19 Feb 2013

Academic advises Australia to refocus on Pacific

3:14 pm on 19 February 2013

An Australian academic is calling for changes in the way Australian governments treat the Pacific to ensure it can maintain strong stable relationships with island nations.

The University of Melbourne's Dr Jonathan Schultz says Australian policy attitudes to the Pacific leap from invigorated engagement to stagnation.

He says this means governments repeat mistakes and have to relearn the same lessons.

Dr Schultz puts some of the blame down to the low prestige given to the Pacific within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

He says one change that could help reverse this would be taking the MP responsible for the region into Cabinet.

"Rather than have the Pacific come under the remit of a parliamentary secretary to upgrade that status to a ministry so thereby gaining greater resources and a greater public profile and presumably the bureaucrats working under that greater prestige, but you know that is just the first step. We really need to make the Pacific more explicitly important part of Australia's stance in its foreign relations."

Dr Jonathan Schultz of the University of Melbourne