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Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Alex Hawke MP

Assistant Defence Minister

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

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10 December 2019

**Check against delivery**

2 December 2019


TONY JONES Good evening and welcome to Q&A Pacific. I’m Tony Jones. We’re broadcasting tonight from the University of the South Pacific, in Suva, Fiji, with: Director of the Pacific Fisheries Agency, Manu Tupou-Roosen; the man who will be Fiji’s acting prime minister tomorrow, Attorney-General and Minister for the Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum; the former prime minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga; who hosted Scott Morrison at this year’s South Pacific Forum; Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke; and Pacific women’s rights activist, Virisila Buadromo. Please welcome our panel.

Thank you very much. Q&A is live in eastern Australia on ABC TV, ABC iview International and NewsRadio. Well, Australia has a long history in the Pacific – colonisation, trade, aid, political and military cooperation. Pacific Islanders joined the Anzacs in World War I. And this program helps mark the 80th anniversary of the ABC’s international media. Now, as other nations such as China become more active, the Australian government says it’s stepping up its engagement in the region. So can we build a happy Pacific family? Our first question tonight comes from Virginia Pewamu.


VIRGINIA PEWAMU What will happen to the people of small Pacific Island countries once the islands are gone because of the effect of sea level rise?


TONY JONES Yep. Enele. Sopoaga.


ENELE SOPOAGA, PRIME MINISTER OF TUVALU 2013-19 Thank you very much, Jones. I’m happy to be here, let me say. Thank you for inviting me to be on the panel. It is a serious issue that we are trying to deal with, and the question from madam is very, very pertinent. It goes to underscore the seriousness of the dilemma, which is now we’re referring to climate as crisis, emergency. And if we didn’t work hard, if the world didn’t reduce emissions, as called for in the IPCC special report, to reduce significantly greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we will face the situation where island countries like Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and others be submerged into the sea by 2060. This is a scary scenario, and it is very, very serious. And I certainly hope that not only the Pacific but those who have polluted the atmosphere and caused global warming will come to react and do the right thing in response to the IPCC special report.


TONY JONES What do you think is going to happen to the people of Tuvalu, your own island group?


ENELE SOPOAGA The situation in Tuvalu is, we still believe there is an opportunity for the world to react meaningfully, reducing greenhouse gases and keeping temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as we have called for under the Paris Agreement. If we could reach these targets, as predicted by the science, we have the opportunity to saving these people on atoll nations like Tuvalu, and also avoiding them being forced to relocate and resettle and leave their God-given islands.


TONY JONES Aiyaz, what do you think?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM, FIJIAN ATTORNEY-GENERAL I mean, it’s a very, very pertinent question. Before I start, firstly, ABC, thank you very much for being here in Fiji. And I’d also like to give my condolences to the victims of the Australian bushfires, and also in California, of course and the recent flooding in Marshall Islands. Obviously, many would say that it had been precipitated by the fact there’s climate change and, as a result of that, you have these climate-induced catastrophes.

But I think the question has been answered also by the former Prime Minister. But the point about it is about adaptation. And I think there are two pertinent issues about adaptation. In the Pacific, obviously, we have a very low carbon footprint, but the reality of the matter is that one of the ways we can, apart from the fact that we’re pushing the rest of the countries in the world to, you know, 1.5 degrees Celsius pre-industrial level, is also to get more interests in the adaptation space. Because many of the islands, in fact, can be saved through adaptation measures. But, you know, adaptation, as opposed to mitigation, is not deemed to be very sexy in the past in the sort of climate change speech, and indeed, more importantly, the climate finance area. And one of the, you know, topics that we actually did take up in the World Bank IMF meeting this year was about the fact that we look at, you know, creating a financial space for those island nations, because, generally, ability to borrow money is restricted by GDP per capita and there’s certain, you know, thresholds that are set in place. But the reality of the matter is...


TONY JONES You think there to be a global change in this regard?




TONY JONES So, the international lenders need to think ahead?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM​​​​​​​ Absolutely. That matrix needs to change. But what we are saying, if you look at it from a long-term perspective, if you actually create resilience, then you have a ready market in the long term. Because if you actually get rid of resilience, then you won’t have ready market in those states. So I think the point that the lady is making is very pertinent. We have know, our Prime Minister has also offered what you call refugee status. Of course, I know Kevin Rudd made some very interesting comments about giving up territory for citizenship. We, obviously, are not saying that. What we are saying, though, is there is a need to, for example, look at relocation. And in fact, from the UNFCCC framework, and generally the framework pertaining to climate change, there’s not been much elucidation around what will happen to those people who become climate refugees. How will they be treated?


