The Guardian • Issue #2100


How’s the neighbourhood?

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2100

Most people ‘do a 360’ – look around – on the neighbourhood before they move in, and keep their eye on it thereafter.

At first glance, Australia looks like it’s in a good area, nice, quiet, and safe. Aussies sometimes joke about war with Aotearoa/New Zealand, because it seems like such a remote possibility. Jokes like that work because at the back of our minds, we believe that our region, the Pacific, is nice and quiet.

That’s possible because our media ignore it. We don’t do a 360, but we should.

Our neighbourhood is full of potential trouble, stemming from capitalism and imperialism past and present. What’s happening in New Caledonia/Kanaky at the moment is just the latest indication.

In Kanaky, people are rioting because France has taken action to dilute the voting rights of the indigenous population. French President Macron, desperate to maintain France’s importance in the region, is sending troops, but not backing down on legislation that diminishes the votes of the people whose country it is. It’s easy to poke fun at the insecure French, but this is not about national character, it’s about power. Macron has his eye on the country’s mineral rights, and the countries that back him want to keep the imperialist presence in the Pacific. Kanaky has 25 per cent of the world’s nickel deposits.

Fiji has a recent history of coups and shows the long shadow of imperialism. Britain, as it did in Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere, imported a large chunk of the population and made them a caste apart, without asking anyone. In Fiji the British basically set up the chiefs system.

Papua New Guinea was only given independence in 1975, by Australia. This country has 839 thriving languages. It only gets in the news here when there is a crisis.

West Papua is written off by most Australian media (but not this paper), as inextricably colonised by Indonesia. They used to write off Timor Leste that way too. There will be more action there.

Most Pacific countries only come to Australian attention when there’s a problem that affects Australia, or threatens to disturb the US/Australian view that the Pacific is our ‘backyard’ – as when the Solomon Islands dared to have friendly relations with China, causing massive pearl-clutching in the Australian media.

We know all sorts of minute details about the US and the UK – details of accents, local governors, you name it, but very little about our supposed backyard.  It looks quiet. It isn’t.

Recently there has been a lot of indignation that China might have a fraction of the Big Power influence Australia used to take for granted.

There is a problem in the neighbourhood which requires our attention. It’s us. Australia does the work of capital in this part of the world. Catering to large corporations, we are causing accelerating climate change, which endangers our future survival and that of the Pacific nations. Our enthusiasm for US power means we’re ignoring nearby countries which could be allies and partners, instead doing the bidding of the world’s prime imperialist power. We’re making the neighbourhood less safe in all sorts of ways.

The Guardian – the Workers’ Weekly does its best to report on the neighbourhood, unlike most other Australian media. If you appreciate that, subscribe and/or donate to the Press Fund.

Keep an eye on the neighbourhood. We can’t just move out and it’s not going to stay quiet.

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