25 Jul 2014

Academic says Australian PM's absence at Forum 'understandable'

3:24 pm on 25 July 2014

A Fiji academic in Australia says it is understandable that Australia's Prime Minister will not be attending next week's Pacific Islands Forum in Palau.

Tony Abbott says he will be focussing on Australia's response to the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane in the Ukraine.

Brij Lal, of the Australian National University, says the Australian delegation will still have prestige behind it as will be led by the deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.

But Dr Lal also says it would be advisable for the Prime Minister's office to reach out to Pacific leaders before the Forum.

"It will be useful for Mr Abbott's office to place a few strategic phone calls to important leaders in the region explaining to them why the Prime Minister won't be attending. I think they will understand but in the context of Pacific cultures the personal touch is very important."

A Fiji academic at the Australian National University, Brij Lal.

New Zealand's prime minister John Key is also forgoing the meeting, saying it is too close to the election in September.