Thursday 14 Nov 2019 | 04:25 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

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

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

Pacific links: PNG spice, talking to the region

On Thursday, the Lowy Institute will launch its Pacific Aid Map, an analytical tool designed to enhance aid effectiveness in the Pacific by improving coordination, alignment, and accountability of foreign aid through enhanced transparency of aid flows. Stay tuned to the Lowy Institute website.&

A new court for Nauru

In January, as Nauru celebrated 50 years of independence, President Baron Waqa announced that his country would cease to use the High Court of Australia as its highest appellate court. What wasn’t apparent until March was that Nauru had withdrawn from the bilateral treaty

Kiwi Act marks “new” relationship with US

On 1 August, the Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act, or the improbably named Kiwi Act, having passed both the US House of Representatives the Senate, and signed by the president, became law. The Kiwi Act extends to New Zealanders the ability to enter the US 

When friends disagree: New Zealand and Australia

One of Jacinda Ardern’s early prime ministerial tasks was to head off some potentially bad optics in New Zealand’s most important bilateral relationship. After all, she was leading just the sort of government that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had said would be difficult to work with

Polio in PNG: a menace resurfaces

The news of pulse polio resurfacing in Papua New Guinea has created new challenges for a public healthcare system already confronting many related health problems. Polio virus is a potentially deadly disease that can spread through communities, causing paralysis and disability, mostly among

Pacific links: Melanesian arts festival, more

Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered to host a meeting with Pacific leaders in Papua New Guinea ahead of the APEC leaders summit in November. The invitation comes amid extensive discussion in Australia regarding China’s growing influence in the Pacific. Nauru announced last week that it

New Zealand’s P-8 purchase: straddling the gap

Canberra will be pleased and relieved that New Zealand has opted to buy Boeing’s P-8A aircraft, in order to meet its future requirements for maritime aerial intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and response. The P-8A, already operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), will replace

New Caledonia: decolonisation in conversation

Speaking of “decolonisation” conjures memories of the 1950s and the wave of new nations that emerged, particularly in Africa, as European colonialism gave way to calls for emancipation in the post-1945 new world order. In contrast to the heady unrest which preceded the first referendum in 1987

The domestic politics of New Zealand’s defence

Anyone reading the media coverage of New Zealand’s defence policy statement might conclude its purpose was to lay out a stronger position on China. That would be a mistake. Its central purpose is to put defence policy into language that can be owned by the new coalition

Nauru ABC ban: Australia damned by faint criticism

He fainted on me. Big bloke, my local guide on Nauru, who in the sunbaked heat took me Topside on the island to steal a look at the refugee camp among the scraggy rocks known as the pinnacles. And down he went. Nauru was happy for reporters to visit the country then. In 2013, I was one of the last

Pacific links: tourism, PNG unrest, more

Riots and unrest in the Papua New Guinea Highlands this week have led to a 9-month state of emergency being declared, and more than 400 PNG Defence Force troops being sent to the area. In the past week, protestors – angered by a failed court challenge to last year’s election results

What a partial internet shutdown would mean for PNG

Debate arose in Papua New Guinea last week over comments made by Communications Minister Sam Basil about the possible imposition of a month-long ban on Facebook. This partial internet shutdown, according to Basil, would allow the government to conduct research on the use of anonymous

New Caledonia: dangerous games

Barely a month since the carefully choreographed visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to New Caledonia, positions have hardened as parties prepare for the 4 November 2018 independence referendum. Small hard-line pro-French parties with their eyes on the May 2019 local elections are

Sedition and Pacific media freedom

The decision by a Fiji court last week to acquit four people charged with sedition is a welcome step in the current regional debate over media rights and responsibilities. The Fijian-language paper Nai Lalakai, part of the Fiji Times group, published a letter by Josaia Waqabaca in

A “delicious” visit

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron spent 36 hours in Australia before a three-day visit to the French territory of New Caledonia. While in Sydney, Macron signed several agreements with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull aimed at establishing closer ties in

What PNG hopes to win from hosting APEC

It is not clear when the big-man politics in Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy began. It was likely during the prime ministership of Sir Michael Somare, in the early 2000s, when he pushed for PNG to be an aid donor to the region. At the time, and to this day, PNG continues to be Australia’s

Pacific links: Talanoa Dialogue, Press freedom, and more

On World Press Freedom Day (3 May) many media reports highlighted the state of the media in the Pacific. At The Daily Post, Dan McGarry called for an end to the persecution of the Fiji Times. The newspaper, its publisher, two editors, and a letter writer are on trial over an allegedly seditious

French choreography in the Pacific

French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Australia was a frank success, although some observers were puzzled after he raised the idea of a “Paris–New Delhi–Canberra” diamond within an Indo-Pacific axis.  Yet this proposal is clarified by French national objectives

Britain’s new Pacific presence

Last week, the UK announced it was establishing diplomatic representation in nine countries: Lesotho, Swaziland, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. From an Oceanian perspective, this might be a game changer. There

Caught in a pincer

China, China, China. All the talk is of increasing Chinese influence in our region. But this is to wilfully ignore the elephant in the room.  Contrary to most commentary, the biggest destabilising player in Melanesia over the past five years has not been China, but Indonesia. Through

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