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Advancing Relations With Australia Fairly

So, the Australians are back. And building on it. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop’s visit to Fiji has effectively fully restored official ties between our countries. The people-to-people
02 Nov 2014 11:48
Advancing Relations With Australia Fairly

So, the Australians are back. And building on it. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop’s visit to Fiji has effectively fully restored official ties between our countries.

The people-to-people and business relations between our nations have never wavered.

But we all know. After the change of government here in 2006 Fiji was deserted by some we regarded as friends, notably our near neighbour governments in Canberra and Wellington.

They made demands for Fiji to return to parliamentary democracy according to their timetable. So-called “smart sanctions” were put in place to try to force us to. But Fiji, under the leadership of Voreqe Bainimarama, would no longer dance to their tune.

Fiji’s return to a better democracy – a true one this time – was made at a pace that enabled the reforms to be properly implemented. The Prime Minister and his Government were determined on this.

It is no secret that the “smart sanctions” engineered by Canberra and Wellington failed.

Instead of bowing to them Fiji built new and stronger ties with major powers such as China, India and Russia. We punched above our weight diplomatically in the developing world. We became a leader in bodies such as the G77 Plus China, small island states bloc at the United Nations, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

There will be no going back to the ways and lopsided relationships of the past. Fiji is now, for the first time, truly independent internationally. Australia needs to understand that.

But Ms Bishop’s visit to the capital, Suva, signals that a new journey in Australia-Fiji inter-governmental relations is now moving ahead. The Australian Government is sweeping away the sour and ineffective attitudes of its Labor predecessors.

In Ms Bishop’s meeting with our Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, they significantly agreed the two countries will now quickly exchange High Commissioners. Fiji will conclude its selection of a High Commissioner to Australia shortly. Margaret Twomey will soon take up the position of Australian High Commissioner to Fiji.

A wide range of relationship building steps have also been put in place. Going forward they must address some of Australia’s discriminatory attitudes.

Ms Bishop, personally, has been a major force in this restoration of relations. She gets on well with Prime Minister Bainimarama and Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke. She is making sure old ways in the Australian department of foreign affairs do not creep in to impede progress.

She is a credit to Australia.

Now on to the next step. A visit here by Mr Abbott himself?

Feedback:  maikab@fijisun.com.fj

 




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