PNG and the Pacific

Our work is organized under three pillars: Australian aid, PNG and the Pacific, and global development policy. This page outlines our work under the pillar of PNG and the Pacific, and is extracted from our 2018 Annual Report.

Australia is located in a dynamic region facing remarkable challenges but also great opportunities. Our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea (PNG), is being forced to confront swift changes to its economic prospects. Elsewhere in the region, Pacific island countries are increasingly outward-looking and politically engaged. Our research seeks to illuminate opportunities for growth and improved human development outcomes in PNG and the Pacific, and the role that Australia can play to support these, organised under the following three themes:

1. The PNG Project

Devpolicy manages The Australian National University’s partnership with the School of Business and Public Policy (SBPP) at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Five ANU academics based in Port Moresby, as well as other staff supported by us, convened 21 courses for 597 undergraduate and postgraduate students in 2018. Meanwhile, two UPNG staff members completed their ANU Master’s degrees in Canberra, and have returned to lecture in economics at UPNG. A third scholarship student commenced his studies in Canberra at the beginning of 2018, and a fourth, the first female recipient of the award, commenced in 2019.

The inaugural ANU-UPNG Summer School took place in January and February 2018, bringing ten of the best final-year undergraduate students in economics and public policy to study at Crawford School for a month.

The 2018 PNG Update conference was titled ‘PNG in the Year of APEC’ and attracted more than 1,000 attendees across two days. The conference showcased 77 presentations, and received considerable media attention in PNG. Keynote presentations were delivered by: Charles Lepani, Chairman, APEC Coordinating Authority; Treasurer Charles Abel; Shadow Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey; and Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum. These were subsequently published in a PNG Update book.

The PNG aid evaluation forum in May brought together the authors of a number of evaluations of Australian aid projects in PNG with expert commentators, who discussed the findings.

The Centre continued to support significant PNG-related research in 2018 on a wide range of economic and public policy issues. Grant Walton completed research on PNG public servants’ perceptions of governance and corruption (published in early 2019), and also conducted initial comparative research into the political economy of the Philippines and PNG rice industries.

Michelle Rooney undertook and published initial results from research on the impact of family and sexual violence in Lae, collaborating with Miranda Forsyth, Dora Kuir-Ayius and Mary Aisi.

Using household surveys, Rohan Fox and Chris Hoy conducted research examining the factors that affect female responsibility and participation in household financial decision making in PNG.

Amanda Watson continued research on digital-for-development technologies with UPNG colleagues, while Lhawang Ugyel examined decentralisation policy and the effectiveness of district development authorities.

Dek Sum and Bao Nguyen undertook research into macroeconomic shocks facing PNG.

The 2018 PNG economic survey, a collaborative effort by Devpolicy and UPNG economists, was presented at the PNG Update, and subsequently published.

2. Pacific growth and integration

Chinese investment and interest in the Pacific region became a hot topic of national debate in 2018. Matthew Dornan provided substantial media commentary on this issue throughout the year. Matthew Dornan and Rohan Fox undertook research into Chinese lending to Pacific countries and debt stress in the region.

Matthew Dornan published research on power regulation in small island developing states of the Pacific, and on climate change adaptation finance. Grant Walton researched anti-corruption reform in Solomon Islands.

The 2018 Pacific Update conference was held on 5-6 July at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus in Suva, Fiji. The conference was attended by more than 320 participants, and was viewed online through a livestream by a further 300 people. Devpolicy also contributed to the 2018 ANU State of the Pacific conference.

The Centre now hosts the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies journal, providing support for the journal’s continuation through the Pacific Research Program, with a goal to increase Pacific content. Stephen Howes joined the journal as Editor-in-Chief.

3. Pacific migration

The Centre’s program of research on Pacific labour mobility continued to grow during 2018.

Richard Curtain presented on economic impacts of labour mobility at the Vanuatu Labour Mobility summit, and on sending country labour mobility governance at the Pacific Update conference. He also presented to the Government of Vanuatu Taskforce on Labour Mobility in October on future directions for labour mobility in Vanuatu. Stephen Howes and Richard Curtain both presented at the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting in Honiara, Solomon Islands, in October.

Throughout the year, Richard Curtain conducted research on PNG’s involvement in the Seasonal Worker Programme and presented on the subject at the PNG Update, and through a discussion paper. The Centre was involved in the appraisal of the design of the Pacific Labour Facility, and published a paper comparing the Australian and New Zealand seasonal work schemes. Richard Curtain, Matthew Dornan, Stephen Howes and Henry Sherrell published their comparative research on New Zealand’s and Australia’s Pacific seasonal work programs.

The Centre commented actively in response to changes to Australia’s backpacker visa, and the potential introduction of a new agricultural visa.

Past events 2018

Publications 2018

Updated:  25 January 2020/Responsible Officer:  Devpolicy Admin/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team