July 15, 2019

Palau awarded 2025 Pacific Mini Games

Palau awarded 2025 Pacific Mini Games

Palau have been awarded the 2025 Pacific Mini Games, it was announced in Apia Sunday.

It will be the second time Palau has held the event, with its largest city Koror hosting in 2005.

The decision to award the Games to Palau comes after the Pacific Games Council (PGC) were forced to defer the bid process.

American Samoa and Niue both lodged bids in the initial process, but were deemed to have failed to meet requirements last year.

Both bids lacked the Government guarantee which is required to host, with the PGC saying the financial underwriting of the Games is essential.

American Samoa had featured in the second bid process, but were beaten by Palau.

Palau secured 16 of the 21 votes cast.

The multi-sport event is a scaled down version of the Pacific Games.

The ongoing Samoa 2019 Pacific Games here have featured 26 sports, compared to the last edition of the Mini Games which had 14.

Vanuatu staged the last edition of the Pacific Mini Games back in December 2017.

The next edition is due to take place in Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands in 2021.

The PGC also named their first life member with New Caledonia's Roger Kaddour receiving the honour.

Kaddour was one of the three drafters of the original PGC charter in the early 1960s.
He later served as the President of the Pacific Games Council.

Kaddour led the Organising Committees of the 1966 and 1987 Pacific Games, two of the three occasions New Caledonia has hosted.

Approval was granted for the creation of life membership positions at last year's General Assembly.

The category will recognise significant service by an individual.

A maximum of three life memberships will be allowed at any one time.

Both associate and life memberships will be proposed by the PGC Executive Committee, and require the approval of the General Assembly.

The PGC meeting was held Sunday on the rest day of Samoa 2019.


45 vehicles used during APEC in PNG still missing

45 vehicles used during APEC in PNG still missing

 The Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government is looking for 45 vehicles used during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in November which have not been returned to the Finance Department.

Finance Secretary Dr Ken Ngangan said some of the missing vehicles could still be with government departments which were using them then. All departments had been instructed early this year to return all the vehicles.

“In the disposal process we will be asking for all those assets to be returned to the (Port Moresby) wharf or to the Finance department so we can dispose of them cleanly,” he said.

Of the 502 new vehicles acquired for the international event in Port Moresby, 166 were donated and 336 bought by the Government.

“I would like to give confidence to the general public that all assets purchased during Apec will be publicly and transparently disposed of,” Dr Ngangan said.

Last Friday, 35 donated vehicles including fire trucks and ambulances were handed over to authorities including the Fire Service, provincial health authorities and the St John Ambulance.

There are 131 donated vehicles remaining.

“It has taken us quite a while to reach this stage in the disposal of the Apec assets,” he said.

“Basically we wanted to the do this correctly following the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, National Procurement Act, the clearance by the State Solicitor and the Ombudsman Commission following due process.

“Having gained National Executive Council concurrence on those processes, we have now come to the stage where we feel that we have met those processes and we are able to start disposing the assets.” So far, two of the 40 Maserati vehicles have been sold with 38 remaining.

Of the two Bentley vehicles, one has been sold and the other given to Government House.

Ngangan said for the benefit of public and state institutions that have written in requesting for APEC assets, the 131 donated vehicles will be disposed of this week.

“The next stage we will be looking at state purchases of 336 vehicles.

“We will start going through that. We have the full details of the vehicles, the cost, and the state of those vehicles.”

Meanwhile, the Finance Department will re-conduct the auction of the Bentley and Maserati vehicles used for the APEC Leaders’ Summit last November.

Minister Charles Abel said Cabinet had instructed the department to re-conduct the auction here and abroad so that they could be disposed of and the State to benefit from the revenue. The reserve price for a Maserati is K400,000 (US$118,000) (minimum) and Bentley K800,000 (US$236,000) (minimum).

Abel told The National that the first tender exercise was conducted but there was no minimum reserve price set.

“People thought you can just offer anything for the vehicles so we received many bids well below the value of those vehicles – K50,000 (US$14,775), K60,000 (US$17,730) bids,” he said.

“We want to make sure that the bid is placed on some of the international auction sites and people overseas, fleet owners and companies could make a bid.”

He said local and international bidders should have the opportunity to buy the assets.

“The priority is to sell them. In the absence of that, the State will look after them and utilise them for special purposes when the State holds events,” Abel said.

He said the APEC report was in the hands of the Auditor-General.

“We just want that process expedited and we will offer him every support to ensure that happens,” he said. “We want that to come out as soon as possible as significant amounts of money were spent some of the assets are quite visible and it was a massive undertaking.

“We always understood there was a budget and we stuck to that but the details of that needs to be made public. We will try our best to make it in the next session of parliament,” he said.

Abel, said the Government is doing its best to settle the outstanding K20 million (US$5.9 million) owed to APEC service-providers.

Abel said they had the list of creditors who would be paid once the payment vetting process was completed.

“We are now going through most of the ones that are relatively clear. They have been paid but where there are questions, the State has to make sure that State money goes to valid claims,” he said.

“We don’t have money lying around.

