28 Mar 2011

Solomon Islands entering period of potential high conflict says academic

8:55 am on 28 March 2011

An Australian National University academic who's written a report on the future of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands says as the logging industry nears collapse, the country's entering a period of potential high conflict.

Dr Matthew Allen's report highlights the possibility of civil unrest unless Solomon Islands retains a RAMSI type security deterrent and Australia opens its labour market to Solomon Islanders.

He says the debate in Australia about labour migration and mobility has been too narrowly framed around its domestic economy, particularly around the horticultural sector and the impact on jobs for Australians.

Dr Allen says Australia needs to heed the ultimate cost of not opening its labour market to Melanesian countries.

"We've seen very clearly in the case of Solomon Islands where there's a strong relationship between development issues and conflict, that the ultimate cost of that to countries like Australia and to New Zealand and indeed to our Pacific Forum partners is very high when it comes to things like the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands."

Dr Matthew Allen says Australia must also accept that aid to Solomon Islands will have to continue for the foreseeable future.