TONY JONES We’re going to come back to that one in more detail.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM But just a last point...


TONY JONES Yeah, go on.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM​​​​​​​ ...about relocation – even in Fiji...


TONY JONES Can I just make the point that, in Fiji, you’ve already relocated four villages...




TONY JONES ...for these reasons. There are 80 more...




TONY JONES ...which you’ve targeted for relocation.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Yes, and they will be inundated, but it is also not about villages themselves, also about agricultural land, you know, being salinated. So, that, obviously, is an issue in terms of sustainable livelihoods. So, I think the point being is that we need to build capacity in that space. We have set up a relocation trust fund. We’ve set up relocation guidelines. There’s, obviously, issues pertaining to gender, pertaining to sustainability of livelihoods. So it is, actually, quite a catastrophic situation. But the reality of the matter is we need to build, you know, a space in adaptation.


TONY JONES W​​​​​​​e’ll come back to that. Manu.


MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN, PACIFIC FISHERIES AGENCY Thank you, first of all, for this opportunity and for the interview. And it’s clear – climate change is the defining issue of our generation, and we’re in the front line of these impacts. And from a tuna fisheries perspective, the science is also clear that climate change will impact both the distribution and the abundance of our tuna resources. So, it’s absolutely concerning for our countries, because tuna resources provides income that is pivotal to the social and economic advancement of our people. Also, all the major tuna stocks in our region are biologically healthy. Compare that to other regions where some stocks are either overfished, or overfishing is occurring. In addition to that, our waters provide a third of the world’s supply of tuna. So, it makes even more critical that we work closely together to tackle this challenge, and...


TONY JONES And we’ll come back to the fisheries in more detail in a moment. Virisila.


VIRISILA BUADROMO, FIJIAN WOMEN’S ADVOCATE I mean, I think that the issue of the climate crisis, know, as Manu pointed out, it is the biggest threat to the Pacific right now. And I think what is key for us, as the Pacific, is that collaboration is key for our survival. And we all need to collaborate, whether we’re living in Australia, or whether we’re living in Tuvalu, or whether we’re living in the United States, each of us need to be collaborating for survival. And from my perspective, as an activist and as a feminist, I think that Australia, as being the largest country in the region, the richest country in the region, as well as, you also happen to be the largest emitter of carbon in the region...I think that it’s important that if you’ are part of our family, then you need to stand with our family in this leadership to fight against climate crisis.


TONY JONES Alex, OK. I’ll come to you through a question, Alex Hawke, and the question comes from Liz Sims.


LIZ SIMS So, my question is for Alex Hawke. As an Australian expatriate living in the Pacific, I witness firsthand, every day, the impact of climate change on our Pacific Island neighbours. As leaders in the region, why isn’t the Australian government taking stronger action on climate change?


TONY JONES Alex Hawke.


ALEX HAWKE, MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE PACIFIC Yeah, well, look, thank you for the question, and thanks, Virisila, as well. Look, Australia does do a lot on climate change internationally, and here in the Pacific as well. And we take it very seriously. And look, I’d say to the former Prime Minister Sopoaga, here, who hosted a fabulous Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu this year, for a lot of Australians, I think, we sometimes forget that, in the Pacific, you have a lot of very low-lying countries that have always, in a sense, been subject to the first and harshest impacts of climate change. And when you go there – and I had the chance to visit your beautiful country for the first time – and you see that, perhaps...the highest elevation, I think, is about a metre or two above sea level, you really do get, firsthand, an understanding of what climate change means to all of the Pacific people.

And so, Australia, internationally, of course, we’re going to meet our targets in Paris. We’ve met our targets in Kyoto. We’re going to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030 on our 2005 levels. This year we’ll have about 20% of power generated by renewables, and we hope that to be a third in the 2020s. We’ll have a third of all our power generated by renewables. But more importantly, we listen very carefully to people in the Pacific about the challenges they face, and I think the Attorney-General, there, from Fiji raised a great point that a lot...there is a lot we can do on adaptation and resilience, in helping prevent the harshest impacts of climate change, helping adjust to them and deal with them. And through our development budgets and through our partners in the Pacific, we do a lot of work in this space to deal with climate change.


TONY JONES Alex Hawke, aren’t you, in a sense, politically compelled to make the case that was made behind the scenes at the Pacific Forum, that no matter what Australia does, it’s a tiny player in global emissions, and that China, in fact, has a massive new investment in coal-fired power, which is going to wipe out anything Australia does? That was an argument being made behind the scenes at the forum, wasn’t it?


ALEX HAWKE Well, it’s not an argument, necessarily, just at the Pacific Islands Forum. I think you’ve got to look at...


