Cross posted from The Jet Newspaper article 1 and article 2 and corroborated by Radio Fiji and Fiji Village. Excerpt of articles: PM opens embassy in Brazil
(Photo caption: Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and Brazilian Under Secretary General for Asia Pacific Region, Ms Maria Edileuza Reis cutting the cake to celebrate the opening of Fiji’s embassy in Brasilia, Brazil.)
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama opened Fiji’s first ever mission in the South American continent today at Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.
The Prime Minister said the opening of the embassy in Brasilia symbolised the new paradigm shift in Fiji.
“My Government believes in engagement with the wider international community,” Commodore Bainimarama told the guests present at the historic event.
“We believe that engagement should not only be confined to those nearest to us. International co-operation and engagement are critical to achieving global understanding and peace.”
Commodore Bainimarama said that working together as a group and enhancing more global integration provided the impetus to address issues such as climate change and peacekeeping among others.
“After all, it is only through appreciating differences and capitalising on diversity can we become rich in mind and matter,” Commodore Bainimarama said. “Thus, international co-operation and engagement will also help us as individual nations to achieve economic growth and economic diversification.”
In the past year, Fiji has opened up resident missions in Indonesia and South Africa. Fiji now has resident missions in all the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) except Russia, which is served by Fiji’s resident mission to Japan.
The opening of the embassy marks another milestone achievement for Fiji as we become the first island nation from the Pacific to be represented in Latin America. Fiji established diplomatic relations with Brazil on February 16, 2006. Brazil is the largest national economy in Latin America, the world’s eighth largest economy at market exchange rates. The economy of Brazil is diverse encompassing agriculture, industry and services.
Fiji’s imports from Brazil include, among others, vegetable products, coffee, prepared food stuff, beverages, spirits, vinegar, tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, chemicals, plastics, grains, footwear items, glassware, ceramic products, jewelry, iron and steel.
The opening of the embassy in Brazil brings [Fiji's] total number of resident missions overseas to 14.
Brazil To Open Mission in Fiji.
The Federative Republic of Brazil has confirmed it will reciprocate Fiji’s opening of a diplomatic mission in Brasilia by establishing its mission in Suva. Brazilian Secretary General for Asia Pacific Region, Ms Maria Edileuza Reis gave an assurance to the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama today. She expressed Brazil’s intention to open up a resident mission for Brazil in Suva as soon as possible. “Brazil is looking to further develop close cooperation with Pacific island countries and the Fiji mission in Brasilia could be a start in engaging and enhancing cooperation,” Ms Reis said.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama with the Brazilian Secretary General for Asia Pacific Region, Ms Maria Edileuza Reis
“A mechanism for political consultations is being developed between Brazil and Fiji and this is a step forward in further strengthening our bilateral relations. Once in place this will provide a way forward for our two countries in coordinating positions with regards to multilateral issues.” Commodore Bainimarama urged Brazilian companies and the Government that Fiji’s opening of its mission in Brasilia was not only intended for Fiji alone but should be seen as a window for Brazil for more trade and economic opportunities to other Pacific island States.
“Our resident presence here not only provides an opportunity to know and understand Fiji and to gain access to the Fijian market but it also gives Brazil and South Americans an entry to the wider Pacific region,” he said.
“Fiji being the hub of the Pacific small island countries is the conduit for accessing the wider Pacific region. It is for this reason that many countries like USA, and multilateral agencies such as the World Health Organisation and United Nations Development Programme use Fiji as their headquarters to service other Pacific island States.
“I would urge the Brazilian Government to take advantage of this new relationship we have now and consider the establishment of a resident mission of the Brazilian Government in Fiji.”
This mission he said could serve the other Pacific small island countries also. The Fijian Government will work on a mechanism to see that all necessary arrangements are made for the opening of a diplomatic mission for Brazil in Fiji. “The Fijian Government today commits that it will provide all the necessary assistance for the establishment of your Mission in Suva,” the Prime Minister said.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The wisdom of Miles Jordana: Hidden in plain sight
Posted on September 12, 2011 by Charon
The following is a modified version of an article which first appeared in the Fiji Sun on 12 September, 2011 and which Blak and Black has linked to since publishing the following article. The Fiji Sun article was subsequently copied and published by the Solomon Star on 14 September 2011. I gratefully acknowledge the Fiji Sun as being the major source for what follows.
Miles Jordana, in focus.
As the High Court of Australia deliberates its decision in the long-running Julian Moti Affair, three high ranking Australian public servants must worry whether they have done themselves a disservice by ruining the career of the former Attorney-General of Solomon Islands and his ascendant Melanesian constituency.
They are Miles Jordana – of “Children Overboard” fame, who became the fall guy for former Australian Prime Minister John Howard; Federal Agent Peter Bond who became the fall guy for former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty; and finally Patrick Cole who became the fall guy for former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Over the last six months or so I have written and published extensively on the careers of the latter two fall guys – Bond and Cole. However, Miles Jordana has remained in the shadows, a man of mystery hiding in plain if shadowed sight. It is time to correct this oversight.
Blak and BlackJordana has been and remains an important player in the affairs of the Pacific region. He was the architect of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (“RAMSI”) treaty and was the author of the legal advice that facilitated the unlawful removal and rendition to Australia of the former Attorney-General of Solomon Islands, Julian Moti QC.
"One of the justifications used by European colonial powers when they began colonizing other peoples lands was that they were bringing the ‘rule of law’ to the “savages” of the Southern Hemisphere.
This is the same argument that Australia used when it established RAMSI and when it has intervened in the sovereign affairs of other near neighbors such as Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. How can a country that so disregards the ‘rule of law’ within its own borders claim to be in a position to export it to others?
While ruminating on the fate of these three fall guys, I realised that I have reached that point in my life where the Tanakh takes on a more immediate relevance and so demands a more thorough investigation. As I was reading my Tanakh the other evening I came to the account in 1 Kings 3: the two women plead their case, the sword is suspended over the child, and then Solomon grants the child a last-minute reprieve, resolving the case as he determines the identity of the true mother.
But a tragic loose-end is usually forgotten as the story is remembered today, that being of the second child, who was accidentally smothered by its mother and scarcely acknowledged after its death. This child is largely forgotten partly because our understanding of the story is based on one particular version of the biblical text the Masoretic Bible. The dead child has more of a presence in other ancient versions of the biblical text.
So it is with the wondrous career of Miles Jordana.
When one reads the published curriculum vitae of Jordana one wonders how a man with a largely forgotten background has managed to rise to the dizzying heights of a Deputy Secretary with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department (“AGD”), not a mean feat by any standards. So, in order to shed some much deserved light of the forgotten career of the AGD’s own Miles Jordana I have decided to look beyond the Masoretic Bible of the Australian press to find the real Miles Jordana.
Jordana becomes Howard’s fall guy
“Lord, how this world is given to lying. Quite so, Falstaff, but there is lying and lying.”
Miles Jordana first rose to prominence during the so-called “Children Overboard Affair” when he was point man for Prime Minister John Howard on the issue. Readers will probably recall that day in 2001 when Howard and his team threw truth and the ‘rule of law’ to the wind in favour of political expediency, which is just another term for corruption.
