The chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee, John Hayes, says it will be an opportunity for Pacific politicians and leaders, and
New Zealand Members of Parliament, to strengthen their networks in the region.
Campbell Cooney asked him about the aims of the meeting.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speaker: John Hayes is the chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee in New Zealand's parliament
HAYES: Yeah we found quite a lot of issues actually we'd like to see addressed across the region. And this was a cross-party report and the recommendations were unanimous, and one of the things that the committee felt, and this was the report completed December two years ago really, one of the issues was they felt that we needed to develop better linkages with emerging leaders, between people right around the region and then they're in parliament. And so one of the suggestions they came up with was that we should have some sort of an event in our parliament, they said annually, but let's say it's taken us two years pretty much to get this up and running, but it's an event that will involve targeting particularly women MPs and younger MPs. We don't want the tall trees because they get to travel a lot anyway, to come down, to spend a bit of time, a few days in our parliament to debate Pacific issues, to attend some seminars on a range of topics of their interest, and to get to know each other better and to help our members of parliament and people across the region get to know each other better. Because one of the things that I think's really quite important in the region is us realising that actually we're not small island states, we're large ocean states and there's a lot of mileage in knowing each other's issues better, understanding them better, and knowing in the Pacific it's really important to know the face that you're dealing with in another country. So this is just going to be an opportunity for all entities in the Pacific, both the sovereign ones and entities like Tokelau that aren't sovereign, to come together in the New Zealand parliament, including from Oz, to come together in the New Zealand parliament and to get to know each other a bit better over a few days. It'll kick off with a three-hour debate in our own parliament on foreign policy issues, this will only be New Zealand politicians speaking, and then over the next few days there'll be further debates in the New Zealand parliament between the Pacific Islanders and also involving our members of parliament and MPs from around the region.
COONEY: Sometimes I think the relationship between Australia and New Zealand and Pacific Island states is seen as a bit of a paternal one or maternal one, on whichever side you come up. I'm getting the feeling, correct me if I'm wrong, that this is a bit of a push to try and make it a more one-on-one basis as far as that relationship goes?
HAYES: Yeah that's right, and we're not bringing Pacific people here to lecture them. We're bringing in a few of the tall trees around the region, people with experience, recently retired prime ministers, people with an understanding of how the region works to come in as mentors for the process.
COONEY: Fiji taking part?
HAYES: I'm working on it, Fiji's part of the region, there are a few boulders in the road but I'm hoping that we can get a bit of commonsense, a bit of forward movement on a parliamentary basis. And when journalists like you say to me, why are you bringing the Fijians? The answer is pretty much well they've got to learn about democracy too and it might help them to see it in action.
COONEY: Would other places that are taking part, you mentioned Tokelau, so I'm guessing other entities as well, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, places like that?
HAYES: Yep, they're all part of the Pacific aren't they, they're all large ocean states.
COONEY: Ok if you're to think of a particular issue that at the end of this that you hope is resolved or there's something going to come out of it, if there was one particular thing on your wish list John Hayes what would it be?
HAYES: To improve networks between us all in this part of the planet and an ability to work better together.