Where is the coldest place in the Pacific?
Although we haven't conducted a barometric survey, the offices of senior defence and police officials in Pacific capitals would be strong contenders.
The air conditioner is always on full blast.
No matter whether it is the ports of Moresby, Vila, or Nuku'alofa, another shared feature of these offices is a large memorabilia wall filled with certificates and keepsakes acquired from plentiful training courses officials have attended over the years.
Why, then, is Australia proposing to develop yet another security-focused training school?
Part of Labor's manifesto commitment was to set up an Australia Pacific Defence School.
If created, this will join a stable of educational establishments inaugurated by Canberra in recent years, including the Australia Pacific Security College at the ANU and a Pacific Faculty at the Australian Institute of Police Management in Sydney, as well as others of older vintage.
Australia has provided to Pacific defence and security forces for decades at ADFA, the Australian War College, and through its Defence Cooperation Program. The Australian Federal Police have been training police for yonks, too.
The reason for this new education revolution owes little to remedying perceived learning gaps.
Even before all these new centres were set up, the security forces of the Pacific constituted among the most extensively trained in the world.
Instead, it owes more to the fact training has been one of the tools of statecraft Australia has long used to curry favour with Pacific governments and build relationships with emerging Pacific leaders. While the latter has been valuable for building trust and facilitating cooperation between Australian and Pacific personnel, it is hardly foolproof.
One only needs to recall the entreaties of several senior Australian defence personnel, who had got to know Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama when he had studied in Australia, failed to dissuade him from mounting a coup back in 2006.
Statecraft is the practice of conducting foreign policy, the warts-and-all process through which a government's strategic ideas, values and interests are translated into on-the-ground realities.
Ministers, diplomats, defence officials and police officers working overseas are conducting statecraft every day. Training programs have long been one of the most reached-for arrows in Australia's quiver.
It's not just Australia that has offered training. Other countries have been doing the same, some with a bit more panache and extracurricular excitement thrown in. The police of Timor-Leste, for example, used to love going on Japanese training courses over similar offerings in New Zealand. One involved extensive shopping components, the other thoroughgoing PowerPoint presentations during blustery Wellington winters.
The countries of the Pacific are getting ever more congested in terms of attention from state suitors. Australia, China, France, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom continue to announce everything from loans, to better internet, to new infrastructure, to new funding envelopes, to predictably more training opportunities for Pacific security forces.
It's all part of a wider geopolitical tussle that can sometimes sideline the people and governments of the Pacific.
Since the election, Australia's new ministers have adroitly repackaged Australia's statecraft so it now appears much more attuned to Pacific concerns.
Labor's commitment to take climate action and to expand labour mobility options, including the possibility of annual permanent migration quotas for Pacific people, will be welcomed.
In that spirit, we ask the government to check with its Pacific counterparts whether they really want or need yet another security-focused training establishment.
We aren't aware of any Pacific country that has asked for an Australia Pacific Defence School. And this may have been the message Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese got during last week's Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting.
In the lead-up to his trip it was reported he would speak about the Defence School while he was in Suva, but he didn't end up mentioning it in any of his public comments.
And there are risks of duplicating what Australia already offers for little practical gain. The value of providing yet more training to Pacific security personnel who frequently lack the equipment and infrastructure to implement their "learnings" when they return home is questionable.
Having experienced the dissonance of visiting Pacific countries where Australia provides extensive training programs, but where very few people have access to running water or reliable healthcare, and where people increasingly have rising sea levels lapping at their doors, we suspect that a straw poll of Pacific governments wouldn't identify yet another training institution as a high priority.
The Labor government has started well in its approach to the Pacific, and many Pacific countries welcome the opportunity to reset their relationships with Canberra.
We encourage the new government to maintain its commitment to listening to Pacific countries. We suspect yet another security-focused training institution won't be their priority and, for that reason, does not constitute an effective tool of statecraft for Australia as it seeks to bolster its position in the region.
Yes, the Defence School is a manifesto commitment, but it's one few would go to the barricades for if it should be quietly dropped or its slim merits given to a Sir Humphrey to review.
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