For those who don’t recall the incident let me refresh your memories. In the early afternoon of 6 October 2001, a southbound wooden hulled “Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel” designated SIEV 4, carrying 223 asylum seekers and believed to be operated by “people smugglers”, was intercepted by HMAS Adelaide 100 nautical miles (190 km) north of Christmas Island and then sunk. The next day, which was the day before the issue of writs for the 2001 Australian Federal Election, Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock announced that passengers of SIEV 4 had thrown children overboard. This claim was later repeated by other senior government ministers including Defence Minister Peter Reith and Prime Minister Howard.
Shortly after the rumors about asylum seekers throwing their children overboard began to circulate in the Australian press and almost a month before the 2001 Australian Federal Elections, Miles Jordana was told that photographs purporting to show asylum seekers throwing their children overboard were misrepresented.
Children Overboard misrepresentation – the timeline – compiled after first Senate enquiry
- 8 Oct 2001: Katrina Edwards – first assistant secretary of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – testifies that Jordana rang her asking for more material on the children who were thrown overboard such as their age and the number who went into the water. Jordana was sent a number of reports. No report ever came from Defence that mentioned children being thrown overboard.
- 10 Oct 2001: Jordana received a copy of the Taskforce “Talking Points” for the 10th October which stated, “15 suspected authorised arrivals either jumped or were thrown overboard by other suspected unauthorised arrivals.” No mention of children.
- 7 Nov 2001: Miles Jordana calls Jenny Bryant on 7th Nov to “refresh” Howard’s memory for National Press Club Address. Bryant says she supplied Jordana with reports from 8th Oct: DFAT SITREP 59. – HDHQ OP GABERDINE/OP RELEX 0800 BRIEF 8 Oct 2001. Jordana later tells Bryant they were not much help to him in preparing for Howard’s speech (probably because neither mentioned children being thrown overboard).
- 7 Nov 2001: Miles Jordana told by PM’s People Smuggling Taskforce chief Jane Halton that she has heard there are doubts about the photos and that they did not represent the children overboard incident. According to Halton, Jordana said that the Prime Minister’s Office already knew about the photos and they had it under control. The next day, The Australian reports that HMAS Adelaide sailors claim no children were thrown overboard. Asked at the Press Club about the claim, Howard dismisses it as hearsay on hearsay. He ignores a question on whether the photos were wrong. He reads from an Office of National Assessments (“ONA”) report that says children were thrown overboard.
- 7 – 8 Nov 2001: ONA report attachment warns Howard that the report he subsequently uses at the Press Club on 8 November 2001 is flawed. Attachment is sent with ONA report to Howard, but Howard claims Miles Jordana separated the two documents, only gave him the reports, and didn’t tell him about its flaws. ONA rings Jordana again on 9 Nov concerned about the way the ONA report is being used in the media. Once again Jordana does nothing to clear the record.
What is certain, is that Jordana was told unequivocally that the photos were of the sinking of the refugee boat on 8 October – the day after the Government said the children overboard incident occurred. What is fact, is that the Government never corrected the misrepresentation or conceded that the event had never happened, until after the 10 November election which returned Howard as Prime Minister for a third term.
The account of Jordana’s role shows that one of Howard’s closest confidants was aware of serious misgivings almost a month earlier, although it remains unclear whether this was passed on to the Prime Minister.
What is most revealing about the Children Overboard Affair is the fragility of the public service in the face of both ministers and more perniciously, ministerial staffers, which leads to clear failings in accountability structures and mechanisms.
Howard refused to allow Jordana to give evidence at either of the two Senate Enquiries into the Children Overboard Affair; the Australian public has never been given the opportunity to test the veracity of Howard’s statements. If Howard is correct and Jordana failed to properly brief him, this would be negligence of a high order. So what became of Jordana who so negligently advised Howard?
Jordana directs Australia’s national security
After so negligently advising Howard on the Children Overboard Affair, Jordana was appointed head of the National Security Division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (“DPMC”), which was responsible for providing whole-of-government advice to the Prime Minister and his office on national security issues and on defence and intelligence matters. In addition, the division provided secretariat and policy support to the National Counter-Terrorism Committee and the Australian Government Counter-Terrorism Policy Committee.
In his role overseeing the National Security Division of DPMC, Jordana became the architect of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (“RAMSI”) and the Pooh-Bah (my apologies to Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan for so desecrating the Mikado) of Australia’s neo-colonial expansion into the Asia-Pacific region.
RAMSI was created under the Agreement between the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga concerning the operations and status of the police and armed forces and other personnel deployed to Solomon Islands to assist in the restoration of law and order and security. It came into force in Australia on 24 July 2003, following an agreement executed in Townsville on the same day. The Agreement continues indefinitely, with Australian financial support reportedly exceeding one billion dollars during the first five years of RAMSI’s operations.
The legal status of RAMSI was and remains problematic, which has been an issue of contention between the Solomon Islands Government (“SIG”) and the major donor countries Australia and New Zealand on several occasions, most notably when Manasseh Sogavare was the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands and Julian Moti QC, the SIG’s Attorney General.
On the issue of legality, there has been no formal United Nations Security Council endorsement of RAMSI, beyond a media statement in 2003 from the President of the UN Security Council at the time of the initial intervention.
According to the Press Statement on Solomon Islands by Security Council President Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), UN Press release SC/7853, 26 August 2003:
“The members of the Security Council welcome warmly the collective action of the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum to support the people of the Solomon Islands in their quest for the restoration of law and order and stability. The members of the Security Council welcome the leadership exerted by Australia and New Zealand, in close partnership with other countries in the region in this regard. They hope that this important regional initiative will quickly lead to the restoration of normalcy and national harmony in the Solomon Islands and that it will facilitate a peace-building process and economic recovery. They encourage all parties to cooperate in promoting these objectives and to renounce the use of armed force and violence to settle their differences.”
It was the lack of formal United Nations endorsement and perceived Australian self-interest, in the form of ‘boomerang aid’, that was at the heart of the friction between the Sogavare Government and Australia. Sogavare had expressed his determination to replace foreign officials in the SIG with nationals, as a way of promoting homegrown nation building.
This friction came to a head when Sogavare decided to appoint Fiji-born Australian lawyer Julian Moti QC as the SIG’s Attorney-General. From the moment of his appointment as Attorney-General Australia had desired to ‘rid’ the Solomons of Moti, because he was seen to be an impediment to the proper workings of the RAMSI Agreement and for other reasons they wanted him out. Australia saw him as an impediment to Australia’s neo-colonial interests, so the long-dead and buried prosecution in Vanuatu was revived to discredit Moti and obstruct his access to the office of the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands. That was the subject of careful and considered thought by Australia from 2004 to 2007. There was a segment of the Solomon Islands parliament who held the same view and when a change of government came about in 2007, that is when the plans to deport him were hatched and executed.
