31 Jan 2008

Call for change of Nauru's status

4:51 pm on 31 January 2008

While Nauruans are marking their 40th anniversary of independence today, an academic has called for a change to Nauru's status.

A senior fellow at Australia's Center for Independent Studies, Helen Hughes, says Nauru cannot stand on its own feet and that it could be given association status by Canberra.

She says the impending closure of Australia's asylum-seeker detention center on the island, as well as the depletion of its mining industry, has only highlighted the dilemma about Nauru's future.

Ms Hughes says Nauru is not a country in any meaningful sense.

"This is a totally welfare-dependent country/shire where the education's been lost and nobody's working. They have a culture, a right to their language and all of that, but they don't have the right to being kept forever by Australian taxpayers and that's what Nauru is setting out to do - to be a perpetual beggar state."

Helen Hughes says giving Nauru's people access to work and residence in Australia would improve the long-term economic outlook of the island.