This paper examines the antinomies of Australian ‘good governance’: the logical nonsense of regional coerced democracy and carefully tutored economic ‘best practice’. The tension between intervention and independence in the region – particularly with respect to the recent experience of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste – is apparent in the recent Australian regional assistance missions and largely self-serving ‘good governance’ aid programs. This paper considers the origins of ‘good governance’ in aid and reviews the recent interventions through the lens of imperial ambition, considering to what extent they aim to establish: privileged access to resources; a neo-colonial ‘open markets’ strategy which represses public institutions and capacity building; and an attempt to dominate security forces in the region. Elements of these themes can be identified in aid and interventions in each of the three island states. All three are demonstrating elements of resistance through asserting control of their natural resources, developing distinct public institutions, independently pursuing human resource development and diversifying development partners. Consideration of the Australian role and the elements of resistance and autonomous development allows us to reflect on the relationship between ‘good governance’ and ‘self governance’. The latter remains a key and valued theme in the region.
Paper presented at the 10th Pacific Islands Political Studies Association (PIPSA) Conference