Concerns to be raised in meeting with Nauru's president
Australia's foreign minister says she'll again raise concerns about the rule of law on Nauru when she meets with the island's president, but one senator is doubtful.
Australia's foreign minister says she'll again raise concerns about the rule of law on Nauru when she meets with president Baron Waqa at a Pacific Islands Forum foreign ministers meeting in Sydney.
Julie Bishop has already voiced concern about the political and human rights situation on Nauru, and sought assurances alongside New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully.
Five opposition MPs have been suspended from parliament for more than a year, and three of them face criminal charges after a protest outside Parliament in June.
Two others have had their Nauruan passports suspended.
There has also been widespread criticism of new laws that restrict freedom of expression and assembly, as well as restrictions on internet access and social media.
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Ms Bishop says Australia wants to ensure openess, transparency and accountability to the international community.
"These are domestic matters but we urge there to be an adherence to the rule of law, that their justice system operates properly, that people are not denied natural justice, that they're given an opportunity to present their case, but I've had one confidential discussion with the president and I'll be having another one today."
But the immigration spokesperson for the Australian Green Party, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, says she's not expecting much to come out of Friday's meeting.
She told Don Wiseman the asylum seeker camps into which Canberra has poured millions of dollars have left Australia absolutely compromised.
SARAH HANSON-YOUNG: Obviously this is an opportunity to raise the issues of what's been going on in Nauru whether it's in relation to the absolute disintegration of the justice system on the island, or indeed more directly Australia's influence and impact on what has been going on in Nauru. But of course as Australia is hosting this forum, Australia's foreign minister has been very very quiet in talking about the domestic issues in Nauru. I'm not holding my breath unfortunately.
DON WISEMAN: Your minister has talking about it wanting to focus on disaster management and things like this, which seems somewhat odd for foreign ministers.
SHY: Well that's right, and of course I know there's a push to talk about things like climate change from, particularly those in the Pacific, Kiribati, Tuvalu and others, who are feeling the very real impacts of climate change already. You've got to wonder what the Australian government would be able to say to that when really we have a Prime Minister doesn't seem to give two hoots about the humanitarian, let alone the industry, impacts of climate change.
DW: There's been a lot of concern raised in New Zealand across a number of sectors over the last two or three weeks about the situation in Nauru, there's been a muted response from Australia, do you think there will be more? Do you think the government is every going to be in a position - or is it too compromised?
SHY: Australia is absolutely compromised in this. That's not to say that's an excuse, that's just probably the reason why. Obviously the Australian government is spending hundreds of millions, in fact billions of dollars keeping the detention camp in Nauru operational. It is in Australia's interests to keep media off the island, away from what's going on because it will look bad of course for Australia if, not just the Australian public, but the rest of the world knew how appalling the conditions are inside that camp. And of course all of this is contributing significantly to the domestic tensions inside Nauru. It suits the Australian government at the moment for Nauru to be a bit of a mess, for the justice system to not work properly and of course for no proper access to journalists. It suits the Australian government. So while it is wrong, while Australia should be speaking up, they are absolutely compromised for their own selfish reasons.
DW: The many millions that Australia has poured in there, you're saying that that effectively is what's caused a destabilisation?
SHY: Look, there is a lot of money. The Australian tax payer's money is being spent in Nauru through the visa fees , in fact the it's well known now that it is Australia's money that is being spent in Nauru that is effectively keeping the Naruan economy going. It is the biggest employer; the detention centre, these days. The amount of money that is given for visa fees and leasing of even just the land that the detention centre is on is significant. And of course it suits the Australian government to keep all of this in the dark.
DW: The New Zealand government had discussions with the Nauru Justice Minister a year ago at the time that the shenanigans were going on in the justice sector, they received an assurance that satisfied them, I guess there's a chance they'll receive something similar this weekend. But do you think that these issues, they require something fundamental don't they? There's got to be be a fundamental change and soon?
SHY: Absolutely and any assurances that were given 12 months ago, or 18 months ago, when the chief justice, and magistrate were expelled from the island, those assurances virtually mean nothing now because the system is in no way better in fact it has gotten worse of course with the crackdown on opposition voices; particularly of MPs, but increasingly so even on things like online media and the use of the internet. And you've got country's like the United States expressing very real concern about what's going on in this very small place and yet the Australian government, who has the most influence there, that is keeping the nation afloat in terms of its economy, is being absolutely mute on the issue. That says it all. It's not appropriate. A lot of people are arguing and discussing whether at Pacific Forum Nauru will be raised by New Zealand and others and pulled up for their behaviour; it's not just Nauru that needs to be pulled up for their behaviour, the Australian government has take some responsibility there as well.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: