Tuesday 10 Dec 2019 | 15:41 | SYDNEY
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Pacific Islands

An upbeat mood in Buka as Bougainville waits for a result

“Joyous” and “excited” aren’t the first adjectives I normally reach for to describe Buka town, but they are the ones that best encompass the mood here these referendum days. Buka is the administrative capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and centre of operations of the two-

Renting influence: China in the Pacific

Reports of a planned Chinese naval base on a Pacific island nation’s territory in 2018 helped supercharge policy makers’ attention on China’s strategic intentions and rapidly growing economic influence in the island nations of the south Pacific: what Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison

Bougainville referendum: Not the last word

For two weeks from this Saturday, Bougainvilleans will exercise their right to say whether their autonomous archipelago on the eastern edge of Papua New Guinea should become an independent country. This long-awaited referendum was at the heart of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, which marked

PNG’s supplementary budget: An honest accounting

PNG’s supplementary budget passed the parliament last month (October) and represented Prime Minister James Marape’s first tangible policy stance after forming government in May. Compared to the previous forecast, major changes could be seen everywhere – in expenditure, debt, and revenue. PNG

ABC: Australia’s waning soft-power star

As the ABC chair Ita Buttrose reminded the audience at the weekend’s Lowy Institute Media Awards dinner, this year marks 80 years since Australia started broadcasting internationally. As she noted, Prime Minister Bob Menzies mused at the inauguration of the service on 20 December 1939, “The time

Papua New Guinea’s untold media freedom challenge

This article is based on the podcast series “Developing” featuring interviews with PNG journalists, industry leaders, and politicians. Papua New Guinea has gained a reputation – at least, in international reporting on the country – for being corrupt, violent and poor, yet also a

“Accepting the science”, rejecting the action

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a problem. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours urgently want industrialised economies to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions and make policy commitments beyond existing pledges. Senior ministers in the Morrison government, however, do not accept the latest

PNG’s confusing budget debate

Papua New Guinea is in the grips of a confusing debate about the state of the 2019 national budget, including the Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey, Shadow Treasurer Joseph Lelang, and former prime minister Peter O’Neill. It is difficult to determine who is stating the facts as a matter of national

The Bougainville referendum and beyond

As Bougainville prepares for a referendum on independence, Australia must navigate a policy response that acknowledges the history of conflict and colonialism there, Bougainville nationalism, PNG sensitivities, the principles of the guiding Bougainville Peace Agreement and new geostrategic

Bougainville’s predicament, independence or not

The referendum to take Bougainville a step closer to full independence finally looks set to start on 23 November, after the issuing of the writs late last month. Voters will have a fortnight to reach the polling places, which will close on 7 December. The Referendum Commission, chaired by former

With Pacific step up, a chance to step in

The recent state visit by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Washington offers an opportunity to pause and assess where things stand in Australian and United States efforts to respond to Chinese influence in the Pacific and to consider where there is space for improvement. The

Jacques Chirac and the Pacific

Former President Jacques Chirac, a giant of French politics and the man who said “non” to George W Bush and the war in Iraq in 2003, died yesterday at age 86. The news brought a shower of tributes from around the world. In France, a national day of mourning in honour of the former head of

Pacific Aid Map: An update

In August last year, the Lowy Institute launched our flagship Pacific research project, the Pacific Aid Map. Foreign aid is an important resource flow for many parts of the Pacific, making up 7% of regional GDP. Leaving out Fiji and Papua New Guinea, this number shoots up to 27%. But the world of

Quiet and unquiet graves: letter from Port Moresby

“Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them”. I remembered this line of George Eliot as I rattled around Port Moresby in a bus these last few days searching for remnants of colonial New Guinea for a book I am writing. Papua New Guinea was Australia’s only colony, and before

Why did the NZ Opposition Leader jump the shark on China?

One day (well, on 20 May of this year, to be precise) as Opposition Leader you’re launching a discussion document on your party’s international policies. “National’s positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values,” you say. Those values are rooted in our country

Waking up to Australia’s real Pacific family

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has copped flak for claiming that Australia regarded the Pacific countries as vuvale (a Fijian term for family). He was under fire again following the Pacific Island leaders meeting in Tuvalu last month, for emphasising Australia’s aid contributions to the region and

The changing dynamics of Australia, PNG and the Pacific

Prime Minister Scott Morrison showed he was serious about the Pacific “step up” when he ensured that his first overseas visit was to the Solomon islands and the first foreign dignitary he invited to host was Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape. The visit by Marape represented a

Bougainville: A nation in waiting?

On 23 November this year, Bougainvilleans will vote in a referendum to decide whether they wish to stay part of Papua New Guinea or become an independent nation. It is perhaps the high point of a 20-year peace process that in turn followed a gruelling, 10-year battle for independence waged between

Pacific courts need more women judges

On 15 July, Viran Molisa Trief was sworn in as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Vanuatu, becoming the first ethnic Ni-Vanuatu woman appointed to high judicial office. She follows in the footsteps of Justice Mary Sey, from the Gambia, who served as Vanuatu’s first female judge from 2012 to 2017.

The state of the Pacific as the 2019 Forum convenes

The Prime Minister of tiny Tuvalu, a low-lying, reef-fringed island nation with only an 11,000 population, will hope to refocus attention on climate change and the threat of rising sea levels as leaders from the Pacific Islands Forum gather this week. But inevitably other issues will crowd the

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