Jordana targets Moti
Jordana came from obscurity and rose to prominence riding the wave of the Children Overboard Affair, an affair – scandal is perhaps a more appropriate word – in which he became Howard’s fall guy and was rewarded with the Pooh-Bah of national security for his sacrifice.
What Moti meant for Jordana was the premature end of RAMSI as well as the prospect of mainland China’s encroachment into the Australian-protected territory of Solomon Islands which was being quietly charted by Moti. The premature end of RAMSI would also oblige Australia to pay out certain RAMSI related contracts, an obligation that over the remaining six years from June 2007 to June 2013 could run into many hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. A scandal of that magnitude would require a head and not just any head; it would claim the head of none other than the Pooh-Bah himself.
How to save the Pooh-Bah’s head? Depose the Attorney-General and it would be business as usual. From the time Moti was nominated by Sogavare to be the SIG’s Attorney-General his days were numbered as he potentially stood between Jordana and his next promotion. Perhaps more concerning for Howard, Moti became a bigger and bigger obstacle to Australia’s neo-colonial ambitions as his ideological influence grew in Melanesia.
A major issue impacting on Jordana’s plans was that the SIG’s Solicitor-General at that time was none other than the RAMSI-appointed Melbourne silk Nathan Moshinsky, who seems to have been professionally troubled about the legalities of extraditing Moti to Australia. His concerns stemmed from two core issues that rendered Moti non-prosecutable and therefore, non-extraditable: dual criminality and the Solomon Islands statute of limitations. Australia then removed all the stops in an effort to change Moshinsky’s mind.
At this point it is worth considering the exchange between Moti’s barrister Ian Barker QC and the bench during the hearing of Moti’s appeal in the High Court of Australiaon 3 – 4 August:
“Also my friend has said several times, and it is in the submissions, that it would have been improper for the Australians to have given advice to the Solomon Islands and that they had to go along without the benefit of Australian advice, it would have amounted to meddling in their affairs, but the evidence is quite to the contrary because when Mr Moshinski [sic], the Solomon Islands Solicitor-General, advised that the extradition could not succeed, Australia did its best to talk him out of it. I will take you, if I may, to volume 2, page 730, the last paragraph of that letter. It is again to Mr Bond and it is dated 16 October 2006:
Urgent advice is now required from AGD – that is the Attorney-General’s Department, of course – that may influence Mr Moshinsky’s position. I request that a copy of the aforementioned Cable be obtained – Then if we go to page 732, the last paragraph in that passage:
We were preparing a written response to the Acting Attorney-General of the Solomons indicating that we do not agree with his interpretation of Solomon Islands extradition law and its application –
Again, that is referred to at pages 882 and 883 of the same volume. Page 883, just below line 10:
23 Oct 06 –Australian Attorney-General forwarded a letter to Mr Moschinsky [sic] suggesting a more persuasive alternative interpretation that could be considered. (My emphasis)
Jordana’s “more persuasive alternative interpretation”
The more persuasive alternative interpretation referred to above was actually signed off by none other than Miles Jordana. At that time Jordana was a Deputy Secretary in the Australian Attorney-General’s Department and head of the National Security and Criminal Justice Group. What is interesting about the choice of person to sign the more persuasive alternative interpretation is that at the time Jordana signed this advice, both the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions (“CDPP”) in the person of Patricia Summerell and the AGD’s in the person of Joanne Blackburn had officers who specialized in extradition. Why didn’t either of these officers sign the more persuasive alternative interpretation?
While I’m prepared to accept that in a public service that had become increasingly politicized under Howard a fall guy could still achieve the dizzying heights of a Deputy Secretary responsible for National Security and Criminal Justice, I wonder what expertise a non-practising, non-academic and non-specialist lawyer could possibly offer as a more persuasive alternative interpretation to the Solicitor-General of a sovereign state on a matter beyond the scope of his portfolio? For someone who had no standing and qualifications to express any legal opinion on Solomon Islands law, how Jordana could even venture a more persuasive alternative interpretation of that law is astonishing.
What is of even more interest and concern is the covering e-mail that accompanied the more persuasive alternative interpretation sent to Moshinsky. The e-mail reads:
“For file, Miles Jordana only wanted to send the Moshinsky letter he signed if senior officers in DFAT, and the Minister were happy for it to go. As you can see from the file notes, a FAS [First Assistant Secretary ]in DFAT approved the letter, but it was not ultimately sent because Greg Mole did not want it to go.”
That e-mail was followed later in the day by one advising a number of interested parties that the letter containing the more persuasive alternative interpretation was going to be sent. It was sent by Anthony Seebach, Director Extradition, International Crime Cooperation Branch and reads:
I just wanted to confirm that the letter signed by Miles Jordana on Friday evening will be sent to Mr Nathan Moshinsky, Acting Attorney of Solomon Islands, this afternoon. The letter responds to Mr Moshinsky’s concerns about the application of Solomon Islands extradition law to the Moti case. That is, based on his interpretation of the legislation, the Solomon Islands may not be able to act on Australia’s provisional arrest request. The letter from Miles suggests there is a persuasive alternative interpretation that could be considered.
Greg Mole, the Chief of Staff for the Australian Attorney-General probably didn’t know that Nathan Moshinsky was not the Acting Attorney General of Solomon Islands but merely its Solicitor -General.Even so, he wasn’t comfortable about sending the letter, the FAS in DFAT who approved the letter wouldn’t sign it, the signatures of the officers in the CDPP and AGD who specialized in extradition law and practice don’t appear anywhere on the letter, but it was signed by Miles Jordana. Why? I have asked this question in the form of a Freedom of Information (“FOI”) request to the AGD. I’m still waiting for a response!
Jordana’s opinion: food for thought
What appears to have happened is that the more persuasive alternative interpretation became a hot potato that nobody wanted to sign, because there were concerns about the accuracy and impartiality of Jordana’s approach.
Why was the more persuasive alternative interpretation eventually signed by a Deputy Secretary with no specialist qualifications who headed an unrelated branch within AGD? Why was that opinion on a sensitive matter of national sovereignty for SIG to remain confidential only to Moshinsky, an Australian-funded official and not supposed to be distributed to his erstwhile employer, the SIG? The official answer to these questions will have to wait until I receive a response to my FOI request, however as a preliminary it is worth considering the implications for Jordana if Moti remained Attorney-General.
Moti had publicly stated his intention of lawfully terminating RAMSI’s unlawful occupation of the Solomons. This created a number of issues for Howard and Jordana. Howard didn’t want his Deputy Sheriff’s badge tarnished by being forced to back down on RAMSI, while Jordana didn’t want to be seen as the bureaucrat who wasted hundreds of millions of dollars of Australian taxpayer’s money to compensate for contractual breaches.
More importantly, if there was to be an investigation into why so much Australian taxpayer money had been paid to RAMSI-related companies in compensation for early termination, questions might be raised about the actual structure of those companies and where the real fruits of Australia’s ‘boomerang aid’ to the Solomons was really going. The potential political fallout from such an enquiry, coming on the back of the Children Overboard Affair, would have been disastrous for both Howard and Jordana. So Jordana became Howard’s fall guy once again.
