Richard Herr has taught at the University of Tasmania since his appointment in October 1972 and has held a variety of positions within the University. He is currently the academic coordinator for the Faculty of Law's Parliamentary Law, Practive and Procedure course. He earned a PhD in Political Science from Duke University and, during his academic career; he has written widely on aspects concerning Pacific Island Affairs. Professor Herr has served as a consultant to the Governments of the Pacific Islands region on a range of organizational issues for nearly three decades and most recently on the restoration of democracy in Fiji. He was awarded the Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honours List for "service to higher education". In 2002 he was presented with an AusAID Peacebuilder award for his work in the Solomon Islands.
This is an interview with Richard Herr on Australia's role in the Pacific:
Alternative (for readers in China)
In addition to the full text of the speech available below, we have provided a video of his speech at the conference "Mapping and Unmapping the Pacific" on Regionalism in the Pacific:
Alternative (for readers in China)
Security and the Cartography of Pacific Islands Regionalism: The Origins and Evolution of Regional Identity
Drawing the boundaries of a region would appear to be a relatively simple task. However, 70 years of scholarship analysing the global growth in international regions suggest it is far from easy. Bruce Russett demonstrated empirically in the 1960s, using rather sophisticated factor analysis, that there were no real “natural” geographic regions. Nevertheless, regionalism as a concept implies geography as a central factor. A doyen of international regional scholarship, Joseph Nye, makes the point that geography cannot be the sole criterion. He has argued that the states that comprise a region need both to be geographically proximate and have achieved a high level of interdependence. But, interdependence demands a third element – trust amongst the associated states. Geographic proximity tends to encourage trust since it enables the routine interactions required to build interdependence. The shared characteristics such as ethnicity, historical experience, economic ties and the like that often go into a regional definition usually involve proximity. Yet, although military necessity is another frequently identified rationale for international cooperation, historically, it is as likely to divide contiguous states as unite them. In brief, the concept of international regions remains definitionally challenging. Perhaps, the only practical way to map the contours of an international region is to accept a tautology: a region is a region if its members say that it is.
There are complications, nevertheless, even with this temporisation. Who has the authority to say what a region is? Here one needs to differentiate between “owners” and “stakeholders” – that is, those that formally constitute a region and those with a significant interest in it. The distinction is important as this paper argues that ownership of the concept of a Pacific Islands region was in dispute for much of the early years of the post-World War II era. The issue was largely settled by decolonisation and the decision to retain the colonial era boundaries of the region. However, the retention of dependencies as co-owners of the concept of the Pacific Islands region and the inclusion of two metropolitan powers within the formal ownership arrangements of the region have continued to create tensions and ambiguities between owners and stakeholders. These tensions have existed primarily because the independent Island states have maintained the original boundaries of the region. The emergence of new stakeholders and heightened internal conflicts have raised a second issue with the capacity of member states to decide the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region. Heretofore, all interdependent arrangements within the Pacific Islands region with limited memberships have been deemed “sub-regional”. This distinction is under pressure now and may well be the most serious challenge to the boundaries of the Pacific Islands region in its history.
Defining a Region
Indigenous assertions that there was a pre-contact of Pacific Islands’ identity has been disputed despite myths of a “Pacific way” or some pan-Pacific brotherhood of peoples uniting all the Pacific Islands together. Modern scholarship does not support extensive geographic awareness across the entire scope of the modern Pacific Islands region amongst pre-contact Pacific peoples. This is not to deny the extensive voyaging and navigational skills of the pre-contact peoples in various parts of the modern Pacific Islands region, which was truly remarkable, provided some peoples with an in-depth knowledge of the area now considered to be the Pacific Islands region. Rather, it is to say that the contours of the contemporary system were not derived from aboriginal foundations of knowledge or cooperation. The simple fact is that, at least initially, the residents of the Pacific Islands did not define the scope of their neighbourhood. The Pacific Islands region and its boundaries were, to a real extent, imposed by outsiders – not as a ghetto, perhaps, but for the convenience of the extra-regional powers nonetheless. The political marvel is that the locals managed to embrace this concept and to make it their own.
The colonial experience was as divisive for Pacific Islanders as it was for peoples in other corners of a world riven by imperialism. The essentially competitive nature of conquest and subjugation did not tend to promote international cooperation across imperial frontiers. Nevertheless there were some internationally mitigating factors in the Pacific Islands’ area. The British Empire, itself very extensive in this area, had its influence further extended by the cubs of the British lion – Australia and New Zealand – who also pursued territorial ambitions with parts of Oceania. Regionally focused cooperation for administrative efficiency such as the Western Pacific High Commission and the Suva Medical School within the British Empire did promote awareness amongst the dependent peoples from separate colonies of each other but this was scarcely their purpose. The Pacific Islands Monthly, perhaps, served as the most significant innovation regarding consciousness-raising for Pacific Islands regionalism in the colonial era. A product of the Great Depression, this English language magazine published in Australia crossed imperial boundaries by satisfying a common need amongst the plantation elites across much of the British and French South Pacific for news of markets, economic trends and political developments.
The Japanese invasion of the European Pacific colonies was an even more powerful, albeit negative, impetus for regional cooperation. The threat united the Western powers – Australia, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – in mutual defence of their security and for the protection of their Pacific territories. The Southwest Pacific and South Pacific theatres of war generated integrated command structures and, consequently, the necessary arrangements for cooperation to prosecute the war. This identity became especially important to Australia and New Zealand as the middle powers whose security interests were most directly threatened by the Japanese aggression. Their concerns were to survive the war and so gave rise to the modern regional system.
