Apr 13, 2021 Last Updated 11:41 PM, Apr 12, 2021

Papua New Guinea and Nauru are being bullied to assist Australia to traffic humans by force out of Australia on the pretext of stopping people smuggling—a con invented by former Minister for Immigration Philip Ruddock in 1999 and agreed to by former Shadow Minister Con Sciaccia and which has continued to this day. Before 1999, there was no offence under Australian law called “people smuggling”. In 1992, the refugee convention had been enshrined into the Australian Migration Act granting anyone the right to enter or stay in Australia without visas and claiming asylum.

At the same time, the parliament invented refugee detention to avoid having to assess the claims of a few hundred Cambodians. In 1999, when just 920 Afghan and Iraqi refugees arrived by sea after fleeing genocide and torture by the Taliban and the Saddam Hussein regime, Ruddock and the Australian parliament passed laws to jail anyone who assisted refugees, even though this was not then and is not now a crime. By 2000, the UN had become alarmed at Australia over not only the prisons for refugees but the punishment of those who assisted them.

With consultations, the UN wrote two protocols which offer greater protection for refugees and asylum seekers, migrants and trafficked sex slaves. These were ratified by Australia. In both protocols, there were saving clauses which exclude punishing migrants or other victims simply because they are punished or trafficked and excluded the movement across borders of anyone seeking asylum. Under the Law of the Sea, everyone has the right to innocent passage in the open sea, even the right to land on any coast and make claims for asylum without being punished for doing so. Article 32 of the refugee convention forbids expulsion from the territory of any signatory nation except for genuine national interest concerns, concerns which have never existed in Australia and which the Human Rights Parliamentary Committee concluded in a major report breached Australian and international human rights laws.

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Tong changes mind on PIPA

President Anote Tong of Kiribati has reversed a previous position against funding and the banning of fishing in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), paving the way for the creation of the world’s most important marine reserve. In a September 25 press release issued jointly with the giant American NGO Conservation International (CI), on whose board Tong sits, he announced he had finally made good on a five-yearold pledge to place US$2.5 million in government funds in PIPA’s otherwise-empty trust fund, something he had insisted to Islands Business just last May he had no intention of doing. And for the first time, Tong publicly endorsed the position of some fisheries scientists who say that closing the California-sized reserve to all fishing, far from entailing sacrifice as Tong had previously contended, would make good business sense for his people.

The scientists, whose views were first published in the July issue of Islands Business, said foreign fleets of industrial purse seiners are fishing tuna around the oceans faster than the tuna can reproduce, causing the stocks and their yield to shrink. Thus, creating a no-take zone as large as PIPA in the world’s most intensively fished area would allow tuna and other species to reproduce unhindered there and to double in number back to their original density, probably within a decade. At current prices, this extra tuna would be worth over US$200 million, but fisheries economists expect prices to continue rising as global demand for canned tuna steadily increases.

“It’s money in the bank,” said Ashley McCreaStrub, a fisheries scientist who studies marine protected areas at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She had pointed out to Islands Business that when the i-Kiribati start feeling the effects of sealevel rise in the coming decades, the extra cash would come in handy. Echoing these views for the first time, Tong said in the September press release that PIPA was “an investment” for the future of Kiribati. “With PIPA…we are investing in preserving food security for the world and creating an insurance policy for fishing in the region.” Until now, Tong in public routinely described PIPA as having been “off-limits to fishing and other extractive uses” since its creation in 2008. In fact, as the PIPA management plan available on PIPA’s website makes clear, its creation has had virtually no effect so far.

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Aviation employees who adhere to the utmost safety standards will tell you that the industry has no room for trial and error. One error can come at a huge cost—human lives and safety of passengers and crew. This is what New Zealand is trying to tell the travelling public when it comes to Tonga’s MA60 aircraft—a gift from the Chinese Government. But one cannot help but feel that while New Zealand is quoting safety issues, the origins of the aircraft could play some part in the aggressive travel advisory issued by the Kiwis, which Tongan tourism operators are claiming is crippling its industry. The advisory was accompanied by a decision to hold New Zealand aid for tourism development in Tonga.

Shane Walker, who owns Moorings and Sunsail Yacht Charter companies, Mango Restaurant, Boathouse Apartments and Tongan Beach Resort—all based on Vavau Island—told Islands Business they were looking at their legal options on the issue. He said the advisory was certainly having a major impact on businesses in the outer islands in Tonga. “The cost to outer islands operators is now in the millions—but time will tell just how severe and how long the effects will be felt,” he said. “I am concerned that there appears to be a lack of consistency on the part of New Zealand. I note that they have not issued the same advisory to 20 other countries where the MA60 is operated.

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Australia and New Zealand will have to concede significant concessions if the proposed free trade and development agreement between them and Pacific Islands Countries is to become a reality. That is the view of the man who is the Pacific Islands Chief Trade Adviser in PACER Plus negotiations with the two Trans-Tasman neighbours, Dr Edwini Kessie who heads the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser based in Port Vila, Vanuatu. “Compared to other negotiating subjects, we have not made significant progress on these two issues (labour mobility and development assistance), mainly because they are difficult issues and would require significant concessions from Australia and New Zealand,” said Dr Kessie via electronic mail from his Port Vila office.

“Regarding development assistance, for example, the FICs (Forum Islands Countries) would like to see the establishment of a dedicated fund which would help address the supply-side constraints which have prevented them from taking advantage of market access opportunities under various preferential trade agreements. “It is envisaged that the fund will help entrepreneurs from the Pacific to enhance their production and marketing skills and strengthen their capacity to benefit from PACER Plus. “Regarding labour mobility, Australia and New Zealand would be required to relax border controls to facilitate the movement of Pacific workers into their territories to work for temporary periods. “As you can see, these are difficult issues and would take time for the parties to bridge their differences.

“In that respect, the parties have been refining their proposals and there is now greater understanding of each other’s positions.” Dr Kessie was hopeful both the FICs on the one side and Australia and New Zealand on the other would come to the middle ground and be able to overcome their differences. He believes it would be to the two bigger countries’ interests in the long-term for PACER Plus to come into being.

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TTuvalu’s cabinet is embarking on a fresh roadmap and vision for the island nation as they take stock of the various needs of each ministry before they compile their budget for 2014 in December. The roadmap contains a long list of needs by each government ministry. The roadmap contains Tuvalu’s needs in areas including good governance, foreign relations, social development, policing, private sector employment, education and human resources, agriculture and fisheries.

A high-level partners dialogue was held in Tuvalu on September 18 where Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and his cabinet presented the roadmap to donors like AusAID, NZAID, European Union, Japan, India, Taiwan and United Nations Development Programme. A donor said they had asked government to present them a summarised list, which prioritises their needs.

“The donor roundtable was an opportunity for the new government to present to partners and for them to consider where assistance could be targeted based on a clear direction from the Tuvalu government,” one donor agency revealed. The move follows revelations last month by Sopoanga that his country was facing financial difficulties.

Already living up to his promise for more accountability and transparency, Sopoaga has also delivered his first monthly budget update (for August), in which his government has recorded a A$4.1 million surplus as a result of an unexpected surplus in fishing licence fees and funding from donors which they had not recorded in their estimate. They had estimated they would receive A$4.3 million in fishing licence frees but instead received A$6.4 million.

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   Managing Editor

   Samantha Magick 

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