May 02, 2014 06:41:52 A
The establishment of a proposed Holiday and Work Visa program between Australia and Fiji depends on the Fijian Government, says Brett Mason, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Speaking to Radio Australia following his two-day visit to Fiji earlier this week, Mason says the go-ahead of the arrangement depends on the Fijian Government’s capacity to reciprocate the engagement and offer the same for young Australians to travel to Fiji.
“It won’t go ahead unless Fiji does so reciprocally, OK. So the offer is there if Fiji reciprocates,” Mason said.
Through the visa program, young Fijian adults between the ages of 18 and 30 are allowed to have an extended holiday of up to 12 months in Australia, during which they can earn money through short term work and study.
The Australian Government says the offer is part of efforts to deepen their commitment with Fiji and expand, strengthen links between the two countries.
Mason further said while there is still room for improvements, his findings during the two-day visit, recognising “a changing air in Fiji” underlined the Fijian Government’s commitments to make positive changes for the country and its people.
“There’s a momentum towards the elections and greater pluralism and democracy. Let’s not go overboard. I don’t want to do that. I mean I’m not suggesting and no one is that things are perfect, but there is momentum for change and there’s been very solid progress,” Mason said.
“And when I was in Suva, many people said to me it’s so different now Brett, than it was 18 months, 2 years ago and there’s been significant changes. Even the media coverage of my visit, Opposition political parties. It’s far more generous and objective than it would have been sometime ago.
“We are confident, and indeed, Fiji is confident that it can show the world that those elections are free and fair.”
Mason said the Australian Government is also prepared to play its part to ensure it is free and fair, including co-leading an election observer mission for the September 17 election.
“Australia has been invited to co-lead electoral monitoring, so we will participate in that when we receive the terms of reference for our involvement, along with some other nations, and, of course, that’s a matter for Fiji, but we’re interested to hear what Fiji will say about that and certainly we’re prepared to play our part to ensure its a free and fair election.”
During his visit to Fiji on 28-29 April, Maso met with Fiji’s Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Elections Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. He also visited Australian-funded projects including renewing its partnership with USP, the Pacific Islands Forum, launch of the UN Women’s Market for Change initiative and the opening of the newly renovated SOPD clinic at the Sigatoka Hospital.