Opening Up to Our Pacific Neighbours

Stewart Firth, Visiting Fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program of the Australian National University

The keynote lecture in Australian Association for Pacific Studies Conference OCEANSCAPES: cooperation across the Pacific

22 April, 2014

Has Australia forgotten its place in the Pacific? As Australian development assistance falls, Chinese development assistance is rising, and politically and economically the Pacific Islands are moving closer to East Asia. In this public lecture Firth will argue that the key to Australia’s future in the Pacific Islands should be openness. Rather than allowing a ‘Fortress Australia’ mentality to infect our Pacific policy, we should be integrating with our Pacific neighbours for mutual benefit in numerous spheres from sport to labour mobility. And as the Pacific Islands move towards free trade with Australia, we should seek a cross-flow of people and cultures and enhance the ability of Pacific Islanders to find employment here.

Stewart Firth

Stewart Firth has been a Visiting Fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program of the Australian National University since 2005. He cites his interest in the Pacific Islands from his time teaching politics at the University of Papua New Guinea in its early years, and was Professor of Politics at the University of South Pacific, Fiji from 1998-2004. He co-edited The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji: a coup to end all coups? (2009), and wrote Australia in International Politics: an introduction to Australian foreign policy (2011) and is a regular contributor on Pacific topics to the annual reference workThe Far East and Australasia. Outside of academic work Firth has undertaken research consultancies for AusAID and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Stewart’s present research deals with development outcomes in the Pacific’s territories and small states, and with changing international relations in the Pacific.