The Weekend Politics Thread Takes to the Sea

This week I’d like to try something a little different for the header. I’ll be focusing on current events in a region of the world that doesn’t often dominate the headlines: Oceania. That’s the Pacific, for those of you in the know, and I’m using a broad definition that includes Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, 11 smaller independent nations, and a number of states and territories. I won’t discuss all of them, of course, or any one of them in depth, but just some quick updates that might shine a light on some places that we don’t often give their due. Here there be dragons? No, here there be people, and therefore politics.

Papua New Guinea

In 2001, the government of PNG signed a peace agreement with separatists on the island of Bougainville. Part of the deal was, there needs to be a referendum on independence in Bougainville by June 2020. We’re almost there, but the vote still hasn’t happened, and it’s being delayed yet again. You could be forgiven for assuming this is due to non-compliance on the central government’s part, but… yeah, actually that’s pretty much it. Turns out you can’t have a vote if the responsible agency refuses to pay for it. Things haven’t gotten bad yet, but it’s starting to make people pretty nervous.

Marshall Islands

It would not be accurate to say the Marshall Islands are sinking. In fact they’re standing comfortably in place, but the sea, not so much. Like Kiribati and Tuvalu, Marshall Islands has to deal with rising sea levels thanks to climate changes that they had no role in producing. The options of the Marshallese people for dealing with the imminent catastrophe have always been assumed to be 1. move, or 2. die. That is terribly unfair, so the government is now considering a new option: 3. RAISE THE ISLANDS. Talk about Infrastructure Week! It’s feasible, but it would cost hundred of millions of dollars. They are prepared to make the argument that, hey, rest of the world, pay up, you owe us. And they would be right.


After decades of using his power to protect sexual predators in both the Australian and global Catholic Church, the third highest-ranked Church official in the WORLD and Australia’s highest ever has himself been convicted of horrifying “sexual offenses against children.” Cardinal George Pell was – and apparently still is – a big deal among the right-wing Liberal Party, promoting what they call traditional family values. I say “apparently still is” because certain prominent Liberal members like former Prime Minister John Howard have gone out of their way to defend Pell’s character. In Howard’s estimation, Pell remains a “person of both high intelligence and exemplary character.” Ah, OK, NBD then. Note to self – hard pass on the “traditional family values.” And speaking of values…


Out of the 196 countries on Earth, Nauru ranks 194 in terms of population. It’s more or less a crater thanks to decades of phosphate mining, and having no other resources, it’s basically a client state of Australia and dependent on its aid. And in exchange for that aid? Nauru acts as a prison colony for refugees and asylum seekers. Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, though less crater-y, has a similar arrangement. Australian officials call it the Pacific Solution. Conditions are deplorable, and every step of the detention from arrest to release (anywhere but Australia) is carried out with maximum cruelty. Detainees released in the US, for example, are billed $12,000 for their own transportation, and repayment is expected within 4 years. Does this sound, perhaps, a bit troubling? A bit, say, crimes-against-humanity-ful? Yeah, well. And just to clarify, this isn’t the responsibility of just one party – these detention centers were re-opened by a Labor Party government in 2012.

New Zealand

This country has be so underrepresented in world news for so long, it FELL OFF THE MAP. Doesn’t get much more dramatic than that!


A shout out to Pacific Beat by ABC Radio Australia, which is a great one-stop shop for news in the Pacific region.

If you liked this regional survey experiment – or hated it, I’m looking for honest opinions here – please say so in the comments. I’d be up for talking about other places in future WPT headers. Also, corrections are welcome – I’m not from there, so if you are and I said something ridiculous / ignorant, feel free to let me have it.

Updated thread guidelines here. My understanding is that we should still talk politics here, and also that we should still not threaten people, regardless of whether or not they are squirrels. Comment away!