6 May 2015

Australia in "coalition of the selfish": Bainimarama

8:07 pm on 6 May 2015

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says Australia and New Zealand's stance on climate change issues is the main reason for demanding them out of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Bainimarama says their views on the issue diverge from Fiji's and other Pacific nations and he won't attend any leaders' meetings of the Forum until Australia's and New Zealand's undue influence is addressed.

No caption

Photo: PIF

He says Fiji's interests are not reflected in the stance being taken by Australia and New Zealand and especially on rising sea levels which are the biggest threat to Fiji's security.

He singled out Australia who he said was dragging its feet rather than joining Fiji on an international campaign to cut carbon emissions.

"Rather than side with us, Australia in particular is siding with what I call the coalition of the selfish. Those industrialised nations which are putting the welfare of their carbon polluting industries and their workers before our welfare and survival as Pacific Islanders."

Mr Bainimarama, who was speaking at a workshop of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, said he wanted to set the record straight on Fiji's continued participation in the Pacific Islands Forum, from which Fiji was suspended in 2009 following his 2006 coup.

The Inaugural Pacific Islands development Forum, 2013

The inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum, 2013 Photo: RNZ

Fiji's suspension was lifted last year after it held elections in September.

"This is not some ill-considered position based on resentment against Australia and New Zealand for their punitive attitude towards our reform programme that produced the first genuine democracy in Fijian history. This is not me 'mouthing off', as the New Zealand Prime Minister so condescendingly put it," said Mr Bainimarama.

Mr Bainimarama dismissed calls for the Forum's headquarters to move out of Suva.

"We will continue to participate in all Forum activities at the public service, technical and ministerial levels. The PIF Secretariat will, of course, continue to be headquartered in Fiji. But as Head of Government, I will not participate in any Forum Leader's Meeting until the issue of the undue influence of Australia and New Zealand and our divergence of views is addressed. Australia and New Zealand are not island nations. And we believe that they are more development partners such as the European Union, China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and the rest."

The prime minister said countries in Europe are more on-side with Fiji over climate change than Fiji's larger neighbours.

"The Europeans have proved to be our true allies in this most basic of struggles. And as we see it, Australia and New Zealand have been put to the test on climate change and been found wanting. So it should be no surprise that we have formed the view that at the very least, their position as full members of our island nation Forum needs to be questioned, re-examined and redefined. They simply do not represent our interests as we face this critical matter of survival."

Mr Bainimarama said bilateral relations with the Australians and New Zealanders would not be affected.

He said the two countries would continue to be regarded as friends despite grave disappointment at their stance on climate change.

no caption

Photo: RNZ