The ANZACs’ Draft a Blueprint for the Region – Almost
The Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, a wartime measure to provide for economic and social needs of the island peoples in the two countries’ Caribbean dependencies, offered the template for a regional approach in the Pacific. The two ANZAC states promoted the same basic idea at various post-war reconstruction planning sessions of the Allied Powers. They made little headway with the other Pacific metropolitan powers that were more concerned with re-establishing their colonial control after the war. After repeatedly being denied effective representation in the broader councils for Allied post-war planning, the two antipodean powers made their own demarche for regional reconstruction through the Agreement between Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC Pact) in February 1944.
This agreement proposed two post-war regional associations for the South Pacific. The more important, from an Australian perspective, was one that provided for a regional security system that would stretch from Portuguese East Timor to French Polynesia. This one would include all the Western colonial holdings (once these were restored to their metropoles) within its ambit. Seven stakeholders were identified for this association – the six allied powers plus Portugal, which was officially neutral during the war. The second of the regional associations in the ANZAC Pact proposed a trust arrangement to promote the welfare of the dependent peoples. This arrangement excluded the Netherlands and Portugal from participation and therefore their territories were excluded from the trusteeship region. The omission of Portugal and the Netherlands was almost certainly due to an anthropological presumption that the dependent peoples of these two states were not genuinely South Pacific Islanders but belonged to Southeast Asia.
The 1944 ANZAC Pact was a brave but almost futile declaration in terms of generating international support for its regionalist intentions. It was only Australian persistence and a concession to abandon the security scheme that finally won a grudging willingness from the other metropolitan powers to meet in Canberra in February 1947 to discuss the ANZACs’ proposal for regional cooperation based on the welfare of the Pacific Islanders. The 1944 Pact did not include either the Dutch or the Portuguese in the welfare body but the Netherlands was invited to the 1947 meeting when it promised not to include the bulk of its East Indies colony within the proposed body. The Netherlands sought only to add West New Guinea, a territory with people indistinguishable from those across the border in Australia’s Papua New Guinea. Portuguese involvement, on the other hand, appears not to have been reconsidered despite Australia’s debt of gratitude to the people of East Timor for their valiant assistance to Australian troops during the war.
The “South Seas Regional Commission Conference” made most of the critical decisions regarding the scope of the South Pacific region. Given that the intention of the proposed body was to promote “the advancement and well-being of the native peoples” of the area, the first key decision was in inviting those imperial powers that Australia deemed had the appropriate indigenous peoples whose welfare was to be promoted. Portugal was out but so too was Chile. Chile administered the furthest outpost of Polynesia, the sparsely populated Easter Island. Japan, which possessed much of Micronesia at the start of the war, was not included in the 1944 proposal for fairly obvious reasons. Still, it is interesting to note that the native peoples of the Japanese Pacific Islands empire do not seemed to have been considered as eligible candidates even by the new American administration after the war. In 1947, the United Nations passed control over these islands formally to the US but the American Government was allowed to treat these islands as a security asset, indeed, as had Japan under a League of Nations’ mandate. In early 1947, the future of America’s new Micronesian islands were too uncertain to be deemed eligible for the proposed regional welfare agency.
The status of its Micronesian territories was not the only decision the United States had to make regarding its dependencies in the Pacific. The Philippines was not considered at all as it had been promised independence and, in any case, it would have been regarded as ineligible on the same grounds as the Dutch East Indies by Australia and New Zealand. Guam had been reclaimed but was still separate from the ambit of the proposed South Seas Regional Commission by the extensive expanse of the former Japanese Micronesian islands. Hawaii was the largest Polynesian dependency in the Pacific but the local non-Polynesian population and Washington had plans for a future that did not include separation from the US. Initially, therefore, the American delegation to Canberra brought only one territory to the table – the small Polynesian territory of American Samoa.
Australia was the only other participant to face territorial dilemmas regarding the geographic scope of the proposed region. As with the US decision on Hawaii, the Australian Government gave short shrift to suggestions that the Aborigines of the Northern Territory or that the Torres Strait people should be included in the operational area of the South Seas Regional Commission. More problematic was the case of Norfolk Island. This tiny island between Australia and New Caledonia was peopled by the descendents of the Bounty mutineers who were relocated from Pitcairn in the 1850s. Later, many of these returned to Pitcairn with the result that Britain included this miniscule territory within the proposed Commission’s scope. The uncertain status of Norfolk Island as Australian domestic territory and the origins of its people saw Norfolk included within the defined region but not convincingly.
There was one other territorial quibble at the South Seas Regional Commission Conference regarding the scope of the proposed region but one with profound political implications for the future development of South Pacific regionalism. The standing of Tonga was disputed. This ancient Polynesia kingdom had never been colonised. By treaty, Tonga was a British protected state but it remained formally independent. Thus, the Tongans were unwilling to be defined as a “dependent people” although the UK Government wanted them included in the organisation’s work programme. Again, early maps of the Commission’s boundaries were instructive as they drew a dotted line across the bottom of the Tongan “enclave” to show that it was included in the SPC’s work programme while the solid line on the other three sides indicated Tonga was, to some extent, apart from the rest of the region. The significance of this was not so much that Tonga was not being regarded as part of the region. Rather, it was that Tonga was in the region. Being eligible as a beneficiary of the SPC’s work programme, Tonga was deemed ineligible from ownership of the SPC’s region.
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This month's Renlai
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