Oil for Food
On 11 April 2006 John Howard made a statement to the Inquiry into certain Australian Companies in relation to the UN Oil-for-Food Programme. In that statement he identified Miles Jordana as being his Senior Advisor International from 12 April 2001 until July 2003. The issue in contention was not dissimilar to the issue in contention in the Children Overboard Affair:was Howard as Prime Minister of Australia aware of certain pertinent facts? As in the Children Overboard Affair, Howard denied all knowledge, he relied on his advisers. In this case it was his Senior Adviser International upon whom he relied.
Specifically, Howard was asked if he had read 21 cables written by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (“DFAT”) identified by the solicitor assisting the inquiry. The period the inquiry was particularly interested in was from 1999 to 2003. Jordana was Howard’s Senior Advisor International for three of the five years in question. Howard advised the inquiry that he did not read any of the aforementioned cables, because they were not provided to him by his Senior Advisor International.
While I’m prepared to accept that it is mere coincidence that Howard relied on the same defence, with the same alibi in both the Children Overboard Affair and the oil-for-food scandal, the defence starts to rub a bit thin by the third attempt, but that’s what public servants are useful for, aren’t they?
Weapons of Mass Destruction (“WMD”)
In late 2002, the Bush administration began soliciting support for war in Iraq using the political slogan “coalition of the willing” to refer to what later became the Multinational Force – Iraq. To back up its claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, that administration referred to intelligence from Italy, Britain, and France detailing interactions between Saddam Hussein and the governments of Niger, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Specifically, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet and United States Secretary of State Colin Powell both cited attempts by Hussein to obtain uranium from Niger in their September testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At that time, using information derived from the same source, the UK government also publicly reported an attempted purchase from an (unnamed) “African country”. In December, the United States Department of State issued a fact sheet listing the alleged Niger yellowcake affair in a report entitled “Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council”.
The classified documents detailing an Iraqi approach to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger were considered dubious by some analysts in U.S. intelligence, according to news accounts. By early 2002, separate investigations by both the CIA and the US State Department had found the documents to be inaccurate. Days before the Iraq invasion, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voiced serious doubt on the authenticity of the documents to the U.N. Security Council, judging them counterfeit.
In his January 2003 State of the Union speech, U.S. President George W. Bush said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” This single sentence is known now as “Sixteen Words”. The administration later conceded that evidence in support of the claim was inconclusive and stated, “These sixteen words should never have been included.” The administration attributed the error to the CIA.
Most people now accept that there were no WMD’s in Iraq and the whole thing was a fairy-tale dreamed up by politicians and their spin doctors in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. In Australia we had the same crew peddling the same spin about WMD’s as we did about Oil-for-Food, Children Overboard and Moti – Howard and Jordana.
Like the fable that is King Solomons Mines, those caverns of untold wealth hiding somewhere in Africa, the African uranium story was equally mythical, but leads to the invasion of a sovereign state – Iraq – the destruction of its regime which was antithetical to western interests and the plundering of its resources for the benefit of the invaders.
How is this injustice justified? In the same way that the Children Overboard Affair and the AWB scandal have been justified – ignorance!
Imagine for a moment that you are a defender in a criminal trial, standing in the dock, responding to questions from the prosecution and you claim ignorance of every fact presented to you. What do you think is going to happen? You’re going to be convicted. Yet, Howard and Jordana have done just that on more than one occasion and guess what, they have gotten away with it. Is this justice?
Now here’s the story, an allegation which had been debunked in public months before Howard used it as one of the justifications for going to war in Iraq. How could he possibly not have known that there was no substance to that allegation? He relied on his Senior Advisor International, who at that time was none other than one Miles Jordana!
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is an Australian government agency, established in 1989 under the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (“FTRA”) and continued under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act). Certain classes of designated services must be reported to AUSTRAC, in particular bank cash transactions (i.e. notes and coins) of $10,000 or more. AUSTRAC passes information on to other government agencies to help them act against tax evasion, organised crime, money laundering, and welfare fraud.
AUSTRAC is the last aspect of Miles Jordana’s career that I will rescue from the vagaries of the Masoretic Bible and restore to its proper place in his curriculum vitae. As Deputy Secretary National Security and Criminal Justice Group, Jordana has overall executive responsibility for AUSTRAC.
While I’m prepared to accept that Jordana did not move into the role of Deputy Secretary National Security and Criminal Justice Group until after the events that I will detail below occurred, he still has an ongoing responsibility to fully investigate the issues, which hasn’t been done, because they are politically sensitive.
In 2003 a former Commissioner for ACT Revenue reported to AUSTRAC that he had found evidence of possible illegal money transfers from the ACT Department of Treasury that potentially breached certain provisions of the FTRA. Nothing was done about this complaint or subsequent follow up complaints. It is almost inconceivable that in this age of heightened concerns about organised crime and terror, the very organisation tasked with tracing and monitoring potential criminal activity failed to act on information provided by a senior bureaucrat in another Australian jurisdiction.
The ‘rule of law’
One of the justifications used by European colonial powers when they began colonizing other peoples lands was that they were bringing the ‘rule of law’ to the “savages” of the Southern Hemisphere. This is the same argument that Australia used when it established RAMSI and when it has intervened in the sovereign affairs of other near neighbors such as Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. How can a country that so disregards the ‘rule of law’ within its own borders claim to be in a position to export it to others?
While there is lying and lying, any lies by senior bureaucrats, whether directly or by omission, which serve to mislead the public in order to protect their political masters or their own jobs is unacceptable. Any country that allows its bureaucrats to indulge in this type of deception cannot claim to be operating within the ‘rule of law’. More to the point, any country that allows its senior bureaucrats or politicians to engage in deception for political or personal gain should not be rewarded with the public recognition that comes with appointments to United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council.
While Miles Jordana’s career is significant because of his role as a fall guy for his political masters and the rewards he reaped by being such, he is not unique in Australia’s modern public service. Are these the standards that the developing nations of the Asia-Pacific should be asked to aspire to, or do the indigenous people of the region deserve better? I suggest that all the indigenous people of the region, including Indigenous Australians deserve better. Say no to corruption – say no to Australian interference in our traditions.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Chinese Vice Premier to make transit stop-over in Fiji
By Online Editor
5:25 pm GMT+12, 23/09/2011, Fiji
Chinese Vice Premier, Hui Lingyu
Chinese Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, Hui Liangyu will be transiting through Fiji next week, according to the Fijian ministry of information.
Hui is expected to inspect a guard of honour by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces when he arrives on Wednesday 28 September.
A traditional ceremony of welcome will be accorded to Vice Premier Hui who will be accompanied by six ministers and other top level officials.
During a visit to China by Fiji’s President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau last year, Hui expressed his country's commitment to seeing the relationship with Fiji grow adding that with frequent high-level exchanges, China and Fiji had established important cooperative partnership, and cooperation in such fields as trade, agriculture, culture, education and tourism had gradually expanded.
Vice premier Hui had also stressed to President Nailatikau that the Chinese Government attaches great importance to developing relations between the two countries and respects people's choice to development path.
