Friday, August 13, 2010

Fiji focus sharpens Aussie election debate

Source: Pacnews
August 13, 2010 

The topic of Fiji and its administration has emerged in the political debate leading up to Australia's national election the weekend after next.

Australia's ruling Labor Party and the opposition Coalition parties outlined their foreign policies during a debate in the capital, Canberra.

Both the Foreign Minister and the opposing spokeswoman mentioned Fiji after comments from the Pacific nation's leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama this week in which he said he would like to cut ties with Australia and New Zealand and align with China.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said if Labor wins the election the government will continue to pressure Bainimarama to honour his promise to hold democratic elections in 2014.

He said there are three priorities when it comes to Fiji.

“To continue to keep pressure on Fiji both bilaterally and through international institutions like the Commonwealth,” the minister said.

“We don't want to do things to hurt the people of Fiji, which is why we don't have trade sanctions and bans.

“Thirdly and most importantly we do need to continue in conjunction with the international and regional community to find some way of opening up an effective dialogue with the commodore to return Fiji to democracy.”

Coalition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Coalition will focus on helping Fiji to work towards democracy.

“I am hoping that assisting with electoral reform could break the deadlock to having to having a democratic election sooner rather than later,” she said.
Meanwhile a regional political expert said Bainimarama is wrong to suggest that his country gets little help from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Bainimarama has been in China where he confirmed he wants to cut traditional ties with New Zealand and Australia and align Fiji with China.

Bainimarama said China better understands the reforms he is trying to implement.

But Professor Stephen Hoadley, from Auckland University, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the Prime Minister will be hurting his own people if he severs relations with his neighbours.

“To cut off from these three countries, if he did that, he would also be cutting off from the Europeans.”

“He would be in some trouble . . . his income would drop further, faith in Fiji would drop but the infrastructure would also deteriorate and this would have a negative income on tourism and therefore tourism income, which is the major earner.”


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