11 Jun 2013

Baron Waqa Nauru's new president

4:55 pm on 11 June 2013

Nauru has a new president, Baron Waqa.

The veteran MP and a former government minister was elected by Nauru's new parliament at its first sitting today.

A former finance minister Roland Kun was also nominated for the presidency but Mr Waqa won the vote thirteen to five.

A former president and speaker in the last parliament, Ludwig Scotty, was re-elected speaker and a new MP Ranin Akua was elected unopposed to be deputy speaker.

Don Wiseman spoke to Mr Waqa, who first entered parliament in 2003, upon his re-election as an MP but before attaining the top job. He says the new MPs will ensure that the new parliament functions as it should.

BARON WAQA: These guys that have come in, they want parliament to perform and they want stability and they want to live out the three years with steady government and parliament.

DON WISEMAN: Yes, but you've been around a long time. You've heard that before.

BARON WAQA: Yes, I've heard that before. But the difference now, I think, some of the members have gone out and been replaced by these new ones, to me, they are more eager to see a functioning government and parliament.

DON WISEMAN: How do you think it will shake down?

BARON WAQA: Well, at the moment, our group, we're ready to form a government and we're ready to put up a president which we will be confirmed just before we enter parliament tomorrow.

DON WISEMAN: I suppose all the talk of stability is well and good, but the thing is, I guess, there are some key things the government has got to do. There have been concerns about the relationship between Australia and Nauru over the detention camp for the asylum seekers. Would you anticipate there's going to be big change there or not?

BARON WAQA: I think things are going to shape up well now. You need to hit the ground running, hit the floor, because we've wasted a lot of time over the last couple of months and we need to improve our relationship not just with Australia, but with other countries which have been idle and stagnant for a couple of months now. With Australia, yes, regarding the camps, there is a lot of work to be done there.

DON WISEMAN: The former finance minister, Roland Kun, says there is a real desire among the voters for government to get down to work quickly.

ROLAND KUN: We're all talking now between ourselves and talking to the new incoming members of parliament, and hoping to establish a grouping that will be sufficient to establish government.

DON WISEMAN: So what are the indications at this point of getting that 10?

ROLAND KUN: Well, at the moment it's still very much up in the air. We've had meetings with the various new members of parliament and other members of parliament who were here in the last parliament also speaking to the members. They're yet to firm up actually where they're going to be sitting. Where they land will decide where government is.

DON WISEMAN: I guess everyone goes into a new parliament and they've got high expectations. What are you hoping is going to come out of this newer parliament with six new people in it?

ROLAND KUN: Well, there's a strong call from the voting population that we establish government quite early and we're able to progress the work that's required and there's stability in government over the term. So, obviously, my desire would be to see exactly that, which is we don't waste time. We're able to form government - establish a clear majority and a government is formed and we can go forth with the necessary work ahead of us.

DON WISEMAN: That is re-elected Nauru MP, Roland Kun. Baron Waqa says the new MPs will ensure that this new parliament functions as it should.