Call for new Australian govt to treat Pacific more maturely

An Australian expert on the Pacific region has warned Australia’s new prime minister Anthony Albanese not to approach the Pacific with a “colonial mentality”, but to build stronger relationships with Pacific nations.

Writing exclusively for The Pacific Advocate, Jeffrey Wall, who was an adviser to former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu when he was in office, said it would be a mistake to view the regional challenge only through the eyes of China’s growing influence and the recent security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands.

“What is needed is a comprehensive reassessment of our relationship with all the countries in our region, and not just the Solomon Islands,” he said, calling on Australia to reassess it’s relationship and rebuild its influence and standing in the region.

“At the very heart of our reassessment should be how we can focus on stronger ‘people to people’ relationships.”

Mr Wall also called on Australia to work more closely with New Zealand, who “has a better association with, and understanding of, its own area of influence including Tonga, Samoa and Fiji, all of which have been subjected to China’s attention in recent years.”

He believes that a key area Australia must step up on is climate change.

“We cannot ignore the reality that many of our Pacific neighbours believe we are weak on reducing global emissions.”

However he said other areas also need to be addressed, including the Pacific workers scheme, a review of visa arrangements, and education.

The solution, according to Mr Wall, is stronger and more diverse ‘people to people’ relationships.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attends the QUAD leaders’ summit on May 24, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: Yuichi Yamazaki / Pool / Anadolu Agency via AFP

“Just tipping more aid money into the region in general just won’t make a difference. By cleverly using Belt and Road lending, China can more than match whatever we provide via increased aid.”

These relationships include consulting “well beyond the Canberra bureaucracy” and talking to regional business councils, churches, schools and universities which have various levels of community engagement already.

Will Australia’s new PM meet Pacific expectations?
PNG in dangerous waters

“In the case of neighbours such as Fiji and Vanuatu we should examine how we can assist with the development of their tourism sectors hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Papua New Guinea desperately needs support in re-building agriculture, managing its forestry sector, and expanding the on-shore processing of fisheries.”

He believes the Albanese Government has unique opportunity to strengthen Australia’s strategic interest in the region.

Read Jeffrey Wall’s opinion piece HERE.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

Send this to a friend