The vice premier spent the early part of his career in Jilin Province, directing agricultural affairs and Party work before working his way up as vice-governor of Jilin Province. He later held various positions in high offices within the Chinese Government before taking up the post of Vice Premier in 2003.
The high level delegation is expected to depart Thursday morning.
Club Em Designs20:26 September 22, 2011 0 commentsChina made it clear during recent talks with Pacific Islands Forum leaders that it does not want to participate in coordinated aid efforts in the Pacific. This has ruffled some feathers, but is China’s growing involvement and influence in the Pacific really a cause for concern?
Pacific Scoop:Report – By Sarah Robson
China doesn’t want to be bound by the rules and regulations of regional institutions in how it delivers aid to the Pacific.
And as a sovereign state, China is quite entitled to turn down invitations to participate in coordinated aid efforts in the Pacific.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, incoming chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, said the Chinese delegation in Auckland earlier this month for talks with Forum leaders made it clear they did not want to be bound by the Cairns Compact, an agreement for better coordination and information sharing about aid programmes, the New Zealand Herald has reported.
Key is not concerned about China’s involvement in the Pacific, and has emphasised New Zealand’s own constructive relationship with China.
Key’s view is shared by New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully, who says New Zealand is one of the Pacific countries best placed to embark on joint projects with China in the Pacific – if not now, then in the future.
In an interview with the Lowy Institute as the Forum got underway, McCully said China was attempting to play a constructive role within the region.
“The challenge is to try and translate that into more partnerships, greater transparency, greater cooperation,” he said.
“It’s a work in progress, but I take the view that China is doing in the Pacific what it is doing everywhere else in the world. It’s looking for resources that it needs to access, it’s looking to make sure that its interests are understood as a global player. We need to meet them halfway and turn that into a more cooperative effort in the region.”
China sees itself as a friend and cooperative partner of Pacific Island countries.
Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, who headed the Chinese delegation at the post-Forum dialogue, says China will “continue to be a positive and constructive force in the region”.
At the talks, Cui outlined how China is going to help Pacific Island countries achieve sustainable economic and social development.'
Cui emphasised initiatives to provide more support for tourism in the region, as well as support for the development of the energy and fishery sectors.
China’s assistance to the Pacific will include more high-level visits, more educational scholarships, more infrastructure projects, forums to facilitate closer business ties, debt write-offs and a US$400,000 contribution to the China-Pacific Island Forum Cooperation Fund to be used for agreed projects.
Cui described China’s aid to the Pacific as “mutual assistance” between developing countries, as opposed to official development aid that is provided by the likes of Australia and New Zealand.
“For many years, China has been extending economic and technical assistance to Pacific Island countries and regional organisations, despite the fact it is not a rich country itself,” he says.
“As China’s economy continues to develop, China will gradually increase its aid to other countries as its ability permits, explore new ways and areas of cooperation with all Pacific Island countries and further expand economic and technical cooperation.”
Cui also signalled that China is ready to learn from the experiences of other aid-giving countries and will begin to look at cooperative initiatives, as long as certain conditions are met.
“Under the principle of adopting a step-by-step approach and starting with easier issues, China is ready to discuss trilateral cooperation on aid with relevant counties and organisations, on the condition that the will of recipient countries are respected with no political strings.”
China’s involvement in the Pacific is part of its wider global strategy.
“China does see itself as a leading power in Asia principally, but it also has aspirations for itself in a global sense, and not just in an Asian sense, but in a wider Asia Pacific sense,” says Professor Robert Ayson, director of the Centre of Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.
“At the very least, it sees itself as one of a series of major powers in Asia, but there’s a debate going on as to whether China sees itself as potentially the preeminent power, in a sense displacing the United States in the Asia Pacific.”
However, Professor Ayson says the importance of the Pacific region to China should not be overstated.
“For China, the South Pacific is not a leading priority, it’s not the thing that keeps Chinese leaders awake at night,” he explains.
“But I think China does want to be seen as an active part of the Asia-Pacific, I think it sees the South Pacific as part of the wider region where it would like to have some influence and some presence.”
Dr Marc Lanteigne, a senior lecturer in the School of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, says that for a long time, Chinese investment in the Pacific could be traced back to its diplomatic competition with Taiwan.
A truce between China and Taiwan came into force in 2008, but since then, China has widened and deepened its investment in the Pacific.
Dr Lanteigne says there are a variety of reasons for this.
“There are some resources which China is interested in, primarily fishing, and in Papua New Guinea, oil, gas and minerals. In other cases though, China is looking to the future for when the civilian and military vessels start operating in the South Pacific.”
Some commentators have interpreted China’s actions in the Pacific as being part of a strategy to push the United States and its allies from the western Pacific.
“I don’t subscribe to anything quite that draconian,” Dr Lanteigne says.
“China is really trying to underscore that it’s not similar to previous powers in the region, such as the US and France and Britain. They’re really playing up the idea that they are a partner, they are not interested in big state-small state economic cooperation, they are simply a partner.”
Although China is within its rights to say no to participating in coordinated aid efforts in the Pacific, Dr Lanteigne says its reluctance to do so is unfortunate.
“It has been argued, especially by groups such as the Lowy Institute, that for China to enter into more conjoint development projects with some of the other major players, it would be beneficial,” he says.
“It would mean money better spent, plus it would allow for greater coordination of aid in the region.”
One of the issues for China is that, unlike most major players in the Pacific, it has no central aid agency like NZAid or AusAID.
“Aid money comes from a variety of different quarters, some of which are much less transparent than, say, AusAID and that has not done much to fuel speculation that some of this aid is politically motivated more than anything else,” Dr Lanteigne said.
It may just take time to bring China into the fold of Pacific aid initiatives.
“China is still very much a newcomer to the region and it is still trying to solidify its own South Pacific agenda. There might be still a bit of lingering mistrust for China to join various other joint aid initiatives until it feels that its own aid policies have matured, but it’s very tough to tell.”
But as China’s global power grows, Professor Ayson says it is inevitable China would have more of an aid presence in the Pacific.
“I think it’s a matter of rather than being fearful about it, it’s about seeking to try to work with China and to make sure that, like other countries and other external presences in the region, their presence is as helpful and responsible as possible and that they are not in a position of any sort of monopoly position.”
Sarah Robson is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University. Other sources on China diplomacy:
Fiji, General Debate, 66th Session
23 September 2011
Address by His Excellency Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister and Commander of the Fiji Military Forces of the Republic of Fiji at the General debate of the 66th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (New York, 21-24 and 26-30 September 2011). Video of speech (posted below)
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
roz Walsh post, outlines some of the mis-reportage covering the Pacific Forum and the discussion on Fiji.
Australia News Network video coverage of issues being discussed in this weeks Pacific Forum in Auckland. (video posted below)
The 2nd Inaugural "Engaging Fiji" regional meeting video coverage and comments by some of the attendees (video posted below).
"More seriously, FICs are alarmed to see that the actions of the Forum Secretariat have been characterised by an inappropriate degree of opacity. In particular, while the governance structure of OCTA was discussed through successive rounds of PACER Plus meetings, the contract discussions between the Forum Secretariat and Dr Noonan have not been made available to FICs."
