The Pacific step-up: Will it work and what happens if not?


Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 23 July 2019


APCD Lecture Theatre, Hedley Bull Building 130, corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU


James Gilling, Hugh White, Katerina Teaiwa, and Graeme Smith


Yanhong Ouyang

As China’s influence extends into Australia’s immediate neighbourhood, Scott Morrison has quickly put Pacific affairs at the centre of his foreign policy. But is his embrace of the “Pacific family” too late? What risks do China and other foreign players pose? And is Canberra now neglecting other vital concerns in the South Pacific, including the threat of climate change and the challenges facing Australia’s fastgrowing neighbour, Papua New Guinea?

This discussion, presented by the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs (ANU), coinciding with the launch of the July issue of Australian Foreign Affairs, “Our Sphere of Influence: Rivalry in the Pacific”, will feature some of Australia’s leading foreign affairs and Pacific experts. The panel will examine Australia’s security and diplomacy challenges, such as China’s growing reach into the Pacific and the impact that climate change will have in reshaping Canberra’s ties with its Pacific neighbours.

The Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs hosts the largest number of Pacific experts in the world within its Department of Pacific Affairs.

James Gilling joined AusAID in 2001 as an economic adviser. He has been posted to Fiji and Indonesia, where he was head of the aid program from 2013 to 2015. He managed the Development Policy and Pacific divisions under AusAID and managed the Contracting and Aid Management Division from 2015 to 2018 in DFAT.

Hugh White AO is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University. He has worked on Australian and regional strategic, defence and foreign policy issues since 1980. He has been an intelligence analyst, journalist, ministerial adviser, departmental official, think tanker and academic. In the 1990s he served as International Relations Adviser to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and as Deputy Secretary of Defence for Strategy and Intelligence. He was the principal author of Australia’s 2000 Defence White Paper. His most recent publication is How to Defend Australia, published this year by Black Inc.

Associate Professor Katerina Teaiwa’s main area of research looks at the histories of British, Australian and New Zealand phosphate mining in the central Pacific. She focuses on the movement of Banaban rock and the complex power relations created by the mining, shipping, production and consumption of superphosphate and ensuing commodities. She also studies the ways in which indigenous Banabans make sense of this difficult history of double displacement in their new home of Rabi Island in Fiji. She is interested in the cultural, economic, environmental and political relations within and between island regions. Her work is captured in Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba Indiana_ University Press (2015).

Dr Graeme Smith is a fellow in the Department of Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University. He studies Chinese outbound investment, aid and migration in the Asia-Pacific, with projects in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa and Myanmar. He also hosts the Little Red Podcast with former BBC and NPR correspondent Louisa Lim, covering China beyond the Beijing beltway.

Australian journalist and author, Mary-Louise O’Callaghan will chair the panel.

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