Australia's influence in the Pacific is eroding as it makes foreign policy missteps in the region, international security experts warn.
The University of Adelaide's Joanne Wills says Australia should tone down its security focus on the Pacific.
"Although Australia has vital strategic interests in the Pacific Islands, our influence has eroded," she told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.
Professor Wallis said as Australia beefed up its military presence to counter a rising China, it was cutting crucial services such as shortwave radio broadcasts.
"Our Pacific partners do not necessarily share or appreciate an over-securitised view in the Pacific islands region," she said.
John Blaxland, from the Australian National University's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said the Pacific nations had their own priorities.
He said Pacific leaders didn't share Australia's concerns about China; they were more worried about the existential threat of climate change.
"They have an understandable concern that trumps their concerns about great power consternations," Professor Blaxland said.
"They don't see that as their problem, they see the environment as their problem."
Prof Wallis said China had stepped in to fill the void left when Australia axed radio broadcasting.
Prof Blaxland said Australia had always been too scared to step up in the region.
"We have been reluctant to put ourselves into that space, to look out for our micro neighbours and that has come at our own cost," Prof Blaxland said.
"We have been a middle power with small-power pretensions."
Australia wasn't automatically seen as inherently good by Pacific leaders, Prof Wallis said.
She said if Australia ramped up its defence presence in the region, other nations would follow, so Australia needed to broaden the type of support it offers.
"We need to stay ahead of the game," Prof Wallis said.
Australian Associated Press