18 Mar 2008

Australia has historic chance in Pacifc relations, says think tank

2:45 pm on 18 March 2008

A report from an Australian think tank says the new Rudd Government has an historic opportunity to make a positive difference to the prospects of Pacific Island countries.

An independent taskforce, brought together by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says the way forward is for Australia to embrace regional integration, including the opening of its borders to Pacific workers.

It says this new focus should include way to develop an enabling security that would avoid the need for regional assistance mission such as RAMSI in Solomon Islands.

The taskforce manager, Anthony Bergin, says Australia is at a window where it can develop its relations with the Pacific.

"We need to put the people back into our Pacific policy. That is, that we need to, in a measured way, open our borders to allow Pacific Islanders, for example, to work more easily in Australia, and Australians to work more easily in the Pacific Islands and that generally we should be growing an interchange, a crossflow of people between Australia and the Pacific."

Anthony Bergin