As the biggest and most powerful country in the region, Australia is giving fresh thought to how best to interact with its Pacific neighbours.
Australia has a long—and mostly positive—history of interaction with its South-Pacific neighbours. Whenever a natural disaster strikes, Australia is quick to provide humanitarian assistance. But neighbourly goodwill isn’t Australia’s only motivation to remain close to these strategically positioned countries. With various potential threats to the north, Australia must ensure its Pacific neighbours don’t become extensions of countries that could pose threats—such as China. An Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee has released a report on defence relations with Pacific island nations, with three other reports to follow shortly. The parliamentary report is grounded in Canberra’s conception of the responsibilities it wants to shoulder and the regional leadership it wants. Recommendations include increasing the frequency of existing surveillance operations and increased intelligence sharing. The report also suggests exploring the idea of a Pacific islands regiment to enhance ‘the integration of Australian, Pacific Island and other military forces’.