Thursday 13 Dec 2018 | 09:58 | SYDNEY
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Australia and the Pacific

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

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. 

No zero-sum game in greater Pacific ties

For many commentators with an interest in the Pacific, the emphasis on the region in the Foreign Policy White Paper has been welcomed as long overdue. Yet it has also raised some questions about the manner in which Australia engages in the region. James Batley has questioned whether Australia has

What next for Papua New Guinea?

It has been a tumultuous year for Australia's nearest neighbour. The protracted and controversial elections in Papua New Guinea took up most of 2017, with Peter O'Neill winning a second term and cementing his position as the most formidable politician of his generation. The government

Cleaning up the Manus damage

Last Tuesday saw the official closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, the Australian-funded and managed detention centre for unauthorised boat arrivals in Papua New Guinea. Originally opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government’s Pacific Solution, the centre was closed by the

Paranoia on Aotearoa

Almost 20 years ago to the day, then-Foreign Minister Alexander Downer addressed the University of Auckland on Australia-New Zealand relations: First and foremost, the Australia-New Zealand relationship is a partnership of equals. We do not offer each other unsolicited or patronising advice on how

Australia's marriage-equality debate reverberates through the Pacific

Harriet Smith is an intern in the Melanesia Program, Lowy Institute. As the LGBTQ+ community in Australia continues the struggle for marriage equality, some are asking what impact this will have for our neighbours, especially in nations which still criminalise homosexuality. With the bill to hold

Mapping Pacific aid: Facebook, India and money laundering

Mapping China’s opaque aid program in the Pacific Islands was more complicated and time-consuming than I had anticipated. I made peace with this fact when I found myself building a makeshift 270-degree visual cocoon out of every electronic device in my apartment so that I could cross-check the

Trouble in New Caledonia over links with China

Nickel mine at Thio, Southern Province, New Caledonia Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images In August the economy of the nickel-rich French territory of New Caledonia ground to a halt as truck drivers set up barricades preventing movement at strategic points around the main island. The drivers called for

Turnbull's new cabinet is great news for the Pacific

On Monday, Prime Minister Turnbull unveiled a new cabinet with sweeping changes to the front bench. The most important point for the Pacific is that Julie Bishop retains her position as Foreign Minister, with an improved status in cabinet as one of the kingmakers of the new Government. Steven Ciobo

Australia–Papua New Guinea relations: Could do better

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program, and Jonathan Pryke, Research Fellow. While it's managing its response to serious economic challenges brought about by a budget deficit and drought, Papua New Guinea is preparing to host the Pacific Islands Forum leaders

Papua New Guinea: Keep calm and muddle through?

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program, and Jonathan Pryke, Research Fellow. Papua New Guinea has been in the international spotlight a lot in the last month and it has been almost all bad news. Revelations of a record budget deficit, the emerging worrying impact

Australia's PNG solution: The seeds of sectarianism?

As part of the 'Sectarianism and Religiously Motivated Violence' Masters course run by the Lowy Institute's Rodger Shanahan at ANU's National Security College, students are asked to write an article on contemporary sectarian conflict. This piece by William Stoltz was judged the best of those

Papua's education malaise

This is part 3 of former Fairfax Media Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard's series on Papua. Here is the introduction, part 1 and part 2.  One sunny November school day at a school in Tagime, hundreds of primary and secondary students are outside having a whale of a time. They're playing

For Australians, is PNG a partner or an obligation?

Papua New Guinea will commemorate 40 years of independence from Australia this year. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is using the anniversary to promote the changing nature of Australia's relationship with PNG. In a speech earlier this week she said:   There are challenges and

How government is failing the people of Papua

This is part 2 of former Fairfax Media Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard's series on Papua. The introduction to the series is here, and here' part 1. Gaad Piranid Tabuni grew up in a village in the Papuan highlands of Indonesia too remote for any government – colonial Dutch or

With the missionaries of Papua

This is part 1 of former Fairfax Media Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard's series on Papua. Here is the introduction to the series is here.  On a chilly Sunday evening in Wamena, the highlands capital of Indonesian Papua, a small group of white Christian missionaries worship together in an

