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Australia needs to treat the Pacific with a little more respect

THE flying visit by Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, this month through Fiji and Vanuatu has been hailed as the beginning of a new era in regional détente.

It was the first bi-lateral visit made by an Australian prime minister in more than 20 years – a period in which China has increased its sphere of influence throughout the Pacific.

At this point in geo-political relations, Beijing can argue that it probably has the ears of every Pacific leader while Canberra can no longer claim to have such an audience.

With China and India increasing their economic powers and political influence and a belligerent heavily armed neighbour – Indonesia – on its northern border, Australia has been forced into its current position.

Australia has been forced to return to its eastern neighbours for whom it was Big Brother post-World War II until John Howard decided to play global policeman with the United States.

Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama is not the first leader of his country to turn the nation’s focus north after being rebuffed by the Australians for the illegal takeover of an elected government.

In 1987 Sitiveni Rabuka sought alliances with Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea in order to equip his burgeoning military which plays an unsupervised influence over national politics.

As Rabuka mellowed and moved from military ruler to statesman, he courted the Commonwealth and warmed previously frozen relationships with Australia and New Zealand.

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