“We are having to prioritise which unfortunately leads to rationing and there has to be delays in certain things.

“We have to ensure the tuition fee-free fund is paid, ensure money is there for medical procurement, our wages are paid and loan repayments are paid.”

Abel said while the Government was focusing on paying bills, it must also focus on collecting revenue.

“Each and every item in the revenue side of budget is collectable. There is no excuse,” he said.

“People must pay their dividends and the State will be able to fund its obligations.

“We did a lot of catch-up exercises on Nambawan Super payments, councillors’ allowances.

“We managed to pay functional grants to provincial governments last year.

“It was the first time in long time,” he said.


Australia must prepare for a Chinese military base in the Pacific

Australia must prepare for a Chinese military base in the Pacific

The cost of keeping China out of the region is too great, we must build forces that could counter its operations instead

By Hugh White

Let’s be honest: Australians have never had much time for our South Pacific neighbours.

The island nations that lie to our north and north-east, stretching from Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to Vanuatu, Fiji and beyond, may be close to us geographically, but we have not found them especially interesting, important or profitable.

With a few honourable exceptions, and tourism aside, Australians have been indifferent to our nearest neighbours’ dramatic landscapes, their rich and diverse cultures, and their general welfare, and we have seen relatively few opportunities for trade.

Only their strategic significance has attracted us: the islands scattered widely across the north of our continent are critical to our protection from armed attack. Our closest neighbours are crucial to the defence of our continent simply because of their proximity.

Military operations are governed by distance. Whether you can sink a ship, bomb an airfield or seize a town – and, critically, how much it will cost – depends on how far your forces must operate from their bases and how far the enemy must operate from theirs.

For much of our history, distance has worked to Australia’s advantage. We have been secure because we are remote. But we lose this advantage if a potentially hostile great power can operate from bases close to our shores.

The China wake-up call

“We would view with great concern the establishment of any foreign military bases in those Pacific Island countries and neighbours of ours.” That was then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in April 2018, responding to press reports last April that China was seeking to build a naval base in Vanuatu.

The story was swiftly and categorically denied by both Beijing and Port Vila, and Julie Bishop, then minister for foreign affairs, poured cold water on it. While it may prove a false alarm, it seems Canberra has received credible indications that China is indeed actively seeking a military base somewhere in the South Pacific.

It would be hard to overstate the significance of such a development, were it to occur.

This would be the first time since Japan was pushed out of the islands at the end of the Pacific War that any major power, other than one of our allies, has sought a military base so close to Australia.

Establishing a base in our neighbourhood would be a low-cost, low-risk way for China to show off its growing military and diplomatic reach and clout. Moreover, by ignoring the noisy complaints that would surely emanate from Washington, Beijing would show that it is willing to defy the United States.

And it would send an unambiguous message to us here in Australia, signalling Beijing’s rejection of our claims to our own sphere of influence in the South Pacific, and sending a stark warning of China’s reach and its capacity to punish us if we side too vociferously with the US or Japan against it.

Abandoning the sphere of influence

What can Australia do, then?

One option is a radical recasting of our relations and role in the South Pacific, to draw our neighbour much more closely under our wing. But the better option would be to step back, abandoning our traditional ideas about keeping intruders out of the South Pacific. In fact, there may be no alternative.

China poses an unprecedented challenge to the strategic assumptions that have framed our policies since European settlement. We have never encountered an Asian country as powerful as China is now, let alone as powerful as it will likely become in the decades ahead.

The costs to us of trying to keep China out of the region might simply prove impossible to bear. Or, to be more precise, it might prove cheaper to build military capabilities that in a war could neutralise Chinese bases in the South Pacific (by denying access to them and subjecting them to strike attacks) than to prevent China from establishing such bases in peacetime.

Building forces that could counter Chinese bases in our neighbourhood would mean that we could feel less anxious about the establishment of such bases, and relax the imperative to preserve the sphere of influence we have for so long assumed we must maintain.

This would not mean abandoning all interest in our nearest neighbours and succumbing to the indifference that has historically weakened our relationships with them. On the contrary, we should make great efforts to maximise our role and presence – not in the form of an exclusive sphere of influence, but as one of the region’s major partners. 

It is possible to imagine Australia actively engaged in the South Pacific not to exclude China (or any other power), but to work with it where possible, and to work against it where necessary, to protect our interests and the interests we share with our small neighbours as best we can.

We should start to treat our smaller close neighbours as independent at last.

The uncomfortable reality is that preserving an exclusive sphere of influence in the South Pacific is not going to be possible against a regional power that is far stronger than any we have ever confronted, or even contemplated. It might turn out that the more we try and fail to exclude China from the South Pacific, the less influence we will have there.

If Scott Morrison is as serious about the South Pacific as he claims, he should start, paradoxically perhaps, by abandoning the idea of an exclusive sphere of influence, and then by guiding Australians to take a much greater interest in our neighbourhood than we ever have before.

Hugh White is a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. This is an edited extract of his essay “In Denial: Defending Australia as China looks south” published in Australian Foreign Affairs.