Australia-PNG diplomatic spat needs swift resolution

Papua New Guinea has reacted to Australia's recent decision to establish a diplomatic post in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville by banning Australian travel to the province. This spat is proving to be an irritant not only for the friendly relationship between Canberra and Port Moresby, but also

Australia's Pacific aid budget spared from serious cuts

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program, and Phillipa Brant, Research Associate. The Pacific Islands region has been spared any serious impact from cuts to the Australian aid program revealed in budget documents released yesterday. Australia's bilateral program

Cyclone Pam: A photo essay from a volunteer

By Eva Westfield, who was an Australian volunteer based in Port Vila. Consistently rated the most dangerous countries in the world in terms of disaster risk, Vanuatu is no stranger to the destruction caused by natural hazards. Talk of Cyclone Pam hitting Vanuatu started about a week before it

Timor-Leste: New prime minister, new approach

It has finally happened. After months of 'will he, won't he' melodrama, Xanana Gusmão, Timor-Leste's resistance leader and long-serving prime minister, has stepped down. His successor, Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, will be sworn in as prime minister in a ceremony in Dili later today. The new PM will

Freedom of the press in Fiji under pressure

Fiji held its highly anticipated election in September 2014, but does that make it a democracy? There's much more to a functioning democratic system than people putting a mark on a piece of paper and dropping it in a box. Even the international election observers didn't go so far as to say the

Jerry Singirok on PNG violence

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, Director of the Melanesia Program, and Mark Tamsitt, Research Associate at the Lowy Institute. Last weekend's clash between the PNDGF and police, which led to four soldiers being shot and sparked days of rioting and looting in Port Moresby, is a serious incident that needs

New Caledonia: Australia must show assertive impartiality

Thirty years ago to the week, New Caledonia was torn apart by violent protests. The pro-independence FLNKS boycotted an election and town halls were burned throughout the country. It provoked a four-year long civil war euphemistically known as 'the events'. At first, Australia supported the Kanak

The case for Pacific Island regionalism

A few months ago I stood on a beach in Tarawa, the most populous of islands comprising the Micronesian nation of Kiribati. It's long and thin sliver of land where you can walk from one side of the island to the other in minutes. It has a population density up to twice that of Sydney or New York, but

In Fiji, Bainimarama is back, stronger than ever

The Fiji elections have delivered a crushing victory for Rear Admiral (Retd) Bainimarama, author of the 2006 coup. The victory was crushing not only for FijiFirst, Bainimarama's party, but also for him personally. FijiFirst received 293,714 out of 496,364 votes cast, giving the party 59.20% of the

New Caledonia: Australia's benevolent disregard

Imagine that the most senior leader of one of Australia's neighbours resigns suddenly during a visit by a minister. And that this follows an election where the winners cannot agree on allocating a key economic portfolio, a street protest where two policemen are shot and a boozy lunch where a senior

Fiji's election: More to do to restore democracy

After eight years of Voreqe Bainimarama's military rule in Fiji, there is much excitement about the prospects for Fiji's return to democracy with elections next week. Seven parties and one independent candidate will contest 50 parliamentary seats. 591,095 Fijians have registered to vote; 120,000

Fiji's election: Fair and free?

On 17 September, Fiji goes to the polls for the first time in eight years. This is a notable step forward given that, when I spoke to people in Suva a year ago, they were still phrasing things in terms of 'IF the election happens'. With the first pre-polling stations having opened a few days ago,

Abbott's first year: Nowhere to be seen in the Pacific

People who laud Tony Abbott's surefooted foreign policy never mention his role in the Pacific islands. It's hardly surprising. Following the precedent set by John Howard, the Prime Minister has not shown much interest in Australia's closest neighbours. Abbott couldn't even spare a day to attend

How Fiji outsmarted Australia

Last Friday Fijian Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama began his first visit to Australia since taking power in 2006. In response to the 2006 coup, Canberra had imposed travel bans for all members of the Fijian government. These were abandoned earlier this year by the Abbott Government.

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