TONY JONES It was being made at the forum.


ALEX HAWKE Well...well, let me answer. I think there’s true global action on climate change, and if you’re going to solve climate change, there’s no doubt you’re going to need global action. Everybody knows it. It’s probably the biggest reason why we don’t have proper action, is because we don’t have some of the big players in there. It doesn’t just mean China. In Australia, you’ll find there is, at the moment, one coal-fired power plant scheduled for construction, and one in preconstruction. You can go to some countries in the world, there are hundreds in construction and hundreds in preconstruction. So, if you’re talking about impact on the planet, more emissions, I think you have to look at those facts. And it doesn’t mean Australia doesn’t do what we ought to do. We are reducing our emissions...




ALEX HAWKE ...and our emissions intensity.


TONY JONES This was the advice prepared for the Prime Minister, ahead of the Pacific Island Forum – “China had invested $36 billion in new coal-fired power generation in 27 countries in one year.” Are you trying to make the case that China is the real problem here?


ALEX HAWKE No, look, and I’m not making that case about China, specifically.


TONY JONES No. The Prime Minister is, though.


ALEX HAWKE No, but look, we would say China certainly has a lot of coal fire under construction, so does India, so do other countries in the region. And we would also say, as many people here would, and people on the panel, America has also, of course, abandoned international process. So, we wouldn’t single out China alone. We are good international players. I can only answer for Australia. We’re meeting our targets. We’re continuing to do more. This year, we’ll spend $1.4 billion in the Pacific, which is the most Australia has ever spent, it’s the most of any country in the Pacific that will be spent, through our development budget. And of that, there’ll be $500 million for climate-change-specific programs.




ALEX HAWKE And you’ll see, also, through our infrastructure facility, our $2 billion infrastructure facility, a commitment to what you’ve been talking about – climate-resilient infrastructure and adaptation.


TONY JONES Alright. Enele Sopaga. I’ll just go with Enele first because, well, it was your country that hosted the forum. And what was the core of the debate? ‘Cause you got quite angry. The Prime Minister of... The Prime Minister of Tonga was in tears over the failure to get up the declaration you were trying to.


ENELE SOPOAGA Well, let me respond first. Like, this is an issue of symbolism. We all know the varying degree of capacity to deal with climate change, to respond. But coming as a family of Pacific island leaders – that’s going back to the question, the organic question raised by the lady – there is a need to...for stronger solidarity. And as hosts of the 50th summit of the PIF leaders, I was hoping hosting it in Tuvalu would bring the magnitude of appreciation...of appreciation of the unique vulnerability of atoll nations like Tuvalu, and therefore, more appreciation from leaders, particularly leaders of our big neighbouring countries, to appreciate better, because the forum was also undertaken following the visit, the historic visit of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, to Tuvalu. And everybody could no...could not say anything else, but to be taken by a great surprise how vulnerable Tuvalu is.

And I was hoping that the leaders would work together more solidly, in solidarity, with all island leaders. And of course, you are right, the Prime Minister Pohiva shed tears after seeing the island for himself, but particularly after hearing the voices of the young people of Tuvalu, saying and worrying about their future. And here’s one prime minister, unfortunately, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, you know, expressing views that completely denies there is climate change happening already in the Pacific. As chairman, I was taken a little bit aback. But that’s said...


TONY JONES So, are you saying the Prime Minister expressed doubt about climate change causing problems in the Pacific, at the forum? Or are you talking about previous remarks?


ENELE SOPOAGA Well, about previous remarks, as well as in the forum, because there was quite strong resistance on the call by Pacific island leaders for more concrete works to reduce greenhouse gases, but particularly to cut down and stop opening up new coalmines in Australia. That was one of the main concerns of the leaders. But in the end I think we came to compromise language, if you look at the communique, to saying just move...transition away from fossil fuels. And I thought that was the best we could, in order to save the communique and have a language declaration on climate change.


TONY JONES OK. I’m going to pass around the panel. Aiyaz, to take the questioner’s point, do you think Australia is doing enough? And to take the broader point, does it matter what Australia does when big players like China and the United States – one pulled out of Paris, the other one creating huge amounts of coal-fired power stations?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM I can empathise what the former prime minister of Tuvalu is saying, in respect of the optics at the very least at the forum. But I think the reality is that many countries have their own economic imperatives, their own political imperatives. Of course, it would be nice if everybody tomorrow stopped coalmining. But the hard, cold reality is that many thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people living in their own countries would economically get, you know, affected negatively. So we can understand that.

But the point of the matter is that we need everybody to be able to firstly to recognise that actually coalmining is detrimental to the environment, detrimental to...creates climatic events. And then we need to have a game plan. The game plan is, we want a carbon-neutral target by 2050. We hope that we can achieve that. New Zealand has just started that and brought in their new bill. We, in fact, hope to embark on that too. Of course, the Pacific’s carbon footprint is almost negligible, but it’s more about the messaging. It’s more about getting people to understand what the realities are. And in fact, you know, when...


TONY JONES Are you saying that Australia has not got the messaging right?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Well, we are hoping that, you know, through your forum tonight and various other discussions, we can escalate the level of understanding regarding climate change. In fact, the bushfires also is, you know, a stark reminder of that. But if you look around the world, I mean, you have the Great Barrier Reef that is suffering because of the rising sea levels, the temperature and the sea levels. But also, I mean, you look at coastal cities around the world. I mean, Dhaka, in Bangladesh, with the current sea level rises, they lose 17% of all landmass. With cities like Miami and various other cities around the world, where you actually have encroaching water.

So I think, you know, it needs to become a global understanding of it, the climatic changes in respect of, when do you now plant your agricultural produce? There are landlocked countries in Africa where they have droughts, they don’t have access to water, rivers are drying up. I mean, there’s a number of sort of, you know, matters that we need to understand.

But I think, to be able to sort of start bashing each other on the head, I think, is not going to be very productive. Of course, we do expect a lot from Australia. Of course, the optics needs to be right. But also, at the same time, we need to understand what the Australian economic situation is. If the Australians get onboard and say, “Look, we want to go towards carbon neutral,” and Minister Hawke was talking about renewable energy, etc, and develop the technology, not just for yourselves but involve, actually, other countries that are maybe technologically not that advanced, to share that IP is critically important for us.


TONY JONES OK. I’m going to go to the next question. It’s also on the same subject, or a similar subject. Peni Hausia Havea.


PENI HAUSIA HAVEA Thank you, Tony. My question is, we in the Pacific are...we in the Pacific are facing the prospect of forced relocation of villages and homes, and even becoming climate change refugees. Now, New Zealand already has a plan for this. My question is to Australia – how is the Australian government planning to help the people of the Pacific in this situation? Thank you.


TONY JONES Peni, we might come back to you in a minute to ask about that New Zealand plan. Alex Hawke.


ALEX HAWKE Well, thanks, Peni. And look, obviously, in the future that would be a matter for future Australian governments to look at. I mean, at the moment, we’re focused very much on building and planning ahead of those sorts of events. I mean, as I said, our budget works on climate adaptation, climate resilience. In many places you can relocate villages to other landmasses, in some countries. In others, where there are small island chains or atolls, like Tuvalu, that may not be possible. There’ll have to be a genuinely regional solution put together, involving all countries. I’d anticipate Australia would be part of something well into the future of that nature. But we would deal with it as it arose.

But for now, the best thing we can do is work with people to stay in their countries, which is what people want to do. And work to help them deal with the worst impacts of climate change. And Australia is at the forefront of doing that when there’s a disaster. And we know Pacific countries are the most vulnerable to tornadoes, cyclones, things that happen. And Australia and now...


TONY JONES Alex Hawke, I might go back to our questioner, because he has got his hand up again.




TONY JONES And... Yeah. So, what is it that New Zealand is doing that you want Australia to do?


PENI HAUSIA HAVEA Yeah, because that’s why I wanted to ask this question – Because New Zealand already have a plan for the Pacific, to apply on a climate change visa. We don’t know when this is happening. So, Australia, we don’t know. So that’s why I asked this question. And also like what the honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was saying, Fiji already done relocation. We don’t know about Australia.


ALEX HAWKE Yeah, no, thank you. And look, we’re different to New Zealand, obviously. We have a different immigration system and a different visa system. We also do a lot more than New Zealand in the Pacific in terms of our budget, in terms of our capacity to do things. We do a lot of work. At any one time, for example, we have about 666,000 New Zealanders in Australia, at any one time. So, these solutions will have to be planned for regionally. And if New Zealand is thinking ahead and thinking well into the future, well, that’s a matter for them. But in Australia we’ll deal with it as we need to, in concert with the countries in the region.


TONY JONES Virisila, I notice you listening very carefully there. Do you want to get in on that one?


