27 Feb 2008

Australia and NZ to enter new era of partnership in Pacific

9:17 pm on 27 February 2008

The Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand say they want to enter a new era of co-operation in the Pacific.

This comes as New Zealand's Helen Clark visited Canberra to meet her new Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd for an annual leaders meeting.

The leaders said they would unite to push for more democracy in the troubled South Pacific as they condemned a crackdown on critics by Fiji's military-installed government.

The two countries, who are both major donors to their smaller island neighbours, said they would also present a united front internationally on climate change after Australia agreed in December to sign the Kyoto climate change pact.

Mr Rudd says New Zealand and Australia give a combined billion dollars to the Pacific each year and it is important there are returns in the way of development in health and education.

Both leaders condemned the Fiji government's decision this week to expel the Australian publisher of the Fiji Sun newspaper.

Meanwhile, Miss Clark said the Rudd government's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol meant both countries could act together against climate shift.