PINA published a recent opinion from Roman Grynberg, that comments on the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) and the shock resignation of the incumbent, Chris Noonan.
The excerpt of Grynberg's opinion piece:
An islands owned regional body?
By Online Editor
6:57 pm GMT+12, 06/09/2011, Fiji
By Dr Roman Grynberg, www.islandbusiness.com
For the last few months, the region has been racked with highly contentious debate over the issue of the role and independence of its newest institution, the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA).
OCTA was established with Australia and New Zealand funding to help the islands negotiate the PACER Plus trade agreement between the islands and Australia and New Zealand. From its very inception, neither the Pacific Islands Forum nor Canberra were willing to allow it to be what the islands wanted, which was a completely independent source of advice.
Several months ago, the situation was further complicated when PNG presented a paper asking for the extension of the remit of OCTA to go beyond the negotiations with Australia and New Zealand and help complete the negotiations with the European Union over the Economic Partnership Agreement, which has now continued for almost eight years.
The reason offered by PNG for shifting the policy advice away from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) was the Forum had not done a competent job, and progress has been slow on key areas of interest such as fisheries and aid for trade.
More importantly, the membership of the Forum includes Australia and New Zealand, there might be potential conflict of interest in trusting the Forum to handle negotiations that would set a precedent for PACER Plus negotiations.
From a Forum Secretariat’s perspective and from the position of Canberra and Wellington this sent up a red flag as nothing could be more dangerous to their monopoly of advice to the region, in this case on trade negotiations.
This had always been the danger in creating OCTA in the first place. At the time the decision was made to create OCTA in 2008, the islands did not trust the Forum Secretariat’s chief executive to do anything other than serve the interests of Canberra and Wellington and in return Canberra and Wellington did not believe the trade advice going to the islands from the secretariat served their interests. But it was clear at the time that OCTA could eventually become the basis for an independent island-owned and controlled organisation where, for the first time in 40 years the islands could get independent advice and make their own decision without the overbearing presence of the two dominant powers.
By creating OCTA, this ‘remit creep’ could end up destroying the Forum Secretariat’s very reason for its existence, which is to provide advice to the islands which is acceptable to Australia and New Zealand.
Separate, but relevant to the PNG paper, is the scope of work of OCTA was a point of contention at the Forum Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Vava’u, Tonga, in May 2011. Australia insisted that the remit of the work of OCTA be limited to PACER Plus only.
The islands believe that since OCTA is theirs, this should be a matter for their decision, and theirs only. There was no agreement at ministerial level and the issue has now been kicked upstairs to the Forum leaders meeting.
At the August 2011, PACP Trade Ministers Meeting in Port Moresby, PNG presented a revised version of their country paper “Future Management of PACP Business including the Current EPA Negotiations”. Two main justifications were given for the need to consider the issue. First, PIFS faces a potential conflict of interest when supporting the PACPs because it owes a duty to all Forum members. Second, Fiji’s full participation in PACP business on an ongoing basis must be resolved. This has led to a recommendation to PACP Leaders for the convening of an Eminent Persons Group to look into the issue of the long-term management of PACP affairs.
It is here where the matters to be discussed by PACP and by Forum leaders interact. The PNG revised country paper raises the possibility of exploring whether OCTA could be a facility for the long-term management of PACP affairs, at least in the area of trade negotiations. There is obvious value in the FICs/PACPs having support in all trade matters provided by a single regional body to ensure coherence and coordination, if not for the practical reasons of resource-efficiency.
With appropriate terms of reference, findings from the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) would shed more light to the FICs on both the future scope of the activities of OCTA and as part of a broader review of the future management of PACP business.
The most difficult question will be who will be supporting and coordinating the group. Such a function might not have an insignificant control over the findings and recommendations of such a group.
If the Forum is tasked, this could result in a situation equivalent to where the accused is charged with choosing its own jury and helping determine its decision. The obvious decision is to ask a relatively independent body such as the Commonwealth or the ACP Secretariat to oversee the workings of the group.
With the recent resignation of Professor Chris Noonan as Chief Trade Negotiator, the region has now lost a skilled and dedicated negotiator who, once the actual negotiations commenced, would have proven invaluable to the islands. But Australia and New Zealand have done their very best to make his job extremely difficult and insecure. Tongan officials have also been instrumental in helping to undermine OCTA and will no doubt be rewarded by higher levels of aid from Canberra.
The steady drum beat of events is moving in one direction, the isolation of Fiji after the coup, the negotiations of EPA and now PACER Plus have moved the islands to finally push for an institution that is both permanent and genuinely independent of Australian and New Zealand domination.
The push by PNG for such a body was almost inevitable. There will remain a residual role for the Forum and its secretariat as a place where the islands talk to Australia and New Zealand but the genuinely independent body that gives the islands advice that is untainted is still waiting to be born and the EPG will almost certainly be the mid-wives.
• These are the views of Dr Roman Grynberg who was Director of Economic Governance at the Forum Secretariat until he was removed in 2009.
Island Business (I.B) article, explores the perceived conflicts in the Forum.
The excerpt of I.B article:
COVER REPORT: Forum in ConflictFiji and trade raise possible conflict of interest questionsAs things stand, PIFS is the current Regional Authorising Officer (RAO) for Pacific members of ACP.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s (PIFS) “exposure” in trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand over PACER Plus has placed the secretariat in a prejudicial position over its management of trade talks with the European Union (EU), a confidential Papua New Guinea Government paper has said.
And Waigani wants PIFS to exclude itself from future Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the EU by establishing a separate and independent office to oversee EPA matters.
“PNG believes there exists a possible issue of conflict of interest in the management role PIFS plays in the EPA negotiations,” said the PNG paper, a copy of which was leaked to this magazine.
“[...]PIFS’ exposure to PACER Plus negotiation places PIFS in a possible situation of prejudice in the EPA negotiations management advice. This is therefore a situation of conflict of interest that exists in the current role PIFS plays in the EPA negotiations.”
PNG’s position was discussed at the trade ministers meeting of Pacific members of the ACP group in Port Moresby last month. The paper was “noted” according to the meeting’s outcome statement, and Ministers have asked their leaders at their meeting in the margins of the Forum Leaders summit in Auckland early September to form an Eminent Persons Group to consider the PNG proposal in detail.
In this role, PIFS manages all ACP matters between its Pacific members, as well as with their counterparts in the other two regions of Africa and the Caribbean, and with the EU.
But the PNG paper claimed two recent developments have made PIFS’ role as RAO “questionable.” One is the need for Pacific members of PIF to negotiate the free trade agreement PACER Plus with their two bigger and wealthier members of Australia and New Zealand. The other thorny issue is Fiji.
While its membership of PIF has been suspended due to the military coup of December 2006, Fiji’s membership of the ACP grouping is still very much intact. “PIFS’ management of the PACP EPA negotiations may not be consistent with its core functions,” said the PNG Government paper.
