Analysis | NATION

PM Bainimarama To Seek Common Ground With PM Morrison In First Official Visit To Australia

‘I don’t want to say anything more before I have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with PM Morrison when I visit Canberra’. In Parliament last week, Mr Bainimarama admitted that some strong words were said in Tuvalu
11 Sep 2019 14:54
PM Bainimarama To Seek Common Ground With PM Morrison In First Official Visit To Australia
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrisson during his recent visit to Fiji.

Analysis:

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will arrive in Australia tomorrow for his first five-day state visit.

While speculation is rife about an ‘interesting’ meeting after the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in Tuvalu last month, messages from both sides recently have been rather more positive.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra yesterday he was confident the state visit would be a success.

“I have a wonderful relationship with Frank Bainimarama. I’m looking forward to seeing him again.”

In Parliament last week, Mr Bainimarama admitted that some strong things were said in Tuvalu.

But he would be seeking common ground on this visit.

“I don’t want to say anything more before I have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with PM Morrison when I visit Canberra.”

In Tuvalu, Mr Bainimarama had accused his Australian counterpart of insulting Pacific island nations after leaders failed to agree on a new climate change commitment. Australia remained steadfast in its stance towards pro-coal policies.

Mr Bainimarama had labelled Mr Morrison’s behaviour as “very insulting” and “very condescending.”

But this was expected given Fiji’s recent role in COP23 and other climate change negotiations.

Mr Bainimarama before leaving Tuvalu was also generous and referred to both Australia and New Zealand as “great nations.”

He also added, “We are in a new era in which both countries are attempting to re-engage with us in a more respectful and inclusive way and I, for one, warmly welcome that.”

So, the tensions of Tuvalu may well be all water under the bridge when the Vuvale Partners meet tomorrow.

Discussions are expected to be focused on trade, sports, seasonal workers scheme and other issues of common interest.

This is in addition to strengthening bilateral links. Relationship between the two countries has never been stronger and warmer since the 2006 political upheaval.

Social policy analyst and chief executive officer of CLCT Integrity Fiji Joseph Veramu predict that Mr Bainimarama will appeal to Australia to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.

“Mr Bainimarama had couched his appeal in terms of the survival of the small island nations of the Pacific. He had said that this was very important because “we face an existential threat that you don’t face and challenges we expect your government and people to more fully appreciate.”

Mr Veramu believes that Mr Bainimarama is doing his part proactively in calling for lower emissions.

However, there must be a change of mindset in Australia’s electorate to see the environment as being extremely important. Australian politicians must come out of their populist mindsets and put in place policies that will preserve the environment for future generations. It is the moral thing to do, Mr Veramu said.

Sandra Tarte, head of the School of Government and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific believes the five-day visit provides an opportunity for Mr Bainimarama to speak directly to the Australian public about the realities of climate change.

“He recognises the political challenges his counterpart Mr Morrison faces in trying to navigate his own party in regards to the coal industry and climate change.

“He understands that It’s a process that he has to keep working at it.”

For Australia, it’s a huge strategic interest at stake with deep security concerns because of Chinese interest in the region.
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