Wednesday 20 Feb 2019 | 06:37 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Pacific Islands

A rising China and the future of the “Blue Pacific”

The focus of the Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat is securing the future prosperity and wellbeing of the “Blue Pacific”. The Forum seeks genuine partnerships with all actors who are willing to join us along the pathway towards that vision. Therefore, I reject the terms of the dilemma in

Pacific Links: logging paradox, erupted islands, more

Angus Grigg, Jonathan Shapiro, and Lisa Murray have written three articles for the Australian Financial Review this week investigating Paladin Group, a company that received contracts worth $423 million from the Department of Home Affairs to provide security for refugees on Manus Island. 

Australia, BRI backlash should be a warning on loans

Australia created a $500 million loan scheme for Indonesia to support reconstruction following the 2005 Boxing Day tsunami. Australia lent a hand, forging stronger links in the process. But the loan scheme had its flaws. As Australian ministers and officials currently tour the Pacific

Pacific links: APEC rebuke, raised eyebrows, and more

Papua New Guinea’s parliament is sitting amid speculation of a vote of no-confidence being moved in the government against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. A grace period against such votes expires on 5 February. O’Neill has been under pressure from the opposition over the cost of hosting the

Australia’s new Pacific Czar

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now established an Office of the Pacific, a measure foreshadowed in 2018 as part of Australia’s Pacific “step up”. Ewen McDonald, formerly High Commissioner in Wellington and a Deputy Secretary in DFAT, has been appointed head of the Office.

Pacific links: “You’re my best friend”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes a historic visit to Fiji and Vanuatu this week amid concerns over Chinese influence in the region and a diplomatic hiccup around terrorist Neil Prakash. On Prakash, Shannon Molloy explains this case of the Aussie-born terrorist and his citizenship saga, which

A China chip on New Zealand’s shoulder?

Nice try, you might say. Huawei has proposed a purely Kiwi workforce to assuage New Zealand’s concerns about the Chinese company’s potential involvement in developing 5G infrastructure. That might not be enough if Wellington shares the full extent of its Five Eyes partners’ concerns about

Stepping up on Pacific infrastructure

Australia has decided it is going to do a lot more infrastructure financing in the Pacific. This is a welcome development. The Pacific faces some of the most difficult development conditions in the world and has huge financing needs, especially due to the effects of climate change. It is also

Dimly lit renewable energy initiatives for the Pacific

Renewable energy is high on the development agenda for the Pacific. The Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map showed that donors and Pacific Island Countries are making a concerted effort to implement ambitious renewable energy goals. For example, the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu aim to

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,

Pages