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Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism

By Anthony Bergin and Richard Herr

This report, authored by Richard Herr and Anthony Bergin, suggests that with rising Chinese influence in the region, the US appears to doubt that Australia can deliver on South Pacific issues.

The Pacific Island members of the United Nations now meet under the rubric of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States that excludes Australia.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group has backed fellow member Fiji against Australian sanctions. The MSG doesn’t include Australia.

Australia is losing influence over collective decision-making in the South Pacific.
Australia should re-gather the threads of regional leadership.

The report makes recommendations to achieve this including: establishing a regional maritime coordination centre; encouraging Chinese participation in regional law enforcement; repairing our relationship with Fiji; providing funding to the MSG Secretariat; introducing a scheme for permanent migration from the smaller island states; assessing the practicality of a regional insurance scheme for natural disasters; including the fisheries sector in our Pacific seasonal worker pilot scheme; offering a program of scholarships to talented Islander children to attend boarding schools in Australia; introducing a Colombo Plan for the Pacific islands; creating an Office of Sport and Diplomacy within DFAT to bring together the people of the Pacific through sport; establishing a Pacific islands studies institute here; and ensuring that a Pacific islands posting is part of a complete Australian diplomatic career.

You can watch Anthony Bergin discussing this paper on ASPI's YouTube channel.