Pacific Islands ignored under Australia's 'short attention span'

February 19, 2013, University of Melbourne

Australian foreign policy often overlooks the Pacific and the post of Minister for Pacific Island Affairs should be re-established, University of Melbourne research has determined.

Dr Jonathan Schultz analysed Australia's treatment and policy attitudes to the Pacific under the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments (1988-2007).

"A pattern has emerged of repeated phases of invigorated engagement and stagnation. We keep making similar mistakes and having to relearn the same lessons," he said.

His study, 'Overseeing and Overlooking', finds periods of engagement often occur in response to a natural disaster or political crisis, or on the 'whim' of the Foreign Minister or Prime Minister.

"Australia lacks a strong, long-term policy orientation in the pacific, and our level of engagement therefore fluctuates wildly," Dr Schultz said.

The "volatile and reactive nature" of Australian involvement in the Pacific undermines the effectiveness of its policies, the report finds.

Dr Schultz said the situation was exacerbated by the low level of importance placed on Pacific issues within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"Within the bureaucracy, desks have rarely been considered prestigious places to work and have consequently attracted few ambitious staff," he said.

"Diplomatic postings in the Pacific islands have historically been offered to personnel who are either young or approaching retirement.

"Australia needs to find a way to maintain strong and ongoing relationships with Pacific island nations that will withstand the inevitable disturbances that occur.

"One first step would be to upgrade the status of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, to that of a dedicated minister,  with greater departmental resources and a higher public profile," Dr Schultz said.

Explore further: Australia gives $104 million to fighting malaria

More information: dtl.unimelb.edu.au//exlibris/d … ZWRpYS8yODcyNDU=.pdf

Related Stories

Australia gives $104 million to fighting malaria

November 2, 2012

(AP)—Australia will spend more than 100 million Australian dollars ($104 million) over the next four years to help reduce deaths from malaria in the Asia-Pacific region.

Airlift for drought-stricken Pacific island

October 7, 2011

New Zealand and Australia will Friday begin an airlift to help supply fresh water to the tiny drought-stricken Pacific nation of Tuvalu, which is under a state of emergency due to the crisis.

Second Pacific island declares drought emergency

October 4, 2011

A second South Pacific community has declared a state of emergency in a drought crisis that has seen water rationing imposed in parts of the region, officials in Wellington said Tuesday.

Pacific's Tokelau in world first solar switch

November 7, 2012

The remote Pacific islands of Tokelau have become the first territory in the world to generate their electricity entirely from solar energy, in a project hailed as an environmental milestone.

Recommended for you

Amazon River pirating water from neighboring Rio Orinoco

August 16, 2018

The Amazon River is slowly stealing a 40,000-square-kilometer (25,000-square-mile) drainage basin from the upper Orinoco River, according to new research suggesting this may not be the first time the world's largest river ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.