Thursday, September 8, 2011

NZ PM John Key indicates his priorities for Pacific

Updated September 8, 2011 10:56:01

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has taken over the chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum.

On taking over the chairmanship yesterday, Mr Key has indicated he wants a change in how development aid is provided for the region, and that, addressing climate change will be one of his priorities.

He has also said there will be no change in the Forum's position on Fiji, and it will maintain its suspension.

But Kiribati President Anote Tong says he will be pushing for a change in the Forum's position on Fiji, and he says other leaders share his views.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speakers: John Key, Pacific Islands Forum Chairman and New Zealand Prime Minister; Cathrine Delahunty, New Zealand Greens MP; Pro-West Papua freedom protesters; Anote Tong, President of Kiribati


OPENING: Would you please join me in welcoming General Secretary Slade to the podium. (clapping)

COONEY: While the official opening of the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting was marked by speeches, and tributes, it was also used by New Zealand to celebrate and display a little of its old and its new culture.

Standing at the back of the function centre on Queen Street wharf, known as the cloud, I found myself next to a troop of local dancers.

COONEY: So who are you guys?

DANCE GROUP: We are...Dance group, so we're a dance group and we've been asked to perform because we went to the world champs in Las Vegas, and this year we came second and in previous years we came first, there's eight of us.

COONEY: What kind of dance do you do?


COONEY: Hip hop?


COONEY: Well good luck with it.

DANCE GROUP: Thank you.

COONEY: But also in the cloud was one New Zealand Member of Parliament using a placard to try and raise awareness of her concerns about West Papua.

DELAHUNTY: My name's Cathrine Delahunty, Green Member of Parliament, and I'm here to support West Papua today because the Forum is not acting and this country is being occupied by the Indonesians.

COONEY: What's the problem with her being here?

OFFICIAL: If you want to have an interview you'll welcome to but you need to go down there.

COONEY: You seem to be not a very popular person?

DELAHUNTY: Well I think that's the story of Papua that it's one of our nearest neighbours and yet we've ignored it because we want to have trade ties with Indonesia, and the Forum is an opportunity to raise this issue.

COONEY: You think they're going to raise it?

DELAHUNTY: I would be surprised.

KEY: New Zealand is privileged to be hosting the Forum again this year. We are committed to strengthening relations with our closest neighbours in the Pacific, and we see the Pacific Islands Forum as one of the best ways of achieving that.

COONEY: And while the new Forum Chairman New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was making his acceptance speech inside, outside the rest of the West Papua protest movement was trying to get as much attention as possible.

PROTESTORS: Free West Papua! Free West Papua!

COONEY: Hi there I'm Campbell from Radio Australia, who have I got here?

JUDITH: Hi I'm Judith from Auckland.

COONEY: Why are you taking part in the West Papua protest?

JUDITH: Because I'm really concerned at the injustices which have occurred for the people in West Papua. They've got no freedom.

COONEY: Did you get any recognition when the leaders started arriving, did they wave, did they do anything or just pretend that you weren't there?

JUDITH: Difficult to tell really, there were just cars coming and we were just waving. They might have seen us through the smoked windows but they might not have.

COONEY: West Papau though wasn't the only issue attracting protestors on New Zealand's waterfront.

COONEY: What are you trying to get attention to?

PROTESTOR: The issue of the Australians over here, there are five banks which creates a structural imbalance in the New Zealand economy and the Australian product here and all the Australian corporations here now in our malls. And we can't have that decimating our culture?

COONEY: You think it's a bad thing?

PROTESTOR: I think it hollows out our economy.

COONEY: All week in Auckland leaders have been highlighting addressing climate change as one of the Forum's main priorities, a mantra repeated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during his public appearances here.

Kiribati President Anote Tong has been one of the Pacific leaders pushing that message for many years, and he has used this leaders meeting to repeat his call for help and awareness.

One proposal he says that is being seriously considered by his country is floating islands.

TONG: Floating islands are a concept and I think we are actually considering all the options available, it's like science fiction.

COONEY: But at an estimated cost of around two billion dollars, a floating island is still just a concept.
President Tong says he would consider a new island home for his people.

TONG: Every time I fly to Auckland I see these huge land masses which they think are derelict islands, we would love to have them, and i would love to have Tasmania if you would give it to me.

COONEY: Last week Anote Tong was one of the Pacific Leaders who took part in the Engaging with the Pacific Meeting in Nadi, organised by Fiji's military backed regime as an alternative to the Pacific Islands Forum, which it was suspended from in 2009, and during that meeting he said he would be supporting lifting that suspension at this week's forum.

In Auckland he is not backing away from that position.

TONG: If you have six children and one is a bad young boy, what do you do with him? Do you kick him out? You don't, you never do. And so Fiji is part of this family and our task is to continue to bring Fiji back as you would any child.

COONEY: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has repeated that the Forum will not be changing its position on Fiji. But Mr Tong says when the leaders go into their retreat on Thursday, he will be pushing for a lifting of the suspension, and he says he's not the only island leader who wants Fiji back in the Forum.

TONG: More than I think we all know, but I wouldn't say.

COONEY: This is Campbell Cooney in Auckland for Pacific Beat.