.   But the telco’s US$7 billion debt has been

Hard knocks at University of the South Pacific

For 50 years the University of the South Pacific (USP) has been seen as a jewel in the crown of Pacific regionalism. With campuses in 12 island nations, about 20,000 students and 1,500 staff, USP is one of the great connective tissues for the large “blue continent” that is the Pacific. Its

New Zealand and China: Contending with words and actions

New Zealand was one of the more than 130 countries which, at the recent World Health Assembly, sponsored a resolution setting up an independent inquiry into Covid-19 – a proposal initially rejected by China. New Zealand also backed Taiwan gaining observer status at the World Health Organisation,

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