Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Australia must go big and bold to strengthen its role in the South Pacific

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 25 September 2020


If Australia's relationship with China continues to deteriorate, part of Beijing's response could be to put more effort into challenging our strategic interests in our immediate region - the South Pacific.

This is happening already in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji - our closest and most strategically important neighbours.

However, Australia's approach to countering China's activities in the region needs an urgent rethink.

Advertisement

Our aid programs, generous though they are, as well as the Pacific step-up initiative, on their own are just not capable of successfully challenging and reducing China's regional influence. The time has come for Australia to go big and be bold when it comes to our strategic role in our region, and in PNG in particular.

Our $600-million-a-year PNG aid program needs a major restructure. It's important, and it does good work in PNG, but it is simply not doing anything to minimise China's role right across PNG, in infrastructure, education, agriculture and communications.

Recently, Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest visited PNG and signed a memorandum of understanding with the PNG prime minister to undertake feasibility work on the Purari hydro-power proposal. This project, in the Gulf Province close to Australia, has long been talked about.

Origin Energy devoted some resources to the proposal a decade ago, but sadly it ended up going nowhere. The Queensland government at the time was interested, as were a number of mining companies, but it didn't progress. The PNG government has rekindled interest in the project through its state enterprises holding company, Kumul Consolidated Holdings.

It may well be that Forrest's interest lies in a cheap, reliable energy source as the foundation for a possible smelter in the neighbouring Western Province, which is even closer to Australia.

But the Australian government should not be relying on Forrest alone to advance the proposal. It ought to be a big-picture project to enhance our role in PNG in a way that really helps our neighbour deliver affordable electricity for its people and its businesses, and open up real opportunities for downstream processing, including processing of iron ore and bauxite from Australia.

Advertisement

If Australia embraces this project, in conjunction with banks, construction companies and the minerals sector, it won't be open to the Chinese to potentially invest in.

The other advantage of seriously looking at Purari is that it will reduce the case for another hydro-electric project China is pushing relentlessly with the PNG government - the Ramu 2 hydro-power station.

Initial approval for this project was given in 2015 to a China construction consortium, with China Exim Bank financing. Ramu 2 would probably bankrupt the national power entity, PNG Power, given limited energy demand and the estimated construction cost of around US$2 billion.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first published in The Strategist.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

18 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Jeffrey Wall OBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu – Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Jeffrey Wall

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 18 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy