29 Jul 2013

Fiji demands consultation from Canberra over boat people issue

1:29 pm on 29 July 2013

The Fiji government has demanded Australia consult its Melanesian neighbours over plans to move asylum seekers into the region.

In a hard-hitting attack on Canberra, Fiji's Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said the Australian government's latest policy was continuing a high-handed and arrogant pattern of behaviour.

Sally Round reports.

"Ratu Inoke was speaking in Brisbane at the 20th Australia Fiji Business Forum and follows regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama's criticisms last week of Canberra's plan to send all would be refugees arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea for potential settlement. Ratu Inoke says Australia has proposed a destabilising Melanesian solution for its own problem and he says Fiji is deeply troubled by this. He says Pacific Islanders can't remain silent as the current Australian government dumps the problem on the region's doorstep and he says there needs to be thorough regional consultation. The minister also asked why Australia did not engage with other members of the Pacific Islands Forum before embarking on its latest policy. Ratu Inoke also slammed Australia's continuing sanctions on Fiji and says full diplomatic ties will not be restored until Australia stops trying to damage Fiji. He says Fiji is keen to rebuild the relationship but wants to be regarded as equal."