Australia's Foreign Minister continues his Pacific tour in Samoa | Pacific Beat

Australia's Foreign Minister continues his Pacific tour in Samoa

Australia's Foreign Minister continues his Pacific tour in Samoa

Updated 12 February 2013, 18:07 AEDT

Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, has toured areas of Samoa's main island effected by December's devastating cyclone and inspect recovery projects being funded by Australia.

He announced a further seven million dollars to repair or rebuild 18 schools and nine health clinics

Senator Carr was in Samoa as part of a four day tour of the Pacific that includes the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Vanuatu.

In Kiribati he recorded a video message on climate change with President Anote Tong as a call to action at the United Nations.

The ABC's political correspondent Alexandra Kirk asked him about that and developments regarding Fiji.

Presenter: Alexandra Kirk

Speaker:Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr on his Pacific tour


KIRK: Can you explain the message that you've recorded with the President of Kiribati, where did you record it?
CARR: We recorded it at a village on this I was going to say island state, but more accurately Kiribati is described as an atoll state, no part of it more than three metres above the ocean level and that part which is three metres above the ocean level is a causeway, a man-built causeway. We recorded the message on a village that is regularly inundated and because they believe, the people of Kiribati believe and the President believes, because of rising ocean levels. So Kiribati is in the frontline of climate change and has got a special responsibility which they embrace to alert the world.
KIRK: And what are you hoping that recording a message with the President of Kiribati is going to achieve?
CARR: The message will be a contribution to the United Nations Security Council debate on this issue in early March, and we're sending to the UN Security Council this key note that climate change is a security issue. You take Kiribati as an early warning sign, this small nation has a population of 100-thousand over I think six islands, and if they have to evacuate because rising levels of saltwater have inundated their fresh water and there's no drinking water on the islands, then they will be an example of environmental migration. They would be environmental refugees. We're working with them on mitigation, we're working with them on lifting the skill levels of the population so that if this is necessary they can move as trained and desired skilled migrants. But they're in the frontline and they've got a special message and President Tong is keen to see that the world understands it.
KIRK: Now you've discussed Fiji even though you're not going to Fiji, with what in mind and what appears to be if there is a consensus amongst Pacific nations?
CARR: I think it's fair to say there's a Pacific community's consensus that Fiji must move towards that election that the interim government of Commodore Bainimarama has promised in 2014, but that the rules around the election should provide guarantees of its fairness, its transparency so that even if the, this is a reasonable test I think, so that even the losing candidates in that election would attest to it having been fair.  And if that's the case then we very happily would remove the sanctions that we applied to financial dealings and travel concerning the military government, and we would look at other areas, expanding other areas of cooperation and seeing Fiji readmitted as a full member of the Pacific Island Forum and the Commonwealth of Nations.
KIRK: And Fiji hasn't made that commitment yet?
CARR: They've made a commitment to elections in 2014.
KIRK: Yeah but not about the fate of those say who may lose?
CARR: They've made the commitment and underlined the commitment to elections in 2014. We accept that as being sincere. Given the recent decree on the organisation of political parties in Fiji we've got a concern about the level of fairness that might accompany those elections and we want to underline again moving in cooperation and consensus with other nations in the Pacific the importance for all aspects of those elections, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech that should accompany an election being entirely acceptable to all the participants. The recent decree by the interim government on political parties, the way the political parties to be registered and organised, does raise concerns.
KIRK: Has the idea of independent monitors for the elections come up?
CARR: Yes it did, I discussed that this morning with the Prime Minister of Samoa and I would think we're not to the point where we're discussing that yet, but I would think that there's a strong case and one that the interim government of Fiji would accept for the election being monitored, and Commonwealth monitors given that Fiji is suspended from the Commonwealth but not excluded from the Commonwealth, would be appropriate.

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