Apr 25, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

Senator Brett Mason

Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs firms up relations with Fiji

After her first meeting with Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama in Suva in February, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is following up on what she had described as a very warm and engaging meeting by sending her Assistant Minister this month. Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Brett Mason says he will meet Bainimarama’s Foreign Minister while in Suva, as well as Fiji’s Electoral Commissioners. In Q&A, Senator Mason spoke about his government’s commitment to restoring relations between the two countries after seven years of non-engagement since the 2006 coup. Q&A also asked Senator Mason about his government’s position on Fiji’s participation in the PACER Plus negotiations, the much talked about Pacific Seasonal Workers’ Scheme, its controversial Pacific Solution, the new Colombo Plan and this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Palau in late July.

What’s the message that you bring Mr Bainimarama from your Prime Minister Tony Abbott? The message is that the Australian Government is committed to normalising relations with Fiji and developing stronger ties ahead of the Fiji elections in September this year. This is the message that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop brought with her in February and which my visit will build upon. In particular the lifting of travel sanctions on 31 March has helped lay the framework for closer cooperation with Fiji on bilateral and regional issues and I look forward to discussing these during my visit.

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Leadership change in Fiji’s Military

A young Fijian man who marched in as a private in the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces more than 30 years ago is now head of Fiji’s 4,000-strong force. Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga is from the southern island province of Kadavu, from Muani Village in the district of Ravitaki. Where he comes from, the people are traditionally referred to as Waikatakata, Fijian term for boiling water. In a career that has now span 33-years, Brigadier General Tikoitoga has served in dangerous and troublesome spots around the world like Lebanon, Sinai, East Timor (now Timor Leste) and Iraq, first as a private and later as an officer. He succeeded Commodore (now promoted to Rear Admiral) Frank Bainimarama as head of the RFMF on 5 March 2014. The Brigadier General is married to dietician Mrs Jiutajia Saukuru and they have two girls and a boy.

Congratulations on your appointment Brigadier General, could you talk briefly about your career?:  I had two stints in Australia. First I went across in mid 1998 on attachment to the Australian Defence Force as an instructor at the Land Warfare Centre and I came back in December 2000 then returned to the Staff College later on. That was a good experience for me having travelled abroad extensively on a number of operations on various duties. It was the first time I was going with my family in a different culture and country living amongst totally different people.

We learnt to live in a different society and then acknowledged the different backgrounds of people we lived amongst. I have never shied away from any responsibility. I have come through the ranks. I joined the then Royal Fiji Military Forces in 1981 as a private and stayed a private until I attended officer training in 1988. So I served a couple of years as a private. I made three tours to the Middle East as a private - two to Sinai and one to Lebanon and being promoted to the rank of corporal so that gave me all the experiences of a soldier’s life.

I came back and I was recommended for officer training by my Commanding Officer in Lebanon in 1986 at the time Major General George Konrote. In 1989 I got my promotion as an officer and I did my necessary training and posting. I have served in the Third Fiji Infantry Regiment (3FIR) and in overseas battalions from the position of platoon commander, adjutant OC, Operations Officer and as a staff officer at the RFMF headquarters. I also served as Chief of Staff Operations before I became Land Force Commander. Through these phases of my career, the lesson is that if we are consistent in our performance, we are bound to get recognised by our superiors.

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New SIVB boss outlines plans

 Josefa Tuamoto once Fiji’s top tourism marketing official is now taking his vast years of experience to the Solomon Islands. Last month, the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) announced Tuamoto’s appointment as the new General Manager of SIVB, replacing local Michael Tokuru. Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau board chairman Moses Tepai said the appointment represented a major achievement for their tourism aspirations and is intended to play a key role in the Solomon Islands increasing its annual international visitor intake. “We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Jo’s calibre on board.“Jo is highly regarded on the international tourism stage, his reputation and the huge success he has achieved for Fiji’s tourism precedes him. “This is especially the case in those visitor source markets we see as being critical to the future growth of our tourism industry and in particular, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.” South Pacific Tourism Organisation chief executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi said Tuamoto will assist and contribute to the initiatives and undertakings by the Solomon Islands Government to grow and harness the potential of the industry to improve employment opportunities, develop small tourism businesses and increase its contribution to the economy.

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MediaGlobal News Bureau Chief Nosh Nalavala interviewed Ambassador Marlene Moses, Permanent Representative of Nauru to the United Nations on the impact of climate change on small islands.

Last month at the General Debate in the UN General Assembly you spoke of “Small Islands Developing Countries (SIDS) being battered on all sides.” What did you mean? Small Islands Developing States are on the frontline of climate change, which means droughts, extreme storms, and increasingly sea level rise are causing life-altering changes. At the same time, because of our unique vulnerabilities—isolation, high dependence on natural resources and imports – even small fluctuations in energy and food prices hit us particularly hard.

Do you attribute the constraints to SIDS due to the intermittent flow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and a stagnation of climate finance? Yes, a lack of predictability in ODA—what is earmarked for sustainable development and what is for previous arrangements—has made it difficult for developing countries (SIDS in particular) to establish long-term plans that help us transition to a sustainable future.

What are your expectations from the post-2015 Development Agenda process, particularly in the area of adaptation for SIDS and the Climate Agenda? The post-2015 process, especially in light of other opportunities for SIDS to make progress on some of our key issues in the next few years, is crucially important if SIDS are able to adequately adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change. In fact, the impacts are so ubiquitous now, it is no exaggeration to say that development and adaptation are inextricably linked.

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Unite for Tuna

Unite for tuna. That's the plea of outgoing Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Director General, Su'a Tanielu, as he was wrapping up his final assignments for the region. After six years as head of the regional fisheries agency, Su'a believes the islands stand to gain more from being united for our sovereign resources than being divided. Su'a finishes his term in November and replacing him will be James Movick, who has worked under him. Here's what Su'a told *Islands Business*:

**Why is it important that we protect this resource from being over-exploited?** While our islands lie wide apart, what separates and also joins them is the ocean (30 million square kilometres) in which lies an ancient resource that is being vastly depleted by large fishing vessels, who continue to take our fish at minimum price and sell it at premium prices. Our ocean is highly productive and hosts rich fisheries including the last healthy tuna stocks in the world. This is our backyard and it is responsible for supplying the world fish markets with more than 2 million tons of tuna annually.

It is also the target of industrialised fishing nations for their enhanced fishing activities and the modality for fisheries subsidisation. The value of our tuna fisheries is estimated at approximately 8 billion dollars. Our strength is in our numbers and togetherness.

The principle of regional solidarity must be at the forefront as we address the issues and challenges of fisheries management, development, monitoring and control. We are beginning to feel the strain on the four main tuna stocks—skipjack, yellowfin, albacore and bigeye—in terms of catch and yields. We also need to ensure that we have the right to all these fisheries or what is generally known as rights-based approach to fisheries—so we need to secure those rights. And it’s a sovereignty issue which is why it is so important that one organisation like FFA dedicates its time and efforts to look after that.

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