“Its core functions and responsibilities should be to provide equal service to the full membership of the Forum. What may be happening by the PIFS’ management role in the EPA negotiations is a situation of serving the interest of one group of members to the exclusion of others."
“PIFS’ responsibilities are to the Forum and its duties are to serve the collective interests of the Forum membership, consistent with the Forum Leaders’ decisions. EPA negotiations management is an additional responsibility PIFS has taken on.
Chris Noonan resigns as Chief Trade Adviser
Pacific Islands negotiations with Australia and New Zealand on PACER Plus has hit a major snag with the resignation of Chief Trade Adviser, Dr Chris Noonan of New Zealand.
Dr Noonan heads the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, which is based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and has only been in the job for just over a year.Although Islands Government Trade Officials were informed of his resignation at a meeting in Papua New Guinea in early August, no public announcement ha[d] been issued.
“Yes, it is correct, I have tendered my resignation,” Dr Noonan said in response to questions from Islands Business about his future at the OCTA. “There is really nothing to tell,” he added in his electronic mail response. “It was for personal reasons. OCTA will carry on—business as usual.”
But it was certainly no business as usual when the New Zealand lawyer and trade expert got appointed as CTA by the Pacific Islands Forum in December 2009. Two months after receiving his appointment letter, Dr Noonan was still debating the actual nature of his contract and structure of the OCTA, a matter Islands Business had reported in its February 2010 edition.
The story quoted from a letter from then Solomon Islands Foreign Minister William Haomae to PIFS (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, complaining bitterly about the delays in Dr Noonan’s appointment.
“Despite the importance placed by the trade ministers on the urgent establishment of OCTA, FICs (Forum Islands Countries) have noted with surprise that the handling of the matter by the secretariat has been characterised by extraordinary delays,” wrote the Solomon Islands’ minister.
New South Wales Green Senator Lee Rhiannon
"I call on the Australian government, when it attends this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting to live up to its call for good governance and aid ownership in the region and respect the rights of Forum islands leaders to decide for themselves what the mandate of the OCTA is. At the end of the day, they are asking only for funding, not permission."
“FICs are concerned that the significant time lags between Dr Noonan’s communication with the secretariat and its responses are interfering with the fulfillment of the mandate given to the secretariat by the Forum Ministers. "Repeated requests for urgent updates from some FICs have yielded at best, delayed responses". Similarly, it has been brought to the attention of FICs that Dr Noonan’s requests for the chance to travel to Fiji and Vanuatu to assist in moving this process forward have been rejected.
“Given the low costs of the proposed travel and its importance, and the significant amount of funding that remains available, the Forum Secretariat’s recalcitrance is puzzling, contrary to its mission to serve all the members’ interests, and might set a worrying precedent for the on-going PACER Plus process.“More seriously, FICs are alarmed to see that the actions of the Forum Secretariat have been characterised by an inappropriate degree of opacity. In particular, while the governance structure of OCTA was discussed through successive rounds of PACER Plus meetings, the contract discussions between the Forum Secretariat and Dr Noonan have not been made available to FICs.”
Dr Noonan’s appointment was finalised in no time after Haomae’s letter was leaked and published by Islands Business. But for the new CTA, the fight had just begun. Over the past 12 or so months, he has had to fight to get funding for OCTA, with Australia particularly being accused of interfering with the office’s financial independence.
The accusation became too close for comfort for the Australian Government recently when New South Wales Green Senator Lee Rhiannon told Australia’s Upper House that Prime Minister Julian Gilliard’s Government should stop its interfering and bullying tactics.“Australia would under no circumstances accept such a compromise of its sovereignty,” said Senator Rhiannon."Yet through its aid programme, the government is attempting to make such an imposition on the Forum islands countries".The islands have asserted that the OCTA is theirs and should be under their control, and not the control of all Forum countries.“It is a sad irony that I stand in the building that asserts Australia’s sovereignty, asking for it to allow other countries to do the same".
"I call on the Australian government, when it attends this year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting to live up to its call for good governance and aid ownership in the region and respect the rights of Forum islands leaders to decide for themselves what the mandate of the OCTA is. At the end of the day, they are asking only for funding, not permission.”
The NSW Green Senator referred to the “documentation” of Australia’s “arm-twisting, power politics and pressure” over the OCTA affair. In particular, she questioned the need for Canberra to attempt to limit the scope of the OCTA to PACER Plus negotiations only, and its insistence that OCTA funding be released and reviewed on a quarterly basis.
PIFS role redefined
“This would normally be the responsibility of the ACP Secretariat to its members, ACP being a different legal entity to PIFS. It would therefore be in the best interest of both the PIFS and PACPs that the PIFS role in the EPA negotiations be redefined.”
The Waigani paper asserted that removing the RAO role of PIFS would also resolve the “inappropriate issue” of Fiji’s participation in EPA negotiations.
“Fiji’s case provides a substantive impetus for PACP matters to be managed independently of the Forum. Fiji’s case with PIFS is an example of what can happen if the PACPs, which are members of a completely different legal entity, surrender the management responsibilities of their affairs to another legal entity.
“Hence, the inappropriate issue of Fiji’s eligibility or otherwise comes into play.”
PNG’s view was echoed by a Fiji Government paper which was also presented at the same Port Moresby meeting of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers last August.
In this paper, which was also obtained by Islands Business, Suva made the call that the RAO role should be removed from PIFS.
“PIFS is not a signatory to the Cotonou (Agreement between ACP countries and the EU) and therefore its role to coordinate and provide technical advice to the PACPs was consequential to the PACPs’ commitments and decisions.
“It therefore follows that the PACPs are at liberty to assign this role to the PIFS (which they did in 2004) or to transfer it to another organisation if they feel PIFS is unable to perform the role effectively.”
Fiji is particularly displeased that because of its suspension from PIF, its leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama would not be able to attend this month’s Pacific ACP Leaders summit in Auckland.
Under its travel sanctions policy, Wellington bans Bainimarama, his cabinet ministers and senior military officers and their families from visiting New Zealand. Canberra has a similar policy.
EPA – interim or comprehensive?
The future structure of a free trade agreement between Pacific members of the ACP and Europe hangs in a balance as parties scramble to meet the once again changed negotiation deadline of mid-2012.
As a negotiating bloc, the 14 members of the Pacific ACP countries have agreed to negotiate as a region with the EU (European Union) and to all aim for a full, comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
However, the two larger members of Papua New Guinea and Fiji opted out of that agreement when they individually signed an interim EPA (I-EPA) with the European Union in 2007 to protect their tuna and sugar exports respectively. PNG has since ratified that agreement.
The race to meet the EPA negotiation deadline, which has now been pushed from the end of December 2011 to mid-2012, has only added pressure on what is already a complex and highly charged negotiation environment.
To-date, only eight out of the 14 members of the Pacific ACP have submitted their market offers to the EU—a pre-requisite for negotiations over a comprehensive EPA.
But if that’s not complicated enough, the European Union has upped the tempo when at the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers meeting in Papua New Guinea last month, proposed that the islands of the Pacific should follow PNG and Fiji by opting for a revised interim agreement, something that has been dubbed I-EPA Plus.
