Scott Morrison’s three-day visit to Vanuatu and Fiji marked – surprisingly – the first time in history that an Australian prime minister has made a bilateral visit to either of these maritime neighbours.

Traditionally, Australia has been more focused on cultivating relations with powers that are greater than it, and has often neglected, or patronised, its smaller neighbours. But worries about China’s influence are shifting Canberra’s priorities.

Morrison’s visit was a welcome attempt to redress Australia’s Pacific neglect – and it was well received in both countries. But the discussions in Port Vila and Suva suffered from Canberra’s ongoing presumption that it can dictate the terms of its relationships with smaller partners …

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