9 Aug 2007

Australia's foreign minister warns of corrupt leadership in some Pacific countries

10:19 am on 9 August 2007

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, warns that the corrupt leadership in some Pacific countries is taking its toll on the health and education of citizens.

Australia has long championed improved governance among some South Pacific nations, expressing particular concern about Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and, more recently, Fiji - where the military seized power.

Relations with the Solomon's have further soured since the island's prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, decided to appoint Julian Moti as attorney-general.

Mr Moti is wanted in Australia on child sex charges.

Mr Downer rejected claims that Australia was a bully in the region, showing little respect for the sovereignty of its neighbours.

He says when its asks for the extradition of an Australian citizen facing serious charges in Australia, or when it applies travel sanctions against an illegal regime installed by a military coup, it occasionally hears accusations such that is a bully, or that its shows a lack of respect for sovereignty.

Mr Downer says the cry of sovereignty is occasionally used as a smokescreen, meant to distract attention from corrupt and illegal behaviour.