Australia’s Labor government is promising Pacific countries a new and friendlier era in diplomatic relations. But without challenging the vested interests and right-wing politics that dominate the region, these promises are altogether empty.
The new opposition Liberal Party leader (and previous immigration minister) Peter Dutton was famously joking about the threat of rising seas to Pacific Islands. This was just one example of the “disrespect” Penny Wong has repeatedly referred to on her Pacific tour.
But Australia’s neglect of its climate commitments and the existential threat it continues to pose to its neighbors is not fundamentally an attitude problem. It’s a problem of interests.