Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: power games, volcanic eruptions, and media blackouts

Links and stories from across the Pacific islands region.

”Holy smokin toledo” as YouTube made famous about eruptions in PNG - Mt Ulawun during a 2012 eruption (Photo: NASA)
”Holy smokin toledo” as YouTube made famous about eruptions in PNG - Mt Ulawun during a 2012 eruption (Photo: NASA)

  • “The United States wants Australia to embrace a power role in the Pacific”, says US ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse. His statement followed the weekend G20 summit, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump also agreed that France needs to play a stronger role in the region.
  • The Guardian has an interesting series on a drug route you’ve never heard of: a multibillion-dollar operation involving cocaine and methamphetamines packed in the US and Latin America and transported to Australia via South Pacific islands. Fiji is particularly disrupted by this new industry and its police are overloaded. Dealers, however, are thriving and violence is rising. Jose Sousa-Santos, who researches transnational crime in the Pacific, explains how and why Australia and New Zealand need to take responsibility and partner with Pacific island states to take decisive action.
  • Japan, the US and Australia have picked a liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea as their first case for joint financing in the Indo-Pacific region, planning to lend over $1 billion in the near future. Grant Wyeth looks closer at this trilateral initiative and the reasons behind this cooperation.
  • Mt Ulawun, one of PNG’s most active volcanoes, burst into life last Wednesday morning, hurling ash some 17 kilometres into the air. Jamie Tahana followed Christopher Lagisa, a local living at the bottom of the volcano. The PNG government has set aside K5 million to support people affected by the eruption. Governor Fancis Maneke says locals are being forced to wait for assistance by damage to roads and interruptions to air links.
  • Climate change has left PNG fishermen struggling to find a catch, says the national Fishing Industry Association. Climate change will challenges fishing practices across the broader Pacific, and Johann Bell looks at the possible solution, while warming waters are pushing tuna to the east. One solution would be to actually look north, to what Iceland has done as an example of how to make its fishing practices sustainable. 
  • Media are a crucial part of the democratic process and accessibility to politicians is key to informing the public. However, in the Pacific, this rule is not always respected. Last week, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne made a brief visit to PNG and Bougainville, journalists could not engage with her. For some, there seems to be a pattern, and it needs to be changed. 
  • Palau, a small island state in the North Pacific, is in a Compact Free of Association with the United States. Michael Wash explains what the US could do to include it more in subregional architectures and initiatives.
  • Kiribati might graduate from the category of Least Developed Country (LDC). James Webb looks at the implications.

Pacific Research Program

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