Pacific responses to AUKUS announcement

The recent AUKUS announcement regarding the pathway to nuclear-powered submarines for Australia prompted a range of responses from Pacific leaders.

At the positive end of the spectrum is Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka of Fiji while hosting Prime Minister Albanese who stopped off in Suva on his way home from San Diego. Rabuka welcomed the announcement saying it would provide skilled labour opportunities for Fijians.

However, former Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, was much more critical. She has cautioned Pacific leaders to be paying much more attention to geopolitical manoeuvres on which they are not consulted, such as the coining of ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’.

This was echoed in a speech given by Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Prime Minister of Samoa in a speech she gave recently in Canberra. Fiame also said that she understood Australia’s strategic calculus in going down the path of nuclear-powered submarines.

Disappointment in Fiji over media reform

The government in Fiji has come under criticism for what some see as a walk back from a major election commitment.

All the parties that now form the coalition government had campaigned on platforms that included the repeal of the draconian Media Industry Development Act. However, what the government has offered most recently is a review of the legislation. Last week we saw the opening of consultations around the refreshed version of the law captured in the Media Ownership and Registration Bill of 2023.

The proposed legislation does away with some of the most concerning provisions of the previous law, relating to content. However, it preserves rules relating to media ownership and cross-ownership which some believe will put a brake on much-needed investment into the sector.

The Rabuka government has maintained it is fully committed to free media within a democratic Fiji.

Other Pacific News:

Vanuatu and Tuvalu have co-hosted a meeting of six Pacific island countries resulting in a call for greater ambition in eliminating the use of fossil fuels. The signatories to the “Port Vila Call” are urging all countries to sign up for a fossil fuels non-proliferation treaty.

US national security advisor for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell has visited several countries in the region, including Solomon Islands. Whilst in Vanuatu he confirmed that the US government was looking to open an embassy there.

The Biden administration has revealed that it will seek US$7.1 billion over 20 years to extend the funding arrangements with the Compact States: Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Republic of Marshall Islands.

In the recent US budget, the Biden administration has provided huge allocations to Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, and the Republic of Marshall Islands. The bulk of the money is allocated to renewal of the Compacts of Free Association funding.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is hosting a regional conference to commence work on the implementation of the Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change Related Sea Level Rise.


Tess Newton Cain is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead for the Griffith Pacific Hub.