Campaign for a Pacific Islands Community

There is an ongoing trend around the world towards regional integration, following the example of the European Union (EU). We see this as a step on the way towards global integration, and a trend to be welcomed and encouraged. In our region, the future of the Pacific Islands Forum which comprises 18 Pacific Island states including Australia and New Zealand, has been under ongoing discussion – see documents referred to below. The possibility of forming a Pacific Islands Community or common market has been raised, and even a South Pacific Union, or political community, following broadly the track marked out by the EU. The idea of a Pacific Union was raised by Sir Peter Cosgrove, our former Governor-General. We support these ideas whole-heartedly, and we made a submission to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism advocating a Pacific Islands Community as the next step in regional integration. We will continue to support new initiatives along these lines whenever we can, as a major focus of the Association. This is a more local issue where we can perhaps have more impact and see more immediate outcomes than on more global issues.

                                             March 2020. The recent fears about rising Chinese influence in the Pacific, and the consequent ‘step up’in

                                             Australia’ relations with the Forum, seemed to offer a new opportunity to promote this concept, and we sent

                                             letters to political leaders on both sides of politics about it. Consequently, we received an invitation from the

                                             Prime Minister’s office to meet with DFAT officials to discuss our ideas.

 

                                             As a result, Pera Wells and I had a meeting on 28th February with three DFAT officers from the new Office of the

                                             Pacific, headed by John Williams, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Strategy Division. We were delighted to learn that 

                                             our previous submissions had been noted, and some of our ideas may be slowly filtering through the

                                             system – at least they haven’t vanished into the void without trace!.  A new ‘Blue Pacific’ strategy is under

                                             development within the Forum over the next two years, and we plan to follow up where we can.

 

                                             The parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has been calling for

                                              submissions to inquiries they are holding on aspects of the ‘step up’ program. Pera and I have made new

                                              submissions to two of these inquiries, the first one on ‘Australia's Defence relationships with Pacific Island nations’, and the second on ‘Strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region’ .

 

Chris Hamer

Relevant documents:

  •  The Pacific Plan can be found on the Pacific Islands Forum website

  • Address ‘The Future of Regionalism in the Pacific‘, by Tuila’epa Sailele, Prime Minister of Samoa, chairman of the Forum (2004-5)

  • ‘A Pacific engaged: Australia’s relations with Papua New Guinea and the island states of the southwest Pacific’, Report by the Australian Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee (12 August 2003) recommending a ‘Pacific economic and cultural community’

  • Our Submission to the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.

  • The 'Blue Pacific' strategy

  • Our submission on ‘Australia's Defence relationships with Pacific Island nations’

  • Our submission on 'Strengthening Australia’s relationships with countries in the Pacific region

Peter Cosgrove wants Australia to foster an EU style approach in the Pacific. AAP/Alan Porritt


April 11, 2013. Delivering the Sir Paul Hasluck Oration in Melbourne, Former defence chief Peter Cosgrove has proposed Australia enter an economic union with Pacific countries, saying this would promote stability in the region. General Cosgrove said that while this perhaps this did not need to be as comprehensive or as close as the European Union, ‘’I would start with the objects in and the operations of the EU in mind.” “In an economic sense, at present we are the major supermarket and also in some areas the wholesale distribution warehouse.” This made for a supplicant or take-it-or-leave-it relationship. Instead, “we should contemplate some kind of closer of interdependent economic relationship with the countries of the Pacific Forum,” he said.

. Australia could not make a greater real contribution to the strong and peaceful development and viability of the region than such an initiative. “It would not only flow into commercial arrangements but into labour markets, and thus into social and cultural issues.” “If we do embark in something positive, significant and transformational with our friends in our closer neighbourhood, then we really will have contributed greatly to peace and security in the region”  

From Alan Porritt

Note: Our World Citizens Association supports greater integration in the Pacific region, perhaps in the form of a Pacific Community rather than a Union at this stage. Peter Cosgrove was formerly Australia’s Governor-General.

 

Summer 2019

                 

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, attended the annual meeting of Forum leaders in Tuvalu in August. Aiming to counter the increasing influence of China in the Pacific, he has announced a ‘step-up’ in relations with the island members of the Forum. Our development assistance to the region has reached record levels of $1.4 billion, apparently, despite a decreasing overall aid budget, and we will spend $500 million on ‘climate change’ in the Pacific region!

 

Since then, the Prime Minister has made a second visit to Fiji, and relations between Australia and Fiji seem to have improved from their somewhat frosty state of recent years. Subsequently, the Fijian Defence Minister, Inia Seruiratu, has suggested that Australia should revisit the idea of setting up a Pacific Island Regiment consisting of Pacific Islanders.

   

All this suggests fertile territory for pushing again the WCAA idea of a Pacific Islands Community, to provide a “step-up” in political and security cooperation between the members of the Forum. We have sent this document to parliamentary leaders on both sides of politics, hoping for a response. Watch this space!