Space between NZ and Aust on Nauru pondered
A Pacific academic considers the gap opening up between New Zealand and Australia over governance issues on Nauru.
While the New Zealand Government has suspended aid to Nauru's justice sector, Australia is saying they have no concerns with the law and order situation there.
Nauru meanwhile has attacked New Zealand for interfering in its domestic affairs.
The director of the MacMillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury, Steven Ratuva, told Don Wiseman Australia has too much invested in Nauru to criticise the actions of the government.
STEVEN RATUVA: I think in the case of Australia they probably recognise there are some issues of law and order and political governance which have been taking place in Nauru, but at the same time it has its own interests in terms of the processing centre, so it doesn't want to jeopardise that responsibility which has kind of shifted over to Nauru. For Nauru itself it relies on that. So New Zealand, if you like is an independent party, so its critical assessment of what is happening in Nauru, is I think the same as what the other members of the Forum have been observing in relation to the rule of law, in relation to the authoritarian style of government. I think over time you won't see much change in Australia's position because it has to remained unchanged for some time now.
DON WISEMAN: As far as the assessment done by New Zealand, Nauru says it is all about pressure being applied on the New Zealand Government, or lobbying by Roland Kun and his wife. The New Zealand Government says its more than that but what have they relied on to make their assessment.
SR: I am not really sure what the New Zealand Government, what sort of information they have in place, I mean a lot of the things happening in Nauru have been commonplace. We have had politicians who have openly talked about what is happening there, the media in many ways kind of subdued - not many international media allowed to enter Nauru. There is of course speculation that Roland has been providing information. Also in terms of the big picture, the situation is not so much to do with the judiciary and not so much to do with rule of law as such - it is to do with political governance and the way in which the government has created that environment to over ride even the power of the judiciary. I mean you must remember that the judges in Nauru, including the judges in the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, are appointed by the President. So you still have, even constitutionally, you have that overriding political power of the state over the judiciary. So by doing what it did it has created a condition not only to weaken the judiciary but also to create a semblance of a law and order problem in a country.
DW: Now Australia has said they have been told everything is fine and that's fine with them but the reality is that there is significant political instability and surely Australia doesn't want that on that island, given the amount of money that is pouring in there.
SR: Well yes. Certainly Australia doesn't want instability on the island. At the same time it doesn't want any change to the government which might threaten their interests on the islands. For them, as long as their interest in the processing centre remains, that's OK. So I don't really think they are interested in the authoritarian style of government for imprisonment of outspoken politicians and so on, because for them, it is really their political interests in terms of sustaining the processing centre.
DW: The suspended MPs, I think they are fully in favour of the asylum seeker camps staying - I am yet to find very many on Nauru who are opposed to the camps.
SR: Yes That is one of the ironies, one of the paradoxes of the situation on Nauru, because - on one hand if Australia withdraws the money, if there is no processing centre on the island, then the economy will virtually collapse. So even the politicians who have spoken against the government wouldn't want to see the processing centre taken away. So they are in a sort of Catch 22 that they cannot get out of, and one would feel sorry for that situation and Australia is taking advantage of the vulnerability of that Catch 22 situation as a means of sustaining that centre there.
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