26 Oct 2012

Siding With France In The Pacific

By Nic Maclellan
Australia has remarkably strong ties with France in the Pacific - and they are stifling the drive toward independence of countries like New Caledonia. Nic Maclellan on how Australia is holding back decolonisation

As Australia prepares to take up a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013, the UN decolonisation agenda will affect Australia's relations with neighbouring Pacific countries.

However recent actions by the Gillard Government suggest that Canberra has chosen sides with France and the United States on this often-ignored agenda at the United Nations.

From 1946, the United Nations has maintained a list of non-self-governing territories seeking political independence. Just 16 territories remain on the list, including five Pacific islands, though others are seeking to be re-listed.

Twenty five years ago, at the height of the conflict between supporters and opponents of independence, Australia supported New Caledonia's successful bid for re-inscription on the list of countries to be decolonised. This French Pacific dependency has been scrutinised by the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation ever since — the governments of France and New Caledonia even invited the UN committee to hold its regional seminar in Noumea in 2010.

In French Polynesia, the coalition government led by long-time independence campaigner Oscar Temaru has been seeking the same sort of international support. In spite of tough economic times at home — with falling numbers of tourists and changing French subsidies after the end of nuclear testing — Temaru has been seeking regional and international support to be re-listed with the United Nations decolonisation process.

Since Temaru was first elected President in 2004, there has been a slow but significant shift in local opinion. Last year, the Territorial Assembly in Papeete narrowly voted for the first time to support Temaru's call for re-inscription. In August 2012, the synod of the Eglise Protestante Maohi (EPM) — the Protestant church that is the largest denomination in French Polynesia — voted for the first time to support re-inscription. The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and World Council of Churches (WCC) have also supported the call.

In spite of this, Australia has sided with Paris to reject French Polynesia's call for increased UN scrutiny. Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles, in an interview published in Islands Business magazine, recently said, "We absolutely take our lead from France on this."

In recent years, Australia and France have signed a series of agreements that cement relations on defence, aid co-operation and joint exploration for oil and gas reserves in the waters between Australia and New Caledonia — culminating last January in a Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership.

For many years, Australia and France have expanded defence co-operation in the Pacific, through port visits, joint military exercises, arms deals and meetings between senior military officers. The Southern Cross military exercises held every two years in New Caledonia are a key part of regional military co-operation, with US marines joining Australia and French troops in the latest wargames in October.

Since 1992, the France-Australia-New Zealand (FRANZ) agreement has provided a mechanism for joint humanitarian and maritime surveillance operations in the South Pacific. The 2009 Australia-France Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) strengthens our defence partnership, but is underlined by French efforts to increase arms sales to Australia: by 2006, Australia was the second largest purchaser of French armaments in the world. Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the giant European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS) is successfully competing with American arms manufacturers to sell helicopters and other equipment to the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

France and Australia are also co-operating in joint exploration of the waters between Queensland and New Caledonia. Geoscience Australia and French research agencies have conducted joint surveys of the ocean floor near the Capel and Faust Basins, looking for sediments that would indicate deep water reserves of oil and gas. In March 2010, the signing of a "Declaration of Intention between Australia and France (on behalf of New Caledonia) over Coral Sea Management" signalled increased joint operations over reef ecology and maritime resources in these waters. For some, the sight of France as the administering power making decisions over New Caledonia's resources brings back memories of Australia's deal with Indonesia over the oil reserves of the Timor Gap.

A further sign of Australia-France relations is a partnership agreement signed in July 2011 between Australia's aid agency AusAID and the French equivalent Agence française de développement (AFD). This agreement opens the way for co-operation in Africa and Afghanistan, but also allows for joint programs in the Pacific.

All these agreements culminated in the signing of the Joint Statement of Strategic Partnership in January 2012. At the time, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and his French counterpart Alain Juppe signed the agreement in Paris, which highlights joint commitments on Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism, global economic reform and the Pacific.

Our global partnership with France seems to be affecting our policies in the islands region. Even though many Pacific states have publicly stated their support for French Polynesia's bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum re-affirmed the Australian position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Papeete.

A month later, however, many Pacific leaders lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia's right to self-determination. The leaders of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu explicitly called for action on decolonisation. Vanuatu's Prime Minister Sato Kilman said, "I call on the independent and free nations of the world to complete the story of decolonisation and close this chapter. At this juncture, I urge the United Nations not to reject the demands for French Polynesia's right to self-determination and progress."

The same month, with Fiji's Foreign Minister in attendance, the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran issued a new policy on decolonisation, which noted: "The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia — Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV)."

With the other French Pacific dependency of New Caledonia scheduled to hold a referendum on its future political status after 2014, the question of France's role in the South Pacific isn't going away soon.

This is part two of Nic Maclellan's series on decolonisation. Part one can be found here

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Posted Saturday, October 27, 2012 - 16:00

The Islands of the South Pacific come under the same heading as all of the smaller nations in the Commonwealth League.
How will they stand up on their own in a World that is heading towards regionalism?
The Pacific Ocean itself has been an issue for two centuries and whilst I agree that Colonisation is the issue and generally support any nations call for independence, Australia for instance, what is the overall strategy is my real question.

Posted Sunday, October 28, 2012 - 05:27

Great comment Stripling

What is the point to decolonisation when the west will only be throwing their own Tax Purse monies at these Island Nations to keep these people alive as their food sources or their income streams die out. Most of the French are only in New Caledonia because it was trendy or France was overpopulated. A lot of Vichy French went their after the war to escape persecution at the hands of DeGaulle's cut thoats, so, there is more to the cake then just its name or colour.

East Timor is a perfect example, we only supported their independence move so that we can get our hands on their Gas Fields and played a game of devide and conquer until we did. We supported the Portugese Elites and kicked the Indiginous people in the teeth.

Hence the Problem with Renaldo and now Aust. Tax Purse has to build a Democracy in a nation that can't stop breeding either, will forever be chasing its own tail because too many people with western dreams and not enough real jobs, export, income earning jobs.

Our own Tax Purse is fed by export dollars and the money, the foreign money, business Migrants bring into the Country. People coming in on a Jet bring money and rent houses, they can afford to pay 600 or more a week in rent until their cash runs out. Australians can't and neither can the indiginous East Timorese.

Take Newcastle, their are 17000 less jobs here now since 2008 yet have a look at all of the Tax Purse funded projects, funded to created jobs in the Hunter and all you find working their is Kiwi's, the Irish and Pom's. Yet the Government is kicking sole Income mothers in the teeth and the unemployed because the Government Tax Purse has create X amount of jobs yet Australia's unemployed people are still unemployed, they couldn't get the job. Some Kiwi, Pom and some Irishman took it. One gets in, they all get in. The Kiwi's have the same problem with Islanders who go to N.Z. They only stay awhile then bunny hope here.

The Indiginous people, first or 1st, 2nd generation have always suffered because of the new comers, unless the newcomers in the case of Australia were someone we hated. Germans, Turks, Chinese, Muslims etc., in their case we took their money and then tossed them on the Dole Que wher most were forced to stay, that is until we relised they weren't much worse of financialy, then all those working, so we attacked them verbaly and we now tighten up the dole requirements. Treat people like shit.

So, when are we going to decolonisation Australia from all the breeders who bonked themselves out of a comfortable exsistance back there, where ever that is and are now Colonising Australia.

Why does Ireland have, (apparently) a population of 8 million people yet 58 million Passports and I suppose the same can be said for the English etc. etc. etc. There are more Kiwi's here then there is in N.Z.

WHY? What did India do with decolonisation.
They scrubbed the English Names out of their corrupt Colonial Constitution and replaced them with the names of Elitist Indians who have gone on to treat the joint worse then the English. So come on, the U.N is a Joke. It was set up to hide the Allied Armies Crimes against Humanity, its the clowns mask and America is the trash hidding behind the mask. America got to be the new Empire because of 2 wars which sent the old Empire broke, WW1 and WW2. Australia needed a new nanny after England died and America and its Englishness was it.

Besides, they got the Air Power. POWER. OR have they?. Sill.

Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - 20:41

There is a real concern that independence can cause huge problems where a population has not had the benefits of a good education. Not classic, just good - English, maths, governance, the Rule of Law, accountancy, and history of other small nations who experienced independence in the past. Two of the most respected politicians in the world could not prevent Timor Leste from being stabbed in the back by so-called civilised people who wanted that undersea gas.
It must be humiliating to be always called French this or Dutch that for generations, while surrounding countries retain their own name and freedom.

Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 21:14

Yes roma.

as I've said a thousand time, we fought 2 wars which killed about, roughly, 5 times the entire population of Australia at that time and displaced that many aswell, why?.

Because 85% of the worlds manufacturing and wealth was in the hands of the big four. 1860 Britain France U.S.A. Germany by 1900 it was U.S.A. Germany Britain France.

3 of the big 4 got together and took out Germany, thats it. Yet the British Aristocracy ruled all of Europe and they couldn't get these working class idiots to stop killing each other?, Yeah right.

The entire WW2 was the Holocaust, because the Titanic took Englands Glory and Economy down to the bottom of the ocean, but we couldn't afford to say it, because England and France, and/or Poland couldn't afford to feed all of their human Canetoads, so somebody had to die.

Why did Poland have 10 million idiots in Uniform riding around terrorising the Goths. Breeding garbage thats why. All of that just so some breeding cow could have an Income, a life.

For the last 50 or so years women have blamed men for all the evils as if women were not even on the planet for the last 12000 years.

Is it a womans fault, no, men forced women into those kind of situations and it was women who allowed them to think they could force women. Every Morron had a mother and Father, so come on, its time we all accepted our guilt for this mess and did something a bit more inteligent this time around.