Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: life on Manus, kava questions, seasonal workers, more

From tracking development data to the visit of PNG’s PM, stories and links from across the Pacific islands region.

A new kava bar has opened in Auckland, but its commercial sale remains banned in Australia (Photo: Kelly Cestari via Getty)
A new kava bar has opened in Auckland, but its commercial sale remains banned in Australia (Photo: Kelly Cestari via Getty)

  • PNG Prime Minister James Marape has concluded a week-long “Guest of Government” visit to Australia, including a stop at the Lowy Institute for a public address. Marape’s trip generated plenty of media interest on issues ranging from corruption, natural resource deals, relations with Australia, and Manus Island.
  • The Guardian visited Manus island detailed the daily life for Manus Islanders and the asylum seekers that have been living there for the past six years. Charlie Benjamin, the Governor of Manus, was critical in recent comments of both the detention facility and proposed naval base.

  • Limited data is a major barrier for development in the Pacific – it makes interventions harder to track, and outcomes of harder to measure. While data is porous, there is still a lot available. The Secretariat of Pacific Communities data team has brought it all into one place through a new data portal, linking to thousands of publicly available datasets all across the Pacific.
  • A new kava bar has opened in Auckland, continuing the trend of kava bars opening in international markets including the United States. Commercial sale of kava remains banned in Australia. The Morrison government has committed to reviewing the policy, although there has been pushback from some indigenous communities.
  • New Caledonian leaders are calling on the French government to support the loss-making SLN nickel company, the largest employer in New Caledonia. Meanwhile, Nic Maclellan argues that independence movements in the Pacific are far from finished.
Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/Getty
  • CNN has taken an impressive deep dive into China’s presence in the Pacific Islands region, with a particular focus on its aid investments. It’s only shortcoming was providing a limited appreciation of Pacific agency between Australia and China, and the role of Chinese private sector investment in the Pacific. 
  • The Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting concluded in Suva this week, two weeks ahead of the scheduled Leaders Meeting in Tuvalu. Leaders are set to agree on the establishment of a Pacific Resilience Facility, while climate change and China-Taiwan are also likely to draw attention.
  • Recent figures show that Australia’s Seasonal Workers Program is now larger than the New Zealand equivalent, growing by a phenomenal 44% in 2018–19. Australia’s more project, the Pacific Labour Scheme, is not being nearly as successful, with only 203 signing up in its first year. Stephen Howes and Holly Lawton discuss why.

Pacific Research Program

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