15 May 2007

Australia's Moti stance a diplomatic blunder, says academic

3:50 pm on 15 May 2007

A political scientist says Australia has worsened its diplomatic relations with its Pacific neighbours over the Julian Moti saga.

Mr Moti is wanted on a sex crime charge relating to his time in Vanuatu in 1997.

Last year, he evaded extradition from Papua New Guinea to Australia last October and is still wanted after fleeing to Solomon Islands.

Senior Research fellow with the Australia National University, Greg Fry, says Australia's sudden political interest in Mr Moti after all this time has soured its relations somewhat with PNG, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

And he says the Solomon Islands prime minister's nomination of Mr Moti as Attorney General is a matter for the Solomon Islands to determine.

Mr Fry says he believes any resolution to the matter will require a change of government.

"I really think in this case that Australia has made a terrible diplomatic blunder in using a legal matter for political purposes. And if this wasn't exactly the case, then it certainly looked like it was, I mean the way the foreign minister came into this debate, it's going to take a while to come back, with the Papua New Guinea prime minister and the Solomon Islands prime minister. And it probably will not be resolved with those people in power, or whilst Mr Downer and Mr Howard are in power."

Senior research fellow with the Australia National University, Greg Fry.