Patrick Köllner

Australia and New Zealand's Pacific Policy: Aligned, not Alike

Political Science | 2022

  • Abstract

    Faced with growing Chinese engagement in the Pacific, the two traditional regional powers in that world region, Australia and New Zealand (NZ), unveiled major policy initiatives in the late 2010s. Both Australia’s "Pacific Step-Up" and NZ’s "Pacific Reset" featured substantial increases in terms of development cooperation, diplomatic posts, and high-level exchanges, thus credibly signalling the two allies’ desire to remain partners of first choice for Pacific Island Countries.
    Alignment, however, does not mean that Australia's and NZ’s Pacific policies are alike. A paired comparison highlights significant differences with respect to security and migration. I argue that the strong focus in Australia’s Pacific policy on hard security reflects not only the country’s more pronounced military profile and its alliance with the United States but also the country’s greater sense of vulnerability, which derives in part from its geographic and historical linkages with Melanesia. This contrasts with NZ’s more unburdened traditional focus on Polynesia. I then trace the very different Pacific population profiles of the two Australasian states back to NZ’s much greater openness to permanent migration from the region – reflecting both constitutional obligations and the development of distinct migration pathways for Pacific people. These differences are of a structural nature and are bound to shape Australia's and NZ’s policy approaches to the Pacific in the longer term.


    Political Science







    Prof. Dr. Patrick Köllner

    Direktor des GIGA Instituts für Asien-Studien / Vizepräsident

    T. +49 (0)40 - 42 88

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