The Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the Melanesian states are so weak they offer potential havens for terrorists. It says Australia must start nation building in the region, or risk seeing the creation of Melanesian badlands run by criminals, not governments.
DOBELL: The Institute is uncertain about the continued viability of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as nation states. It says their governments are weak, transient and hard to deal with, corruption is rife and economies are stagnant.
The review says the countries of Melanesia offer potential havens for terrorists and could serve as bases for attacks against Australia.
The author of the review, Aldo Borgu.
BORGU: “One of the issues that certainly has come to the fore since Afghanistan is the prospect of failed states offer and operating a base for a lot of these countries. I wouldn’t want to overstate the capabilities of groups like al Qaeda actually physically operate from the South Pacific.
” I mean in many cases these people would stand out in those areas. The problem is I think largely one of financing and particularly in terms of money laundering being able to go through those areas.
“But it’s also a case of taking advantage of the wider instability that could actually come about from those countries and the general lawlessness that we face. And I mean one of the things though that the South Pacific does also underline is that it’s not just the threat of terrorism that we face.
“I mean these countries have got substantial problems in their own right, which as we’ve seen a couple of years ago will actually call upon the government and the ADF to actually go in and protect and rescue Australian nationals. So it basically serves both purposes”.
DOBELL: The Strategic Policy Institute says Australia risks seeing Melanesia degenerate into lawless badlands ruled by criminals.
The government funded think-tank calls for Australia to take a new and active role in the South Pacific to deal with failing and failed states.
The Director of the Institute, Hugh White, says Australia needs a new policy paradigm for the South Pacific. He says this profound rethink means Australia must be willing to do nation building in the Pacific.
WHITE: “It sounds like nation building because that’s what it is, but you see I wouldn’t support the proposition that that is dangerous.
“Is it risky ? Is it costly ? Is it arduous ? Is it demanding? It’s all of those things, but are there alternatives?
“Well all I can say is under the old policy paradigm, which frankly you know people like me and people of my generation have been supporting and working within for 15 or 20 years.
“All we can say is under that policy paradigm we have in the Solomons a country in very, very deep trouble.
“And in PNG and Vanuatu for example countries whose trajectories are – to put it politely – far from promising.
“So all we know about the old approach is it hasn’t work, so I think we do need to look a bit at the alternatives.
“On the other hand the sort of scary aspect of that phrase nation building does remind us that you need to be very careful about how you get into this business.
“So it’s not just a matter of saying well let’s get in there.
“And in particular let’s not think that this is our reversion to colonialism or whatever else it ought to be it better not be that”.