Host, Professor Renee Jeffery chats with Adjunct Associate Professor Tess Newton Cain, Griffith Asia Institute about her research, analysis and journey to studying the Pacific.During 2019 Tess led the research team that worked on ‘Pacific perspectives on the world: Listening to Australia’s island neighbours in order to build strong, respectful and sustainable relationships‘ that was published by The Whitlam Institute and Peacifica in February 2020. It draws on a rich set of data collected via focus groups and individual interviews with 150 people in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. More broadly, ‘Pacific Perspectives’ is a descriptor for Tess’s work as a researcher, as an adviser to governments and regional organisations, and as an analyst who contributes to public debates on Pacific policy in Australia and elsewhere.
Pacific Islands bushfire assistance - Tess Newton Cain
Griffith in Asia
The Pacific Island nations are stepping up to offer assistance to Australia in the midst of the bushfire crisis. Vanuatu has offered almost a quarter of a million dollars to the Rural Fire Service, while an appeal fund has been set up in Papua New Guinea, with the government there also offering to send a thousand military personnel and fire fighters. Private enterprise in Vanuatu, PNG, and also Fiji, are getting involved in fundraising too, even though in Fiji's case they are already dealing with the aftermath of Cyclone Sarai that hit parts of the country just last week. And indeed at this time of the year, in the midst of cyclone season, it is often the disaster prone island countries with small economies that turn to Australia for help. However this time the roles have been reversed, and Pacific analyst, Tess Newton Cain, from the Griffith Asia Institute, says that's despite relations between Australia and the islands being rather frosty in recent times, and particularly over climate change.
35. Australia, the PRC, and the Pacific - with Tess Newton Cain
The ACRI Podcast
The Pacific has become much more central to foreign policy discussions in Australia over the last few years, with clear political bipartisanship on the need to forge closer ties with Pacific nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November last year declared that Australia would ‘step up’ in the Pacific and take its engagement with the region to ‘a new level’. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged in parallel that ‘a Labor Government will put the Pacific front and centre in our regional foreign policy’.Prime Minister Morrison during his November Pacific ‘step up’ speech announced a vast swathe of initiatives across the diplomatic, military, financial and people-to-people realms for engagement with countries in the Pacific. What are the major driving forces behind Australia’s Pacific ‘step-up’, and how has it been received by Pacific nations?Australia’s increasing focus on the Pacific has come against the backdrop of increased engagement by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with Pacific nations and Australian concerns about the regional balance of power. A major question that policymakers and analysts are grappling with is what the motivations behind China’s activities in the Pacific are. What is the nature of the PRC’s engagement with the Pacific, and how effective is it? How have Australian and PRC initiatives been received by Pacific nations thus far? And what scope might there be for cooperation between Australia, the PRC, and Pacific nations in regional development?Dr Tess Newton Cain, an independent researcher and consultant with over 20 years of experience in governance, policy and political analysis of the Pacific Islands region, joins Elena Collinson, senior researcher at the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to discuss these questions and more. Dr Newton Cain provides insights on the Australian strategic debate with respect to the PRC and the Pacific, the PRC’s ambitions in the region, as well as – importantly – the views of Pacific nations, and more.