UNIVERSITY of Melbourne research has shown that Australia's foreign policy often overlooks the Pacific and that the post of Minister for Pacific Island Affairs should be re-established.
According to a statement, Dr Jonathan Schultz analysed Australia's treatment and policy attitudes to the Pacific under the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments (1988-2007).
"A pattern has emerged of repeated phases of invigorated engagement and stagnation. We keep making similar mistakes and having to relearn the same lessons," he said.
His study Overseeing and Overlooking finds periods of engagement often occur in response to a natural disaster or political crisis, or on the "whim" of the Foreign Minister or Prime Minister.
"Australia lacks a strong, long-term policy orientation in the Pacific, and our level of engagement therefore fluctuates wildly," Dr Schultz said. The "volatile and reactive nature" of Australian involvement in the Pacific undermines the effectiveness of its policies, the report finds.
Dr Schultz said the situation was exacerbated by the low level of importance placed on Pacific issues within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.