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9 - Australia, the Pacific Islands and Timor-Leste

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2024

James Cotton
Affiliation:
University of New South Wales, Sydney
John Ravenhill
Affiliation:
Australian National University, Canberra
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Summary

Australia devotes more diplomatic energy to its relations with the South Pacific states and Timor-Leste than their modest populations might seem to justify. Only Papua New Guinea (PNG) (6.6 million) and Timor-Leste (1.1 million) have populations of more than one million, followed by Fiji (840 000) and Solomon Islands (518 000), with the rest easily qualifying as microstates. The total population of the South Pacific region and Timor-Leste (fewer than ten million) is dwarfed by that of their regional neighbour Indonesia (240 million). Australia became more closely involved with this region and expended more diplomatic resources on it between 2005 and 2010 than at any time since the Pacific Island states first became independent. Australian troops were in continuous deployment to Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands, and were briefly sent to Tonga. A coup in Fiji, the fourth in 20 years, created a nagging diplomatic problem for the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments, which could not condone a Pacific dictatorship and yet sought to avoid a total breakdown in relations with a country of regional importance.

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Chapter
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Australia in World Affairs 2006–2010
Middle Power Dreaming
, pp. 127 - 142
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
First published in: 2024

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