“Accession to the interim EPA would greatly reduce negotiating requirements and would provide countries wishing to benefit from this option with quick access to the EU market,” acting Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Papua New Guinea Dr Kay Beese told Pacific ACP Trade Ministers.
“If a substantial number of countries would be joining the agreement, the existing agreement could later be amended and new chapters added.
“These could concern fisheries or development cooperation, if the parties to the agreement so wish.”
According to Dr Beese, an interim EPA Plus was much more realistic and takes into account the specific nature of members of the Pacific ACP.
Whilst the outcome document of the Trade Ministers meeting showed that Dr Beese’s proposal was not accepted, it was Fiji that officially expressed some support for the interim EPA Plus option.
“Fiji had always supported that the comprehensive EPA was its long-term vision for the region’s relations with the EU,” a Fiji position paper said.
“It had initialled and signed the I-EPA as an interim solution to maintain its market access into the EU.“This position will be reconsidered if the current arrangement of Fiji’s participation in the EPA continues.“The EU mooted the idea of I-EPA Plus this year.
“Two of the PACPs have indicated their strong interest to join the I-EPA.“Fiji would join the like minded countries in pursuing the proposed I-EPA Plus concept with the EU if its participation in the comprehensive EPA negotiations is frustrated,” the Fiji paper said.
EPA negotiations crucial stage
At the Port Moresby meeting in August of Pacific ACP trade ministers, Fiji lobbied for support to get an invite to attend the Pacific ACP Leaders summit, or failing that, the venue of the PACP leaders summit be changed from Auckland to Port Vila.
“Given that the EPA negotiations are at a crucial stage, the consequences of excluding Fiji from the next PACPs leaders meeting would be more significant than past meetings,” the Fiji paper argued.
“Fiji cannot agree to a process where the outcomes are beyond its control and where it cannot defend its own interest.”
Islands Business was told Fiji received a lot of support at the Port Moresby meeting, but because of time and logistical constraints, ministers felt it would be very difficult to change the venue of the Pacific ACP Leaders meeting.
As a way forward, PNG is proposing a permanent independent Pacific ACP trade facility or office.
“In PNG’s original paper (tabled at the last Trade Ministers meeting in Apia in April 2011), the possibility of the transfer of current EPA negotiations management to the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) was raised,” the PNG position paper had said.
“Some of the arguments used in favour of OCTA in the original paper still remain useful for consideration for a possible long-term arrangement for the management of PACP affairs.
“This may be more feasible to consider, now that the OCTA is an established legal entity under Vanuatu laws.”
PNG went onto suggest that in addition to the formation of an Eminent Persons Group from amongst Pacific ACP countries to consider its proposal, Pacific ACP ambassadors based in Brussels should sound out the ACP Secretariat and the European Commission to fund a study on a separate Pacific ACP office.
This proposal would be put before Pacific ACP leaders at their Auckland meeting.
Issue of conflict
Papua New Guinea has raised this issue of conflict of interest against PIFS before.
In fact. it first raised the matter in October 2010 when its then Trade Minister Sam Abal complained bitterly about PIFS, accusing it of stalling EPA negotiations with the EU.
He specifically called for the removal of the PIFS legal adviser and questioned the independence of Director of Economic Governance and leading trade adviser Dr Chakriya Bowman of Australia.
PIFS now has a new legal adviser but Dr Bowman, a former AusAID trade negotiator, is still with the Suva-based regional organisation.
Official meeting documents do not show them, but Islands Business has been told the perception that PIFS is too close to Canberra and Wellington is still very much alive and common amongst islands government officials. This, they said, is also driving the push to strip PIFS of its RAO role on ACP matters.
An official in particular pointed to the agenda that PIFS prepared for the September Pacific ACP Leaders meeting in Auckland.
Although PACER Plus is a key factor, this item was not included in the meeting agenda initially, prompting the Solomon Islands Government, as the current chair of the OCTA Governing Board, to direct PIFS for a PACER Plus briefing on the agenda.
“In my own discussions,” this government official said, “a number of FOC officials do share the view that PIFS share a bed with Australia and New Zealand and some PIFS officials, especially the senior ones, do show that during our meetings or in drafting sessions of outcome statements and in their body languages.”
With the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in Fiji a week before the Forum leaders meet in Auckland, it is obvious the PNG’s position on PIFS and Fiji will be adopted by other members of the group.
The message would be that PIFS has too much on its plate and the matter of conflict of interest over EPA negotiations makes it a compelling case for this role to be shifted elsewhere.
Snag in fishing talks
Pacific negotiators for an economic partnership agreement with the European Union have drawn a line on the sand over their fish resource negotiations. At their summit in Auckland this month, leaders of the Pacific ACP countries would be urged to adopt a strong stance on negotiations with the EU over their lucrative fish resources.
Documents made available to Islands Business showed that Pacific ACP countries view the global sourcing concession under its rules of origin provision already offered to them by the EU is immutable and cannot be re-negotiated.
This concession applies specifically to items labelled as HS tariff headings 1604 and 1605.
These refer to canned tuna and processed tuna loins. Under this concession, Pacific members of the ACP could export canned tuna or processed tuna loins to the EU, so long as they are processed in the Pacific. Where the raw fish was fished or by whom is irrelevant.
As signatories to an interim EPA, Papua New Guinea and Fiji (once it ratifies its I-EPA) could access this facility. However, in their push for a comprehensive EPA with the EU, smaller members of the Pacific ACP bloc particularly, want similar concessions for O304 and 0305, which are fish fillets and fish pieces.
The EU, on the other hand, reportedly countered that it would only consider negotiations on this front provided the Pacific ACP offers access into their fishing waters and that the fish species be limited only to tuna.
Both counter proposals were rejected by the Trade Ministers at their meeting in PNG in early August. They said fishing access was not on the table, although this could be pursued bilaterally between the EU and any interested Pacific ACP member. The Pacific also wants the EU to remove limitations on the concession to tuna species only. Already the word from Brussels is that the Pacific would be in for a tough fight.
Addressing the Port Moresby meeting of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers, acting head of Delegation of the European Union in PNG, Dr Kay Beese said the EU understands why global sourcing for fresh and frozen fish is an “important objective” of some islands in the Pacific. An EPA without such a provision would be of little interest to you, Dr Beese said.
“At the same time, you are aware that the provisions on global sourcing, which are part of the interim agreement, have become the subject of significant controversy between some of the European Union stakeholders.
“This controversy also dominated the recent Parliamentary ratification process in the European Union.” Dr Beese urged Pacific members of the ACP to wait for the outcome of a study the EU is jointly conducting with the PNG Government about the implementation of global sourcing under its interim EPA.On Tuna Fishing, Green Peace briefly outlines the matters of concern, with respect to sustainability.
Outcome of the study would be available in mid-December, and until that is available, Dr Beese warned it would be difficult for the EU to start talking about extending the global sourcing provision to fresh and frozen fish.
(Video posted below)
Radio NZ podcasts covers the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.
Club Em Designs