NOOSA – Confronted with the reality of a resurgent China bolstering its profile in the Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, Australia has undertaken one of its periodic charm offensives with a whirl through the region by foreign minister Julie Bishop.
The ABC’s Papua New Guinea correspondent Eric Tlozek reported that Bishop’s tour was a sign that the Australian government is “making a push to re-establish itself as the dominant nation in the South Pacific, with fresh aid spending and official visits”.
But, with Australian investment in PNG going backwards as Chinese money becomes more dominant, it appears once again that Australian diplomacy fits more into its chronic “too little, too late” category rather than signalling a new era of partnership with the region.
But New Ireland governor Sir Julius Chan rained on the parade telling Ms Bishop the shine was coming off the Australia - PNG relationship.
"I actually told Australia that it is very, crucially important that we keep the lustre between our friendship, which was established during the war years and thereafter, but now we're losing that lustre," he told the ABC.
But Ms Bishop said Australia is funding programs to promote good governance which will strengthen relationships.
"We believe that we are the natural partner of choice along with New Zealand for the islands of the Pacific where we work across a whole range of areas," she said.
Sources: Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand