Showing posts with label Melanesian Spear Head Group. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melanesian Spear Head Group. Show all posts

Monday, May 20, 2013

PNG Shoots Down PACER Plus, In MSG Trade Talks.

Source: Radio Australia

Pacific trade talks 'waste of time': PNG 
Samisoni Pareti
Mon May 20, 2013

Officials from Papua New Guinea say they are considering withdrawing from free trade negotiations between Pacific Island countries and Australia and New Zealand. PNG's Trade Minister, Richard Maru, on Monday told a meeting of trade ministers from the Melanesian Spearhead Group that his country was considering withdrawing from Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) negotiations.

PNG's Trade Minister, Richard Maru


My country is not interested in PACER Plus, our focus is the MSG Trade Agreement[...]

Our feelings at the moment is that PACER Plus would be one sided in favour of Australia and New Zealand[...]

We are frustrated with them. We can't export our taro there, they wont accept our greens[...]

[PACER Plus negotiations]are a complete waste of time. "
 "My country is not interested in PACER Plus, our focus is the MSG Trade Agreement," Minister Maru told a press conference convened at the end of the meeting at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa in Nadi.
Fifteen countries are involved in the PACER negotiations, with the aim of helping Pacific Islands Forum countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration.

Asked whether PNG would withdraw immediately from PACER Plus negotiation talks, Mr Maru said the matter is under serious review by PNG's government. "Our feelings at the moment is that PACER Plus would be one sided in favour of Australia and New Zealand," he said. "We are frustrated with them. We can't export our taro there, they wont accept our greens.There's nothing to be gained from a trade agreement at the moment. We cannot justify the huge amount of resources we expend on such negotiations. They are a complete waste of time."

Asked for Fiji's position on PNG's stand, the country's Minister for Trade and Attorney General, Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, said Fiji sees a lot of merit in PNG's position. He said Melanesian countries need to consolidate their trading capacities first before they look at free trade pacts with their bigger neighbours.

Papua New Guinea's Minister for Trade Richard Maru, Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Fiji Patterson Oti and Vanuatu's Minister for Trade Marcellino Pipite give their governments views on PACER and PACER Plus negotiations. (Video posted below)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Papua New Guinea in the Asian Century - Peter O'Neill, PNG Prime Minister

PNG Attitude covers Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill's speech at the Distinguished Speaker Lecture aptly titled "Papua New Guinea in the Asian Century" hosted by the Lowy Institute.

Full audio of speech (Click here)

PNG Attitude describes O'Neil's speech:
In his quiet, understated way he showed not only a firm grasp of the demands of political leadership and how they must be met, but also a sophisticated understanding of the geo-strategic position of Papua New Guinea and what it will take to steer a steady course towards the nation’s goals.
Jenny Hayward Jones also briefly covers the contours of the speech, in a recent post in The Interpreter.

Friday, November 02, 2012

X-Post: Pacific Scoop - The Diplomacy of Decolonisation 2 – Siding with France in the Pacific.

Source: Pacific Scoop

Oscar Temaru
French Polynesian leader Oscar Temaru … slow but growing support for decolonisation. Image: Cook Islands News

Australia has remarkably strong ties with France in the Pacific – and they are stifling the drive toward independence of countries like New Caledonia. The second report of a special two-part series.
Pacific Scoop:

Analysis – By Nic Maclellan

As Australia prepares to take up a seat on the UN Security Council in 2013, the UN decolonisation agenda will affect Australia’s relations with neighbouring Pacific countries. However, recent actions by the Gillard Labor government suggest that Canberra has chosen sides with France and the United States on this often-ignored agenda at the United Nations.

From 1946, the United Nations has maintained a list of non-self-governing territories seeking political independence. Just 16 territories remain on the list, including five Pacific islands, though others are seeking to be relisted. Twenty five years ago, at the height of the conflict between supporters and opponents of independence, Australia supported New Caledonia’s successful bid for re-inscription on the list of countries to be decolonised.

This French Pacific dependency has been scrutinised by the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation ever since — the governments of France and New Caledonia even invited the UN committee to hold its regional seminar in Noumea in 2010. In French Polynesia, the coalition government led by long-time independence campaigner Oscar Temaru has been seeking the same sort of international support.
In spite of tough economic times at home — with falling numbers of tourists and changing French subsidies after the end of nuclear testing — Temaru has been seeking regional and international support to be relisted with the United Nations decolonisation process.

Significant shift

Since Temaru was first elected President in 2004, there has been a slow but significant shift in local opinion.
Last year, the Territorial Assembly in Pape’ete narrowly voted for the first time to support Temaru’s call for reinscription.

In August 2012, the synod of the Eglise Protestante Maohi (EPM) — the Protestant church that is the largest denomination in French Polynesia — voted for the first time to support reinscription. The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and World Council of Churches (WCC) have also supported the call.

In spite of this, Australia has sided with Paris to reject French Polynesia’s call for increased UN scrutiny.
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles, in an interview published in Islands Business magazine, recently said: “We absolutely take our lead from France on this.”

In recent years, Australia and France have signed a series of agreements that cement relations on defence, aid co-operation and joint exploration for oil and gas reserves in the waters between Australia and New Caledonia — culminating last January in a Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership. For many years, Australia and France have expanded defence cooperation in the Pacific, through port visits, joint military exercises, arms deals and meetings between senior military officers.

Military exercises

The Southern Cross military exercises held every two years in New Caledonia are a key part of regional military cooperation, with US marines joining Australia and French troops in the latest wargames in October.
Since 1992, the France-Australia-New Zealand (FRANZ) agreement has provided a mechanism for joint humanitarian and maritime surveillance operations in the South Pacific. The 2009 Australia-France Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) strengthens the defence partnership, but is underlined by French efforts to increase arms sales to Australia: by 2006, Australia was the second largest purchaser of French armaments in the world.

Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the giant European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS), is successfully competing with American arms manufacturers to sell helicopters and other equipment to the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

France and Australia are also co-operating in joint exploration of the waters between Queensland and New Caledonia. Geoscience Australia and French research agencies have conducted joint surveys of the ocean floor near the Capel and Faust Basins, looking for sediments that would indicate deep water reserves of oil and gas.

In March 2010, the signing of a “Declaration of Intention between Australia and France (on behalf of New Caledonia) over Coral Sea Management” signalled increased joint operations over reef ecology and maritime resources in these waters. For some, the sight of France as the administering power making decisions over New Caledonia’s resources brings back memories of Australia’s deal with Indonesia over the oil reserves of the Timor Gap.

A further sign of Australia-France relations is a partnership agreement signed in July 2011 between Australia’s aid agency AusAID and the French equivalent Agence française de développement (AFD). This agreement opens the way for co-operation in Africa and Afghanistan, but also allows for joint programs in the Pacific.

Strategic partnership

All these agreements culminated in the signing of the Joint Statement of Strategic Partnership in January 2012. At the time, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and his French counterpart Alain Juppe signed the agreement in Paris, which highlights joint commitments on Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism, global economic reform and the Pacific.

Australia’s global partnership with France seems to be affecting  its policies in the islands region. Even though many Pacific states have publicly stated their support for French Polynesia’s bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum reaffirmed the Australian position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Pape’ete.

A month later, however, many Pacific leaders lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia’s right to self-determination. The leaders of Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu explicitly called for action on decolonisation.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman said: “I call on the independent and free nations of the world to complete the story of decolonisation and close this chapter. At this juncture, I urge the United Nations not to reject the demands for French Polynesia’s right to self-determination and progress.”

The same month, with Fiji’s Foreign Minister in attendance, the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran issued a new policy on decolonisation, which noted: “The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia — Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).”

With the other French Pacific dependency of New Caledonia scheduled to hold a referendum on its future political status after 2014, the question of France’s role in the South Pacific isn’t going away soon.

This is part two of Nic Maclellan’s series on Decolonisation originally published in New Matilda. Part one can be found here.

Part 1: Plenty of Pacific flashpoints to challenge officials

More information:
Overseas Territories Review
SiFM post : Scratch a Lover, Find A Foe - The Current Geopolitics of Decolonization.

Club Em Designs

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MSG Talks In Fiji.

Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Economic Ministers meeting begins in Suva, followed by the Leader's Summit later in the week. The MSG Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) which began over the last few days, had met, to discuss key points of cooperation; as reported by Solomon Star (S.S) article.

The excerpt of S.S article:

MSG meets key cooperation issues

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Senior Officials from the five members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group met key cooperation issues to be presented to the Foreign Ministers Meeting this week.

Chair of the MSG Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), Mrs Saipora W. Mataikabara thanked delegates from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, FLNKS and Fiji for their contribution and cooperation on addressing these key issues of common interest at the two-day meeting.On the first day, SOM endorsed among other issues the Director General’s Report to the Leaders, Secretariat papers on MSG Properties, Corporate Planning Process and the MSG Secretariat Soft Reforms.  SOM Chair confirmed that the Secretariat papers were to strengthen the organization’s administration arm of the MSG organization.

Mrs Mataikabara said on the second day of meeting the other reports presented to SOM were all endorsed.  She said the members’ endorsements reflected the common interests of the MSG in strengthening cooperation amongst member countries in particularly on cultural cooperation for instance the endorsement of the draft MSG MOU on Cultural Cooperation presented by the MSG Council of Arts & Culture.  She said other issues that will promote more cooperation between member countries include the preparation for the first Melanesian Games in 2013 as mandated by Leaders on 31st March 2011 was also endorsed by the Senior Officials Meeting today.

Mrs Mataikabara said the Special SOM was also able to endorse key recommendations presented by the Subcommittee on Institutional Issues (SCLII) to complete discussions on the Review of the Agreement Establishing the MSG. 

SOM Chair said legal and institutional issues are backbones of MSG as an organization and that is why members felt that careful consideration on the legal and institutional issues will help guide senior officials, foreign ministers and leaders in making sound decisions to strengthen the organization.  A key recommendation that was endorsed by SOM is that SCLII meet in July to further complete important discussions on the Review of the Agreement Establishing the MSG, Reporting Requirements, Membership Issues (Observers & Associate Members) and MSG Visa Arrangements.

Reports from the different subcommittees and technical committees such as Security, Trade and Economic Officials Meeting (TEOM), and the Police Commissioners’ Conference were also endorsed.  The draft MOU for the MSG Skills Movement Scheme and the MSG Trade Agreement on Rules of Origin and principles for enhancing fiscal management in Melanesia were all endorsed this special SOM.
Mrs Mataikabara thanked all delegates for their participation and cooperation in the pre-Summit SOM and confirmed that the SOM outcomes will be presented to the Foreign Ministers Meeting for their consideration this week.

Fiji Times article, quoted from MSG Director General, Peter Forau, who alluded to the absence of "power play" within the MSG; in comparison to the regular undue influence from larger metropolitan countries, in  the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). Mr Forau highlighted the growing influence of the MSG, which could over shadow the PIF.

Excerpt of Fiji Times article:

No 'power play'

Elenoa Baselala
Monday, March 26, 2012
"This should have happened long time ago," MSG director general and former Pacific Islands Secretariat deputy secretary general Peter Forau said.
In an interview with The Fiji Times, Mr Forau who has been on the job for the past six months said the MSG, made-up of the five big economies in the South Pacific region Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands had great potential to become influential.
In fact, Mr Forau said the MSG trade agreement was the only trade agreement that was working with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement "all over the place".
And while, many see the MSG as a threat to regional unity, Mr Forau said this was not the intention of the MSG.
Mr Forau said unlike PIFS, the MSG members had equal rights and there was not much "power play" or influence from bigger countries.
"If the MSG is seen as a threat that is not our intention, we are just working in the best interests of our members.
"If we are to become influential that is the natural cause of things," Mr Forau said.
Mr Forau, however cautioned, that for the MSG to grow to greater heights it must be united.
And they must do things to international standards to be recognised globally.
"Things are starting to happen. There are a lot of opportunities," he added.
The MSG Foreign Economic Ministers meeting starts today and ends tomorrow. The Leaders Summit will follow on Thursday and Friday.
In a Fiji Village (FV) article, Forau also addressed the need for the MSG countries to bring the benefits to their citizens.

Excerpt of FV article:

MSG issues to benefit citizens- Forau  

Publish date/time: 26/03/2012 [11:21]
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The Melanesian Spearhead Group cooperation must bring gains for their citizens at the national level.

That was the message Director General for the MSG secretariat Peter Forau urged regional Foreign Affairs ministers at the opening of the meeting this morning in Suva.

The Foreign affairs ministers will consider political, trade, economic, social and Secretariat organizational issues of interest that have been endorsed by the senior officials last week.

The Foreign Ministers Meeting will then present to the Leaders' Summit to make decisions which will be implemented accordingly.

Forau has encouraged the ministers to discuss and think thoroughly on the issues put forward.

Leaders attending later this week include Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, spokesperson of the FLNKS Victor Tutugoro, PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Ano Pala,  Prime Minister of Vanuatu Sato Kilman and Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Darcy Lilo

Fiji's Foreign affairs minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola officially opened the meeting at the GCC complex in Nasese.

Story by: Sofaia Koroitanoa

Fiji News footage (video below) of the recent discussions among MSG Trade officials.

Club Em Designs

Friday, March 09, 2012

X-Post- 36th Parallel Weekly Analysis: Commodities Boom widens PIF Rift.

In order to understand political dynamics, underlying economic factors often need to be considered. The growing rift within the Pacific Island Forum between the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG) is one such instance.

The metals boom preceded the minerals boom, both of which have been paralleled by  ongoing interest in discovering new sources of energy, oil and natural gas specifically. Once metals markets were consolidated, investment flows turned to mineral resource extraction and towards exploring previously inaccessible sources of oil and natural gas. Rising prices for fuel and mineral commodities in an era of technological innovation has pushed capital investment into previously unexploited areas of the globe, including the South Pacific. Under highly competitive market conditions, Asian capital has joined the quest and accelerated the pace of primary resource investment even where it remains a secondary market player. The race to secure market share in these commodities is well and truly on.

Against that backdrop  Commodore Voreqe Baimimarama travels this week to Vanuatu in his capacity as Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) , a sub-group of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) regional organization that encompasses most Pacific Island States, including Australia and New Zealand. Created in 1999, the MSG has recently been rivaled by the 2010 creation of the Polynesian Leader’s Group (PLG), which aggregates eight members of the PIF.

Unlike the PLG, the MSG has an established institutional structure and programmatic agenda, increasingly  dominated by Fiji due to its diplomatic importance and the relative underdevelopment of or political instability in other member states (New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu).The MSG contains a multilateral trade agreement between the its members, and because of historical investment interest in resource extraction in the sub-group (forestries and fisheries as well as minerals), it has seen the bulk of regional foreign investment in the last two decades. The ExxonMobil-led liquefied natural gas project in the PNG is one sample of that ongoing interest, now pushed into newly exploitable areas.

Polynesia has begun to experience the impact of the global energy and mineral rush. Whereas MSG members have a number of land and seabed mineral exploitation contracts within their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), only recently have PLG nations begun to see significant investment in land mining, and fewer have seabed exploitation agreements (one, Nauru, has secured a license to exploit seabed resources in international waters). Many of the companies involved in developing the PLG region for mineral extraction are already in the MSG, so the economies of scale they bring to negotiations with small Polynesian states provides them with good leverage when negotiating agreements. As in the case of MSG members, these contracts are not bound by regulatory vehicles embedded in regional trade agreements such as PACER and PICTA (on regional architecture, see here).

36th Parallel Analysis

"Fiji is the strongest partner with the MSG, that antagonism has spilled into MSG diplomacy vis a vis the Antipodean states and has seen the sub-group prioritize its relations with Asian partners as a balance to Western patronage relationships (which is based more on developmental aid than investment).
[...]The sanctions and suspension regime has done little to hurt the Baimimarama regime but have pushed both Fiji and the MSG more firmly into an Asian-centric diplomatic orbit, accentuating the cleavage within the PIF (which the MSG sees as too compliant with Australian and New Zealand diplomatic interests)."

The PIF is an observer of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations involving the US, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia.  Japan, South Korea and Canada have also expressed desire to join the TPPA. Should the TPPA be ratified, increased trade volumes within the region are expected to grow even if the PIF does not become a full member itself. However, discussion has begun within the MSG about emphasizing bi- and multilateral trade with the so-called BRIC emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China. None of these are party to the TPPA and yet are among the fasting growing economies in the world. They are, in fact, emerging great powers, gradually supplanting traditional Western powers as the motor force of the global economy.

China already has an established economic footprint within the MSG and its diplomatic presence, the largest in the PIF region, has grown  commensurate to the size of its investments. Russia and Fiji have just signed economic cooperation agreements, and Indian venture capital has made footholds there as well.

This trend has begun to be seen in PNG and the Solomons. Should the move to emphasize trade and investment between the MSG and BRICs lead to higher levels of commerce with the latter, the impact will significantly increase the investment gap between the MSG and PLG. Given its larger membership and smaller resource base, PLG benefits from an eventual TPPA will be much more diffuse than in the MSG with or without the BRIC connection. The more the BRIC-MSG connection comes into play, the less the MSG will need to be part of the TPPA and other pan-Pacific trade agreements. Should that happen, the MSG will begin to outweigh the PLG influence within the PIF, which opens the possibility of  an MSG-Australia/New Zealand confrontation within the PIF because the Antipodean states do not want the PIF to be dominated by Fijian interests.

As a result of the 2006 coup that brought Commodore Baimimarama to power, Fiji is currently suspended from the PIF and Commonwealth, and has been the subject of sanctions by Australia, New Zealand, the US and European Union. In response, Fiji has strengthened its ties to non-traditional partners such as China, something that gives it more flexibility in its foreign relations. Although the US has  softened its stance regarding the Baimimarama regime and its timetable for 2014 elections, the impasse continues with the Commonwealth, EU, Australia and New Zealand. Because Fiji is the strongest partner with the MSG, that antagonism has spilled into MSG diplomacy vis a vis the Antipodean states and has seen the sub-group prioritize its relations with Asian partners as a balance to Western patronage relationships (which is based more on developmental aid than investment).

Respecting the concept of national sovereignty, Asian economic partners are less concerned about Western notions of good governance, transparency, labor market conditions and environmental impact and more focused on returns on investment. This approach has been successfully used by Western companies operating within the MSG. The sanctions and suspension regime has done little to hurt the Baimimarama regime but have pushed both Fiji and the MSG more firmly into an Asian-centric diplomatic orbit, accentuating the cleavage within the PIF (which the MSG sees as too compliant with Australian and New Zealand diplomatic interests).

Against this backdrop, Baimimarama’s inspection visit before the 19th MSG conference later  this month provides him with the opportunity to set the agenda for this year’s discussions and to solidify Fijian interests within the group. Contentious topics such as granting both Indonesia and Western Papua observer status in the MSG (given Indonesian occupation of  Western Papua) are likely to be downplayed in favor of a consensus on strengthening ties with non-Western states and solidifying the MSG’s pre-eminent position within the PIF, at the expense of the PLG (and the much smaller Micronesian States Chief Executives Group).
Consolidating his position as leader of the MSG reinforces Baimimarama’s position at home, where in the face of Western demands that he keep to a timetable leading to open elections in 2014 he can point to demonstrable gains in terms of Fijian influence in regional politics as well as increases in Asian capital investments in that country (even if the country has experienced negligible net growth in the last decade). Bolstered by such events, the Baimimarama regime may feel confident enough to delay or cancel the elections, which will have major implications for the PIF.

The rift within the PIF  is evident in increased MSG demands that Fiji be included in any PIF trade discussions (such as PACER Plus). Whichever the approach adopted by the PIF Secretariat (inclusion of Fiji on matters of trade or its ongoing suspension), the division between the MSG and PLG is likely to widen in 2012. Boosted by the influx of foreign investment in minerals and energy exploitation, the MSG is in a position to make demands within the PIF that it previously could not. Given the failure of the sanctions regime, the inclusion of Fiji in future trade talks (the next PIF forum is in late August) could be a way of incrementally restoring it to full membership status while allowing Canberra and Wellington to save face (recent reports suggest that Australia and New Zealand are already re-considering the issue of Fijian sanctions). The ball is in the MSG court, with Fiji controlling the MSG play.

Summary PIF stability score is 5 (medium), the MSG score is 7 (good) and the PLG is 2 (low). (Stability score is ranked 1-10 on a range extending from none to full institutional capability and enforceable authority over time).
Futures Forecast: Sharpened differences between the MSG and PLG within the PIF will lead to an institutional weakening of the latter.

Club Em Designs

Friday, March 25, 2011

Crouch, Hold Or Engage- Australia's Failing Pacific Foreign Policy?

Croz Walsh's Blog -- Fiji: The Way it Was, Is and Can Be: recent post covers Jenny Hayward-Jones Director of The Myer Foundation Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute opinion piece : Rudd Takes His Eye off Pacific Islands published in The Australian, 22 March, 2011.

This particular issue regarding the gallivanting Rudd, seemed to have been foreshadowed by SiFM post: :Cut Your Cote According to Your Cloth, with regards to Australia's foreign policy, which seems to be bursting at the seams.

It is without a doubt, the lofty foreign policy ideals, sans pragmatism of the ambitious Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd whose public remarks at times especially on the Libya issue, contradict that of the current Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

According to a news article by The Age, the divisions between Gillard and Rudd appear to be confusing to the greater international community with respect to the real intent of Australia's foreign policy.

More so, the costs of these expensive excursions lobbied by crisis seeking diplomats of Rudd's ilk, will certainly reflect in the bottom line in terms of treasury and lives, particurlarly in the wake of the recent and repeated floodings in Australia.

Gillard, Rudd at odds on Libya

Michelle Grattan and Jason Koutsoukis
March 11, 2011

A SPLIT has emerged between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, over international intervention in Libya.

Trying to play down the embarrassing rift during her visit to the United States, Ms Gillard said the United Nations Security Council should consider a ''full range'' of options to deal with dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and made it clear Australia had no intention of taking an active part if a flight-exclusion zone was imposed.

''We are a long way from Libya and what we've said is that in the first instance NATO would need to work through this question of the no-fly zone,'' said Ms Gillard, who also discussed Libya with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday.

Mr Rudd has been campaigning strongly for a flight-exclusion zone, declaring this week it was ''very much the lesser of two evils … a greater evil is to simply stand back and allow the innocent people of Libya to be strafed and bombed by Gaddafi''.

Behind the scenes, Ms Gillard's office has been in despair at Mr Rudd's public comments, saying his repeated interventions on Libya have come without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister.

An adviser to Ms Gillard, who asked not to be named, told The Age that Mr Rudd's freewheeling approach was also causing confusion at a diplomatic level.

''He's out of control,'' the adviser said. ''He puts out one press release after another, and none of it is run through the PM's office. A no-fly zone over Libya is not the Australian government's position. This is Rudd acting on his own."

Earlier this week, US officials in Canberra were forced to seek official clarification on what the Australian government was actually pushing for.

"They are asking us, 'Are you guys serious about a no-fly zone, and if so, what kind of resources are you going to contribute?"' the adviser said. "The answer of course is a firm no. We have serious reservations about a no-fly zone." A flight-exclusion zone means aircraft are not allowed to fly in a designated area, under threat of being shot down. But the Gaddafi regime's capacity to strike back would first need to be destroyed before such a zone could be enforced — and that would involve bombing and loss of life.

The public split comes amid growing voter dissatisfaction with Ms Gillard, with the latest Newspoll showing her trailing Mr Rudd as preferred Labor leader.

Yesterday Ms Gillard played down the differences between her stance and Mr Rudd's, stressing that he had said he was deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Libya.

But when asked on CNN on Tuesday about the growing calls for a no-fly zone, Mr Rudd said: "We in Australia have called for this now for the better part of two weeks." He has also supported a statement by foreign ministers from the Gulf Co-operation Council for a no-fly zone to protect Libyans.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said it was "confusing for Australia's allies" for Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd to have different positions on Libya.

With AAP

Unnamed Australia adviser On Rudd's Overreach

"He's out of control," the adviser said. "He puts out one press release after another, and none of it is run through the PM's office. A no-fly zone over Libya is not the Australian government's position. This is Rudd acting on his own."

Rudd recently has been actively taking pot shots, as reported by Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) article .

The excerpt of the SMH article:

Rudd takes pot shot at Gillard as he firms in polls

March 16, 2011

KEVIN RUDD has taken a poke at Julia Gillard by saying he was more likely to captain the Brisbane Broncos than become prime minister again.

One month before deposing Mr Rudd last year, Ms Gillard likened her chances of taking the leadership to playing full forward for the Western Bulldogs AFL team.

Tensions have been high between the pair since Mr Rudd's ousting.
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Last week, with Mr Rudd in the Middle East and Ms Gillard in the US, they had a difference of opinion over Libya and Ms Gillard admitted they had not talked to each other while abroad.

The latest Herald poll shows Mr Rudd is more preferred than Ms Gillard as prime minster by 39 per cent to 34 per cent.

Mr Rudd said yesterday he ''absolutely'' supported Ms Gillard's leadership, he was ''absolutely satisfied'' with his role as Foreign Affairs Minister, and, as for a return to the top job, ''I'm not of the view that lightning strikes twice''.

Mr Rudd did back Ms Gillard against claims by the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, that the government was giving foreign powers information on Australians associated with the whistleblowing website.

Mr Assange confronted Ms Gillard with the allegation on the ABC's Q&A program on Monday.

He said he had intelligence about information being exchanged and he queried whether Ms Gillard should be charged with treason. Ms Gillard said she had no idea what he was talking about.

Mr Rudd said neither he nor his departmental secretary and the former ASIO boss, Dennis Richardson, were aware of any such information exchange.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, who oversees Australia's security agencies, said Mr McClelland was also unaware of what Mr Assange was alleging.

Ms Gillard was not forewarned she would receive a question from Mr Assange when she went on the live program, but her office said yesterday she was not fussed by what some were calling an ambush.

There have been calls from within the US to try Mr Assange there after WikiLeaks published thousands of confidential cables which caused the US government severe embarrassment.

Ms Gillard said the issue of Mr Assange was not raised with her while she was in the US last week. After meeting Ms Gillard on Capitol Hill last week, the senior Republican senator John McCain suggested that if Mr Assange was associated with the theft of the original cables, he would be pursued by the US.

A US military intelligence analyst, Private Bradley Manning, has been charged with stealing the information and passing it to WikiLeaks.

''As far as I know, not anyone besides Private First Class Manning has been charged with anything … and he couldn't have done all of that just by himself, other people are responsible as well,'' Senator McCain said.
Another interesting take on the shifting geo-politics in the South Pacific , with regards to the Trans-Tasman policy of isolating Fiji was published in a report by Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP), recently reported by Radio New Zealand International article.

An excerpt of the PIPP report:

The trend is moving towards Frank’s Fiji, not Julia’s Australia

The continued bleating about the need for a ‘return
to democracy’ in Fiji fails to grasp an important point:
democracy never meaningfully existed in Fiji under its
previous gerrymandered systems. Four coups in 20 years
demonstrated that the system was broke and needed serious
reform. Where was Britain and Australia to help Fiji move
towards political reform and more equal representation?

That is not to condone the military takeover, and there is
good reason to be suspicious of the Commodore’s intentions
and his hijacking of the MSG is a case in point. He may
be a dictator, but he is in the ironic position of claiming to
have taken control to introduce a truly ‘one man one vote’
democratic system to replace the previous rigged system that
supported an indigenous elite. It is his only card, but a strong

Many across the Pacific have long advocated a more
constructive approach than the Australian led policy of
isolating Fiji. The horse has already bolted, so better now to
take Bainimarama at his word, to ensure that the promised
2014 elections are indeed free and fair and give him no
chance to replace one gerrymandered system with another.

It is encouraging that the recent meeting of the Pacific Islands
Forum Ministerial Contact Group2 was addressed by the Fiji
foreign minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Ministers warmly
welcomed Fiji’s invitation for the group to visit Fiji in the near
future as an important opportunity to meet stakeholders
in order to appreciate the political, social and economic
challenges currently facing the country.

Lets hope this invitation is not withdrawn, and that Canberra
shifts to a more nuanced policy vis-à-vis engagement.
Perhaps it is timely to think about appointing a special envoy and
for officials to engage in dialogue with their counterparts in Suva. Time
to think about meaningful assistance with the challenges and help Fiji
move towards political reform and more equal representation.
Time to realise others, who do not hold the same affinity for democracy,
are filling the void.

PIPP report

[Hopefully]Canberra shifts to a more nuanced policy vis-à-vis engagement.
Perhaps it is timely to think about appointing a special envoy and for officials to engage in dialogue with their counterparts in Suva. Time
to think about meaningful assistance with the challenges and help Fiji
move towards political reform and more equal representation.
Time to realise others, who do not hold the same affinity for democracy,
are filling the void.

Undoubtedly, the scandalous treatment of former Solomon Islands Attorney General, Julian Moti by the Australia Federal Police reported by Solomon Star news article; coupled with the so called "smart sanctions" levied on Fiji's sporting people by the Australia Government, as covered by Xinhua news article does little to nothing, to improve the perception of Australia's history of bullying within the Pacific region.

The excerpt of Solomon Star article:

Key witness in Moti case dies

E-mail Print
Aripaea Salmon, father of the alleged victim in the Julian Moti case died on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu on March 20 of a heart attack.

Just three days earlier on March 17, in a videoed interview, he signalled his and his family’s intentions to cease co-operating with the Australian prosecution of Moti.

Asked if he, his wife or his daughter intended to travel to Australia to testify, he replied, “no.”
Mr Salmon stated that he had been “swept along” in a case not of his choosing and over which his family had little control.

He said the child-sex tourism charges with which Moti had been charged had been presented to the family as a fait accompli and that none of his family had made any subsequent complaint after the case was settled in Vanuatu.

He said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) told them that if they did not cooperate it would “go against them.”

He also admitted that he could not be sure that the offences with which Moti was charged actually occurred.

With the family facing deportation he said his daughter could have been motivated by a misguided idea that she was saving the family from this fate.

Mr Salmon stated that when he eventually realised that the motivations for the prosecution were political, he was “disgusted’ that “the mighty Australian government” should use a small girl in such a way.

He described his family as being “crushed” and ‘broken” by the case and he laid the blame at the Australian government of the time under John Howard.

Mr Salmon said he repeatedly asked for a lawyer- preferably bi-lingual (Mr Salmon’s first language is French) when the AFP first contacted the family and was denied.

He also stated that the AFP had coached the family in what to say in their statements for the prosecution.

Mr Salmon went on to record an apology to his family, Julian Moti’s family “especially his mother” and the governments of the Pacific who had been hurt by this case.

In particular he apologised to Sir Michael Somare and the people of Papua New Guinea and to Manasseh Sogavare Solomon Islands former Prime Minister who he praised for his efforts to protect Moti.

Mr Salmon claimed he wanted the case to end and for his family to be left in peace.

“I am sick,” he said “I don’t know how much time I have left. This case has to stop.”

It’s unlikely he envisaged just how little time was left for him.

Vale, Mr Aripaea Salmon. It was a pleasure to have interviewed you.

By Susan Merrell

The excerpt of the Xinhua article of sports sanctions:

Fiji to send best team to Adelaide or none at all due to sanctions: PM 2011-03-19 15:43:23 FeedbackPrintRSS

SUVA, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said that if the island nation cannot send the best team to the Adelaide tournament due to Australia's travel sanctions, then don't send any team to it.

Bainimarama made the remarks following words that the Fiji Rugby Union is highly likely to drop top players Dale Tonawai, Nikola Matawalu and Waqabaca Kotobalavu after the Hong Kong 7s next weekend because the three are unlikely to get visas to go to the Adelaide tournament, local radio FijiVillage reported here Saturday on its website.

Tonawai is an army officer while Kotobalavu and Matawalu are navy officers.

Australia has taken a strong stance on its travel sanctions and continues to reject the visas of those Fijians in the military, the navy and the government and those connected to them.

The sanctions by Australia and New Zealand dated back to 2006 when the Bainimarama Government took on reigns through a coup.

Bainimarama has also questioned why the Fiji Rugby Union is not officially complaining to the International Rugby Board that Australia and New Zealand are not allowing Fiji to field its best team when they host the tournaments.

He said the Fiji Rugby Union should stop playing politics and fight for the right to send the best team to the IRB-sanctioned tournaments, adding this needs to be done for rugby, and no other reason.

He highlighted the fact when world's soccer governing body FIFA stepped in and cancelled a game between Fiji and New Zealand two years ago when New Zealand rejected the visa for goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau, whose father-in-law to be was in the military.

That game, after FIFA's directive, did not go ahead in New Zealand.

Why this cannot be done by FRU, Bainimarama questioned.

Fiji Rugby Union's interim chairman Rafaele Kasibulu explained that this year they have lobbied with the International Rugby Board to allow Fiji players with military ties to play in tournaments in Australia and New Zealand but the travel sanction is a government to government matter.

Kasibulu said that during the IRB CEO's visit to Fiji, they discussed the matter again with the rugby world governing body that have assisted them in showing their support through letters sent to the New Zealand and Australian High Commissions.

The Fiji 7s team cannot pull out of any IRB 7s tournaments as they have signed a participation agreement before the first competition in Dubai last year, he added.

Meanwhile navy players Kotobalavu and Matawalu were allowed to travel to the United States to represent Fiji last month and had no problems in getting their visas.

Notwithstanding the Trans-Tasman bullying and prodding, the legitimacy of such policies are now being deliberated on, by the region's leaders at the much awaited Meleanesian Sprearhead Group (MSG) summit.

Radio New Zealand International article quoted from former Fiji academic, Steven Ratuva regarding the use of MSG in geo-politics.

MSG warned against becoming political tool

Posted at 03:23 on 24 March, 2011 UTC

An academic is warning the leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group not to let the body become a tool of geopolitics.

The MSG is currently staging a series of meetings in Fiji leading up to a leaders’ summit next Thursday.

It will be chaired by the interim Fiji prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who was given the role after the controversial scrapping of a similar summit last year by the then chair, Vanuatu’s Edward Natapei.

An Auckland University Pacific studies senior lecturer, Dr Steven Ratuva, says this consolidates Commodore Bainimarama’s power in his scrap with Australia and New Zealand, and he may feel he’s now the new regional leader to be reckoned with.

“Perhaps in the long run that kind of thinking may be counter productive to the MSG which really needs to be focussed more on economics and trade rather than in terms of fighting the political battle. So if [Commodore] Bainimarama uses the MSG as a means by which it can leverage politically then it might not be in the future interests of the MSG.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Croz Walsh also highlighted the Ratuva's selective amnesia, in a recent posting:

But, Steve, since all politicians play politics (that's what they do), why can't Fiji join the game? Fiji did not kick itself out of the Pacific Islands Forum, or the PACER talks (it wanted to participate). Australia and NZ influenced the Pacific's Forum members to make that political decision.

Fiji did not ask the Commonwealth to be excluded from the Delhi Games. Australia and NZ urged the Commonwealth to take that political decision. Fiji did not ask the EU to suspend aid to its sugar industry.

Australia and NZ were at it again. And Fiji has not placed travel bans on Australian and NZ sportsmen and women. That's Australia and NZ again. So if Australia and NZ are playing politics, is this also not the "the future interests of the MSG — and the Forum? As the saying goes, "If it's good bad for the goose, it's good bad for the gander."

The MSG summit opened this week in Suva in a closed door session, according to reports from the Fiji Govternment website. The MSG summit was also reported on by Fiji Times and republished in Pacific Media Watch (PMW).org article.

The excerpt of the PMW article:
FIJI: Opening MSG trade meeting closed to media

Commodore Frank Voreqe Bainimarama. Fiji is the Chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which is meeting in Vale ni Bose this week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Item: 7352

SUVA: The Melanesian Spearhead Group trade and economic officials meeting started at the Vale ni Bose complex in the Fiji capital behind closed doors yesterday but discussions are not expected to include PACER Plus.

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, which is still negotiated, is a trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand.

Instead, discussions are expected to centre around trade agreements within the MSG bloc of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia (Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste), Solomon Islands and Fiji Islands.

East Timor and Indonesia are also part of the summit as observers.

The trade and economic officials complete their discussions today before the senior officials meet tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Pacific Institute of Public Policy issued a discussion paper titled "Youth quake: Will Melanesian democracy be sunk by demography" and claimed that Australia's policy in Melanesia is adrift as the region increasingly looks north to Asia.

While the media was only allowed picture opportunities, deputy secretary of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sila Balawa, through the Information Ministry said discussions would be on matters that affect the people.

Balawa also told the ministry the meeting was also for the public and that everything was being done transparently so that it was public knowledge.

"We are doing everything transparently and it is public knowledge because the issues discussed has been coming out in the media," Balawa told the ministry.

"We are doing everything in a transparent manner because the issues involve the general public and the Melanesian people."

Balawa said climate change and encouraging more economic activities among the MSG countries would be discussed.

The trade and economic officials complete their discussions today before the senior officials meet tomorrow. - Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch

As usual, some set backs were bound to occur in Melanesia, one being the recent disciplinary action taken against Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Michael Somare, as covered by Radio NZ article. The other are snarky comments from the ex-Vanuatu Prime Minster also covered by Radio NZ article.

The excerpt of Edward Natapei's comments:

Vanuatu told it should consider pulling out of MSG now Fiji’s Bainimarama heads the body

Posted at 22:46 on 24 March, 2011 UTC

Vanuatu’s opposition leader, Edward Natapei, says the country should reconsider its membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Last year, when Mr Natapei was Vanuatu’s leader, he was involved in an acrimonious spat with the interim prime minister of Fiji, Commodore Frank Bainimarama after cancelling an MSG summit scheduled to be held in Fiji.

Mr Natapei was concerned that handing the chairmanship to an unelected leader undermined the democratic values of the MSG.

Since then Commodore Bainimarama has got the job and is set to chair a summit next week, but Mr Natapei is warning Vanuatu should distance itself from the military regime in Fiji.

“We have to make up our minds what whether or not we value democracy or not. Vanuatu should consider seriously whether or not we should be participating in the MSG now that it’s chaired by a non-democratically elected government.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

The excerpt of the Radio NZ article on Somare:

Lawyer for PNG’s PM welcomes sentence given to Somare

Posted at 21:41 on 25 March, 2011 UTC

The legal counsel for Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister says Sir Michael Somare is satisfied with the two week suspension handed down to him by a leadership tribunal.

The Prime Minister received the sentence after the tribunal found him guilty of 13 charges of misconduct, relating to his failure to lodge financial returns from as far back as 20 years ago.

His legal counsel Kerenga Kua says the guilty findings do not amount to proof of corruption by Sir Michael, as more serious charges that he had demeaned public office were dismissed.

He says the Prime Minister will not challenge the suspension, and is taking it in his stride.

“He’s relieved that it’s finally come to the end of the road and a final decision has been made and he’s quite satisfied with the penalty that’s been meted out by the tribunal. He thinks it’s a reasonable one, all things considered.”

Kerenga Kua says it would be difficult for everyone to agree on the severity of the penalty, but Sir Michael was only found guilty of failing to fulfil the administrative requirement of submitting forms to the Ombudsman Commission.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Another news article from Radio Australia, highlighted the perceived "spanner in the works" as outlined in Radio Australia's coverage of Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee; blaming Fiji leader for the inclusion of Indonesia at the Melanesia Spearhead group summit.

Trans-Tasman Bullies

Notwithstanding the Trans-Tasman bullying and prodding, the legitimacy of such policies are now being deliberated on, by the region's leaders [...]

The excerpt of Radio Australia news article:

Fiji leader blamed for Indonesia attending MSG summit

Updated March 25, 2011 17:43:27

A West Papuan independence activist is blaming Fiji's interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, for inviting Indonesia to take part in next week's Melanesian Spearhead Group summit in Fiji.

Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee, says Commodore Bainimarama has invited Indonesia to participate because Fiji and Indonesia are both military regimes.

He says the MSG should be a Melanesian organisation for Melanesian countries, and Indonesia which administers the mainly Melanesian and Christian western half of New Guinea island, should not be present at the summit.

Mr Bukorpioper tells me that Fiji's invitation to Jakarta risks angering Melanesian people who he says strongly support West Papuan independence from Indonesia.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Terry Bukorpioper, a Vanuatu-based representative of the West Papuan National Authority and secretary of the Oceania Decolonisation Committee

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Monday, July 20, 2009

MSG, Pacific Forum, Global Trade & The American Dream.

From The Interpreter's
Jenny Hayward Jones post:

Is the MSG a threat to Pacific unity?

by Jenny Hayward-Jones - 20 July 2009 9:26AM
The decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s (MSG) leaders on 10 July to lend their support to Fiji’s interim Government, and the backpedalling by leaders since that decision, reveals some interesting insights into how diplomacy works — or does not work — in the Pacific.
The meeting was held at a useful juncture for Bainimarama – a week after he delivered his Strategic Framework for Change speech and three weeks before the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders’ Summit in Cairns, from which he has been excluded. He seized the opportunity to secure endorsement for his agenda from a group of the region’s most influential countries.

The support offered to Bainimarama by the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu was likely driven by a sense of obligation to Melanesian brotherhood, a desire to assert a Melanesian approach that differed from that of Australia, New Zealand and the Polynesian members of the Forum, and some pandering to domestic constituencies concerned about Fiji’s suspension from the Forum.
If the MSG is to prove it is an effective sub-regional grouping, its leaders should present a clear and united front to the region and demonstrate that Melanesian-style diplomacy offers a better way of dealing with Fiji. The situation in Fiji is such that the region is crying out for creative solutions. Supporting Bainimarama's Strategic Framework for Change, Fiji’s continuing engagement in the PIF and the right to participate in regional trade agreements all telegraphed a strong message to the region about Melanesian solidarity.
But in the week since that message was delivered, Prime Minister Somare has said dialogue with Fiji was 'not an issue for the MSG', confirming that the MSG would ultimately abide by the majority decision on Fiji’s status in the PIF in Cairns. And Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei has indicated the MSG didn’t necessarily support Bainimarama’s roadmap.
The softening of the MSG’s tone may have been a response to reminders from other PIF members (almost certainly delivered early last week) about the importance of Forum unity. But it does beg questions about the future role and integrity of the MSG. The MSG should be a dominant sub-regional group and should be leading discussion within the Forum on handling Fiji. The members of the MSG (excluding New Caledonia) have a combined population of 8.2 million, GDP of US$12.7 billion and land area of 521,672 sq kms. By contrast, their Polynesian and Micronesian fellow members of the Forum have a combined population of 608,000, GDP of US$1.7 billion and land area of 6,363 sq kms.
The delivery of such contradictory public messages on Fiji within the space of one week, however, is hardly a demonstration of a group capable of challenging the status quo in the region or indeed of an approach that will assist Fiji in 'building commitment and capacity for genuine dialogue consistent with Melanesian values and traditional practices.'
Photo by flickr user Jo Levine, used under a Creative Commons license.

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key is gearing up for Forum meeting in Cairns. Article originally from New Herald, about the signals being sent to Pacific states.
PM Key sending clear diplomatic signals to Pacific nations
By Online Editor
5:04 pm GMT+12, 20/07/2009, New Zealand

NZ PM John Key
Too much attention to foreign fields can result in a few tantrums back home.
In the Far North last week, Mayor Wayne Brown wrote a truculent column about the attentions Mr Key had given to the Pacific compared to the Far North. Callers to a talkback show grilled him about giving aid to Pacific countries when New Zealand itself was hardly rolling in the money.
A supporter of medicinal cannabis castigated him for "enthusiastically" swigging back "a psychoactive substance called kava" despite rejecting bids to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes at home.
They should get their pens ready again - Mr Key is off in a fortnight to Cairns in Australia for the Pacific Forum leaders' meeting. He will visit Australia again soon after, to meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to push for the furtherance of the single economic market goals.Then it is off to Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. A trip to the United States follows the month after.
By choosing to take over the trip that is traditionally left to the minister of foreign affairs, Mr Key was sending a clear indication that he intends to be no less prominent in foreign affairs than Helen Clark was.
On the face of it, it was a “goodwill” mission. After a decade of Miss Clark, the leaders must have wondered what they were in for. It did not take them long to find out. He has a proclivity for what the media call “Clark would never have done that” moments.
There was a “Clark would never have done that" at the lively nature of Mr Key's delegation, complete with hip hop dancers and former All Blacks.
There was another as Mr Key camped up his dance with Miss Niue and again as he used the word “children” about Fiji and Samoa when commenting on the relative merits of their kava.
“Clark would never have done that,” they muttered after John Key hollered out a joke to them about the king's dog Poobah. It is true that Miss Clark - a polished performer on the international stage and well aware of the gravitas of her role - would never have done the things Mr Key does.
But the difference is deliberate and, for him, it works. He knows he lacks the grounding to emulate Miss Clark, of whom a foreign affairs official only half joked was better placed to brief them to be briefed by them.
His personality is also starkly different. Mr Key has never been risk averse, as long as the risk is calculated. The trip proved that.
The delegation which began looking somewhat like a circus did more than simply cement Mr Key's relationships at a leader to leader level.
The hip-hop crew proved strong ambassadors at a level Mr Key could never have done.
But the leaders of those countries will also have learned that after the dancing is over, Mr Key plays as straight a game as Miss Clark did.
Niue's Toke Talagi in particular learnt not to try to lure Mr Key into a diplomatic game by playing China off against New Zealand in a bid to have aid funding released.
Mr Key called his bluff - telling him to go ahead. Mr Key takes a pragmatic stance on China's incursions with aid money and easy loans into the Pacific.
Rather than rail King Canute-like against it, he has instead publicly said China's increasing role is an inevitable consequence of its efforts to gain wider international influence.
Instead of protesting, he has urged China to work with New Zealand.
His aim is not only to ensure the money is not spent on wasted efforts, but to allow New Zealand to see exactly where it is spent.
However, he has also sent the clear message to those island countries that they deal with China at their own risk, that New Zealand will not step in to bail them out if it goes awry.
Behind the doors, Mr Key was also trying to shore up support for centring the Pacific Forum agenda next month on them and the economic downturn - not Fiji.
The Pacific Islands Forum has often been criticised as of negligible value, a grouping that talks a lot but does little.
Such outcomes are anathema to Mr Key, and so his reconnaissance trip was more about trying to ensure something concrete emerges when the leaders meet next week.
What he wants when he flies into Cairns is allies to help staunch talk of allowing Fiji to rejoin the forum.
What he wants when he flies out of Cairns is to be carrying a communique filled with concrete proposals on measures to help the Pacific Islands in the recession.
So as soon as Mr Key returned from his trip, Murray McCully went on his own - to Kiribati and Tuvalu, as well as follow-up visits to Tonga and Samoa.
Duncan Kerr, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, was simultaneously roaming the Pacific, peddling much the same message Mr Key - tend to your own lands in a time of trial, not Fiji.
What Mr Key got out of the trip was some surety that the other leaders would largely be singing from the same song sheet.
What the Pacific leaders got out of it was some reassurance that Mr Key would not neglect their interests - and the chance to make it just that little bit more difficult for him to make decisions based solely on bottom lines.
The difference in New Zealand's relations with the Pacific and the wider world was spelled out in an uncharacteristically sentimental paragraph in a Cabinet paper on the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations.
“In every other context, trade policy starts by putting the interest of New Zealand exporters first and aggressively so. In the Pacific, it is different.
“Here, our policy approach should start by putting our political, people to people relationships first. In some cases - Tonga, Samoa, the Cooks, for example - they are part of us.”
A day in each country was not long. But it was long enough for Mr Key to learn the truth of that. John Key emerged from his trip knowing he got on famously with the King of Tonga, albeit perhaps with a slight headache after being plied with champagne at 11am and then two hours of pre-dinner drinks later in the day for a dinner that went well past the scheduled 10pm end.
Samoa also won a little of his heart, especially the village of Poutasi, where he was met by the village men proudly wearing New Zealand themed T-shirts as a tacit "thanks" for the seasonal labour scheme.
After just one hour in the village, they were offering him a chiefly title and he was waxing lyrical about the conch shell blowing at 6pm for prayers each day and 10pm bedtime rule. Miss Clark's greatest gift to Mr Key is in the area of foreign affairs where she drove home the importance of assiduously built connections and Zealand's reputation as an honest broker.
He knows he cannot out-Clark her - but nor does he plan to squander what she has bequeathed him.

