Opinion

Australia Vindicates PM Bainimarama’ s Advocacy That It And New Zealand Shouldn’t Have Voting Power In The Pacific Islands Forum

It became the obstacle that prevented the forum from reaching a consensus in the climate change negotiations in Funafuti. It also showed that our PM stood his ground as a matter of principle to defend the interests of small island developing states.
19 Aug 2019 12:46
Australia Vindicates PM Bainimarama’ s Advocacy That It And New Zealand Shouldn’t Have Voting Power In The Pacific Islands Forum
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden at the Pacific Islands Forum in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Photo: DEPTFO News

Opinion:

Australia’s rigid position in the Pacific Islands Forum’s climate change negotiations is exactly why Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wanted Australia and New Zealand not to have voting powers.

This may be the great paradox of his forum meeting.

Australia vindicates what Mr Bainimarama has been saying all along.

To New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s credit she voted with Mr Bainimarama and other forum leaders

Mr Bainimarama had pushed for Australia and New Zealand to sit in the forum as non-voting members or observers so that the forum is not unduly influenced by them.

If the climate change communique was up to Mr Bainimarama and a few other leaders then Australia would have toed the line.

It would still be free to lobby but it would not be directly involved in the frontline negotiations in the forum.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his deputy’s views about the region speak volumes of how they regard the region.

They act like “Big Brother” and will now be fighting on two fronts, one against New Zealand and the other against the forum members.

Mr Bainimarama has stamped his mark as the advocate for small island developing states. He reinforced it when he spoke out against Mr Morrison, who is supposed to be one of his best mates through the Vuvale Partnership.

It would be interesting to see how they get on when Mr Bainimarama goes on his first official Australian visit and arrives in Canberra next month.

He is expected to face an uphill battle to try to convince the Australians to phase out coal and replace it with new renewable sources of energy.

Mr Bainimarama has no illusion about the challenge.

But that will not deter him.

As a global climate change leader, he has the task of maintaining the narrative at the same level he left off as COP23 president.

Australia is the biggest coal user in this region.

Therefore it will stand its ground because coal is important to its economy.

The A$500 million given to the region for climate change work is aimed at trying to pacify the forum members from agitating,

Australian domestic politics is what drives the Australian position right now. Mr Morrison could face a serious backlash from the coal lobby at home if he does anything to undermine the current status quo.

This is a testy time for relations between Fiji and Australia.

From Fiji’s perspective, under Mr Bainimarama’s leadership, it will not be forced to do anything that is against the greater public good, defending the national and regional interests.

Climate change is at the top of that list.

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