Seumas Spark reviews 'Australia’s Northern Shield? Papua New Guinea and the defence of Australia since 1880' by Bruce Hunt

The subtitle of this book is Papua New Guinea and the Defence of Australia since 1880. Michael Somare, first prime minister of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is at the centre of the cover photograph, and the cover design uses red, yellow, and black, the colours of the PNG flag. Yet for much of this book PNG is at the periphery of the story. About two-thirds of the text concerns Indonesia: specifically, the West New Guinea dispute (1949–62) between Indonesia and the Netherlands, and Konfrontasi (1962–66), the conflict that entangled Indonesia and Malaysia. These two episodes, notes Bruce Hunt in his introduction, illuminate the strategic importance of PNG to Australian governments. Scholars of Australia’s foreign and defence relations, and those interested in Indonesia, will find more in this book than will historians of PNG.

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