Claire Trevett is a political writer for The New Zealand Herald.


Trans-Tasman leverage against MSG countries appears to be eroding like a sand castle on Bondi. As the post by Interpreter alludes to, the MSG decision to back Fiji was recognized as a constructive engagement that could undermine the very credibility of the forum.
Lately, the definition of decisions conveniently stamped with "manufactured consensus" in Forum communiques seems to be attracting clouds of doubts. Subjectively, those decision were made with Pacific Island representatives, wholly omitted from the negotiating table.

These warnings have been heard before. Some from a former and ousted Pacific Forum's Director of Economic Governance, Dr. Roman Grynberg; who dispatched an open letter to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders prior to their recent meet.
Such advice. which was undoubtedly crucial and persuasive to the outcome. Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) represents a regional sub-bloc of island states in the region-with more population, mineral and fossil fuel resources.
Dr. Grynberg's letter was published in Pac News website.
The excerpt:

Open Letter from Dr Grynberg's to PNG Prime Minister and MSG Leaders
By Online Editor
1:38 pm GMT+12, 10/07/2009, Fiji

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare

I am writing this public letter to you and the other MSG leaders in the hope that the troubling recent developments in regard to the future PACER Plus Agreement with Australia and New Zealand can be addressed at the up-coming MSG Leaders Summit.
There can be little doubt that the PACER Plus agreement, if properly negotiated, will be of enormous benefit to the people of Papua New Guinea as well as all the peoples of Melanesia and the wider Pacific islands region. However, the lead up to these negotiations has shown that the reality is likely to fall far short of the potential because of the excessive haste that has been shown by Australia and New Zealand in pushing the Pacific Island Countries into negotiations when they are simply not ready to do so given that they remain involved in highly complex negotiations with the EU.
The Pacific island nations have not had sufficient time to either consult adequately with national stakeholders or to undertake genuinely neutral and scientific analysis of what type of future trade arrangement would be in their interests. The arrangements for future negotiations that have been reported in the media following the Apia meeting of Forum Trade Ministers are very disturbing and will almost certainly leave the PNG, as well as Melanesian countries and the wider Pacific islands without sufficient capacity to negotiate.
A significant issue in all of this has been the exclusion of Fiji from the negotiations. While I am deeply supportive of the democratic process and the Forum efforts to promote democracy the current situation will mean that the entire people of Fiji will be penalized by their exclusion from PACER through events not of their own making. Moreover, once democracy returns to Fiji there can be little doubt that a future democratic government will have little choice but to accept the terms of an agreement that will have been negotiated without its participation.
The arrangements being developed require complete ownership of the negotiating process by the Pacific islands. It is for this reason that I write to you to call on you and other MSG leaders to remove the negotiating process from the Pacific Islands Forum altogether and move it to the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat. I also call upon you to assure the rights of the people of Fiji are protected and that their voice can be actively heard at the trade negotiations.
In order to assure that a neutral negotiation occurred the small island states should also be invited to participate in an MSG based negotiation. While I recognize the direct financial cost of such an action the PACER plus treaty is so important to an entire generation of young Papua New Guineans, Melanesians and Pacific Islanders that it cannot be handled by institutions which are so thoroughly dominated by Australian and New Zealand interests. Only the MSG has the neutrality to manage this process.
I know that PNG and other Melanesian countries jealously and rightly guard their sovereignty. To sacrifice this sovereignty on such an important matter as your future economic relations with your neighbors and to potentially end up with a treaty that is not in your interests would be the sacrifice of your sovereignty for which you fought.
Sir, you are the last remaining father of the Forum. Your vision in creating the Forum was grand but in certain matters such as these the Pacific Islands simply cannot leave such important negotiations to institutions dominated by the interests of Australia and New Zealand.
Yours sincerely
Dr Roman Grynberg

Dr Roman Grynberg is the former Director of Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

As growth seems to be among the crucial factors for economic growth. In light of the current global economic climate, and the ripple effects to the world in general. The aspect of the American Dream was addressed and how that image of consumerism inadvertently contributed to the global financial malaise.

This discussion of trade, growth, consumerism and global trade was featured in an American Radio Works documentary and the growing doubt about the entire system of trade, banking, regulation and government.


The "American dream" has powered the hopes and aspirations of Americans for generations. It began as a plain but revolutionary notion: each person has the right to pursue happiness, and the freedom to strive for a better life through hard work and fair ambition. But over time, this dream has come to represent a set of expectations about owning things and making money. So what exactly is the American dream? How did we come to define it? And is it changing?