12 Jun 2013

Nauru's new president upbeat about prospects for stable government

5:37 pm on 12 June 2013

Nauru's new president, Baron Waqa, says his priority is forging stability of government following months of political deadlock.

The veteran MP and a former government minister was elected by Nauru's new parliament at its first sitting today, winning the vote 13 to 5.

Mr Waqa says having the support of a clear majority will help his government enable swift progress on issues related to Australia's asylum seeker centre on the island.

With six new MPs in the parliament, the president-elect is enthusiastic about the prospects. He spoke to Johnny Blades.

BARON WAQA: I can see that will operate a lot better now with these new people in, and the number is quite overwhelming, that is in support of the government now. If there's going to be any problem down the track it will be due to a problem with members wanting to take over, but I see that as most remote at this time.

JOHNNY BLADES: The concerns about the relationship with Australia obviously are among the most important things that you guys need to deal with. What's your strategy for the processing camps and the arrangements with Canberra? There have been calls for these to be revisited, basically.

BW: Well, that will have to be put back on the table and re-looked at. Definitely, we have a very good relationship with Australia and the administration in Canberra, the running of the camp over here. So we find no difficulty or no problems at all, and we can see that things will start moving more swiftly from here on. As I said, we have a clear majority and all these new faces, new people in parliament, are eager to work and assist with everything that we prioritise and put on the table as priority.

JB: What about the manoeuvring for commercial opportunities related to the camp? Just 'cause you've got a clear majority, does that mean it's going to make that problem easier to solve?

BW: I think the election has solved that to some degree. Our main aim now is to maximise and to involve our local businesses in finding services and things like that. There's huge opportunity for our people in terms of employment and we will be promoting that and expediting these sort of arrangements with the companies that are coming in to work and provide services for the camp, as well as our own companies, as well.

JB: Is the camp being freed up in light of the current habeas corpus court hearing?

BW: There are things that would have to be looked at or re-looked at, especially the way the open camps were suggested, how it should operate, where asylum seekers are allowed into the community unsupervised. This government will address that so that people can feel more at ease and feel secure and safe. And we have no problems with these people coming out and being amongst us, but we have to be certain that our people are not put in danger for all sorts of reasons.