Home » Uncategorized » Now the interesting thing about taking them back to cabinet is that it actually means that the decision on some of these issues won’t be made until after the Commodore hangs up his military uniform.

Now the interesting thing about taking them back to cabinet is that it actually means that the decision on some of these issues won’t be made until after the Commodore hangs up his military uniform.

Fiji-Australia meeting “a successful first date”: academic

         Originally aired on              Dateline Pacific, Tuesday 18 February 2014

An international relations specialist following Fiji-Australia relations has likened last week’s meeting between the two sides to a Valentine’s Day love-in.

Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, held talks with Fiji’s prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, in Suva last week during a visit by the Ministerial Contact Group of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The group was there to check on Fiji’s progress towards elections, but Dr Richard Herr – who holds posts at the University of Tasmania and the University of Fiji – says for Australia there was a more important agenda.

Dr Richard Herr: I think the reality is that the meeting was a bilateral meeting in essence for Australia to use the opportunity to seek some sort of rapprochement with Fiji.

Sally Round: It’s been variously described as warm, positive,  and, by Commodore Bainimarama, fruitful. Does it represent a real rapprochement given that there was apparently no discussion of an exchange of ambassadors and no outright lifting of travel sanctions?

RH: Yes, I think both sides went to considerable lengths to avoid raising issues that were going to make it disruptive. They took the view it was an initial meeting. It needed to establish what the nature of the relationship was going to be in terms of the personalities involved and from all accounts including the people that were there privately after the cameras left, they said the warmth was real and continued.

SR: Yet the Attorney-General afterwards said travel sanctions still being in place was economic sabotage.

RH: Yes, I think this is one of the points, as you say they didn’t discuss the really difficult issues. They put them on the table and Ms Bishop made the point she would be reviewing the travel sanctions, she’d be looking at a variety of issues and taking some of these back to cabinet. Now the interesting thing about taking them back to cabinet is that it actually means that the decision on some of these issues won’t be made until after the Commodore hangs up his military uniform which he is due to do in less than a fortnight. Indeed at the end of February he says he will surrender his command, he will simply be a civilian – Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

SR: Will Commodore Bainimarama be seeing this meeting with Julie Bishop as helping his campaign to be elected as prime minister perhaps?

RH: No. Again I think it’s the wrong end of the stick to try and interpret it as Fiji grasping the last attempt to repair relations with Australia. They were perfectly prepared to go the election under the old circumstances if necessary and indeed some of the sceptics thought that was precisely what was going to happen but what it does do is give a chance for Australia and Fiji to make sure the election isn’t the only purpose  for restoring relationships – we can start before the election, we can start looking at areas where the relationship has become mutually toxic and unhelpful and try and produce a more balanced relationship, so it doesn’t all depend on whether we like the outcome of the election.

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5 thoughts on “Now the interesting thing about taking them back to cabinet is that it actually means that the decision on some of these issues won’t be made until after the Commodore hangs up his military uniform.

  1. Yes it smells suspicious when bilateral talks are held with an illegal leader before elections. The sound of a proposal to deal with refugees on the table with Bainimarama doesn’t seem to be the right approach to normalizing relationships. That is corrupt diplomacy! How can Bainimarama be bilaterally engaged with the Australian government, especially over a matter that needs the involvement and decision of the people, is beyond me! Australia’s record on refugee management is not the best as the Nauru processing atoll case shows. Why is Canberra so eager to bring up a proposal on how to manage refugees when the attention should be on free. fair and open elections? Why is it ever being talked over with a criminal who was charged and found guilty of treason? This rushed through bilateral talk is seemingly more about political expediency and commercial agenda setting by Canberra than about free, fair and open election and more importantly stable democracy for Fiji. I wonder how Canberra will respond when the election is found to be rigged as all indicators are already showing?

  2. @kainoqu
    Why on earth would Australia put its sovereign interest to manage refugees in an effective way ahead of some pipe dream of regime change in Fiji? It has now been 8 years since Khaiyum and his thugs have taken over and blundered Fiji without a smidgeon of resistance from Fiji’s population. Why should it be Australia’s role to fight the junta in Fiji? Australia has now a hard right wing, nationalist government with a very strong desire in keeping foreigners out. The events in Manus and the problems in Nauru show that Australia needs a reliable enforcer of immigration control. And the fact is that nobody in the region is more qualified than Fiji’s ruling RFMF. Only they have the professional expertise to deal with escapees and unruly refugees. They have developed torture methods and arrest procedures that will strike fear in even the most hard nosed parasites trying the crash Australia’s gates. And the cooperation between Western democracies and unsavoury dictatorships has a very long tradition indeed as log as the Western country benefits.

  3. remember and remember well that in the conduct of international political business (I think it’s called diplomacy in more common language) only one rule guides conduct : what is politically expedient.

  4. Lamusona levu – Talking up the coup infested RFMF to manage immigration control is like putting a bone to dogs! Fiji;s influx of Chinese nationals (legal or otherwise) does not speak well of Fiji military’s capacity to manage border control! The least we would want is having cash hungry Fijian soldiers on the border and in processing centers with refugees, bribed with money. The credibility of the Fijian soldier goes down the drain when it comes cash like what Bainimarama is showing. You may already know that people trafficking, asylum/refugee is big business and exposing cash hungry Fijian soldiers there might just come to haunt Australia! The next immediate challenge of the south pacific region especially Australia being top destination of refugees from the Asian continent is the guarding of its borders. If Australia cannot play lead role on this and rely on cash hungry Fijian soldiers to enforce immigration control it doesn’t reflect well on its status as member of the UN security council. The Fiji military is a failed brand! It searches the globe for contracts that serves its own interest, not the interest of people that pay their salary! The right wing nationalists government of Australia would do well growing some balls and showing real leadership on regional challenges like this instead of relying on a failed Fiji military institution to handle its job!

  5. what a load of shit. they have been meeting every year but fuck-all real progress on the ground. this is political correctness gone wrong!

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