Australia’s Latest Push For Diplomatic Clout Involves Airing ‘MasterChef’ In The Pacific

Australia will soon make shows like MasterChef, Neighbours, and 60 Minutes available for broadcast by our Pacific neighbours, in what Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has been described as a push to “deepen the connection” between nations.

Read: in the face of spiky relations between Australia and Pacific nations, and China’s influence in the region, we’re activating Operation Croquembouche.

In a joint statement, Payne and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke yesterday revealed a new suite of Australian shows will be provided to local free-to-air broadcasters by the PacificAus TV initiative.

“Having the opportunity to watch the same stories on our screens will only deepen the connection with our Pacific family,” Payne said.

“For decades, many Pacific countries have had access to Australian programmes and televised sporting matches and this initiative will expand those entertainment options.”

Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji will be the first nations to watch our latest Mystery Box challenges, with Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru to follow in coming months.

The decision to pump Ramsay Street onto our neighbour’s airwaves comes at a unique time in Australia’s strategic relationship with the region.

In 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a “step-up” to Australia’s diplomacy with its Pacific neighbours, which saw a boost to foreign aid and the establishment of a $2 billion loan scheme for infrastructure projects.

As the Guardian points out, China is also offering loans in the region – and, in 2018, a Chinese radio station took over the frequencies left behind when ABC’s Radio Australia left the region the year before. 

Here’s where we mention that Australia is currently not on ideal terms with China, thanks to Australia’s push for an international inquiry into China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Cue posturing over a trade war.

Australia has recently been a bit of a bummer in the Pacific, too. Who could forget last year’s Pacific Island Forum, in which Australia’s stance on climate policy reportedly brought the Tonga’s Prime Minister Samuela Pohiva to tears?

All of this makes the decision to streamline access to The Voice a very, very interesting proposition.

Some policy experts have suggested that funding joint TV projects might be a better way of strengthening diplomatic relationships.

Just quietly, I am sure airing Border Security: Australia’s Frontline in Nauru will turn out to be a stellar bit of cultural diplomacy.