VIRISILA BUADROMO Yeah, I mean, I think the issue of relocation... I mean, I agree with Minister Hawke that the reality is people don’t really want to leave their homes, because relocation causes another kind of crisis. You are going to go into another land. And in the Pacific, where land is so closely linked to our identity, relocating is not just about going to live somewhere else, it’s about uprooting your... you know, your whole community, your whole sense of self. And I think that that’s something that’s not easily resolved just by moving to a different country or moving to another geographical spot. So when we’re talking about relocation, I agree that there needs to be more investment in terms of adaptation and resilience in those countries because a lot more people don’t want to leave their homes. I mean, that is their home. That’s their sense of who they are. And the other issue is this issue around when you move to another country, you’re going to create another lot of crisis there and another conflict, which then becomes another country’s problem. So then how do we resolve that?


TONY JONES OK. I’m going to give the final word here to Enele, because he wants to get in on this one.


ENELE SOPOAGA Thank you, Tony. If I may, relocation is not an option to stop climate change. Wherever you may be relocated, it will not stop climate change. We will be able to stop climate change if we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere as soon as possible. So relocation is not an adaptation issue. Adaptation, you can do a lot of adaptation, and I negotiated in the Paris Agreement, the provision there is loss and damage – article 8. If Tuvalu didn’t have any more islands to adapt to, where are you going to place relocation and adaptation? What would be the meaning of those? That’s where relocation issue and the compensation has to be considered. And in order for that to work, no single country can do it on its own. We have to have a United Nations convention on the protect the rights of people displaced and relocated by impacts of climate change. That, we need to take it to the United Nations as soon as possible, in order to protect the rights of these people. Because they are not refugees. I would hate to call the Tuvaluans refugees because of the actions of others. Refugees are people displaced by political pressures at home.






TONY JONES Thank you, Enele. Now remember, if you hear any doubtful claims on Q&A, let us know on Twitter. Keep an eye on the RMIT ABC Fact Check and The Conversation website for the result. The next question comes from Talei Tora.


TALEI TORA (SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE) This is for the Attorney-General, Mr Khaiyum. It’s a fact that our fisheries and tuna stocks are continuously under threat and depleting fast. Why does Fiji continue to sell licences to mostly Chinese fishing vessels to fish in our waters when these are the vessels that we know are fishing beyond their quotas? Is the economic impact...does it offset...does it add more value to Fiji for them to keep selling these licences?


TONY JONES Now, Aiyaz, I might pause you on this and hear from Manu first. Go ahead.




MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN Thank you for the question. In terms of the health of our stocks, it’s biologically in a very good state. There are certain types of gear in our fisheries work, which shows very clearly that for the purse seine fishery there’s been successes and significant economic returns. When we’re talking about our southern countries, such as Fiji, we’re talking about the longline fishery, and it’s been clear from the leaders that we need to address the underperformance in this fishery, improve the catch rates, in order to improve the profitability for our domestic fleets, and this will require limits to catch not just within our waters, but also in the high seas.

So our FFA members are working very actively in addressing that challenge. Our ministers have adopted a regional longline strategy along those lines to address the economic profitability, but also to highlight the success of the work in tuna fisheries, and it will go to the success of any challenge that we tackle, including climate change, and it’s cooperation – we work best when we work together. So that’s very clear from the success of FFA’s work...


TONY JONES Manu, there was a piece that you’re aware of in the Fiji Times this morning from the executive chair of the Fiji Fish Marketing Group, and he was laying the blame for overfishing at the feet of government officials, who saw the chance to raise revenue by allowing more and more and more boats to come. And he was saying lots of Asian boats were coming. It seems to be that our questioner is nodding and saying that’s pretty much the core of her question. Is that true?


MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN So, there are vessels that are subsidised by foreign countries, and they operate in the region, and they do compete with our domestic fleets. And so that provides a challenge for our domestic operators. And that’s certainly a piece of work that we’ll need to work on very closely with our countries. Because it’s within the sovereign right of each country to determine who fishes within their waters. It is also a clear goal for the FFA members to improve the domestic fleets, domestic development. And I’m pleased to report that over the years there has certainly been a clear increase in the number of domestic vessels fishing within our waters and controlling our fisheries, and so that’s very positive.




AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM I think the reality of the matter is that there is no wholesale giving out of licences. We are working with the FFA. You also have to remember that it’s not just the Chinese vessels that are subsidised, you know, from Taiwan and also from mainland China, but also the Spanish fleet – the Europeans also have a fairly large fleet in some of particular in the Northern Pacific. And as has been highlighted, there is a, you know, kind of nuanced approach when you say fishing licences – there’s longline fishing, there’s purse seine fishing. But, most definitely, we are not doing that. I don’t know, you know, where you got the statistics from recently but, most certainly, there has been none of that.


TONY JONES Maybe we’ll come back to the questioner. Are you talking about what Grahame Southwick was talking about in the Fiji Times this morning? Could you stand up for us? Sorry about that.


TALEI TORA Sorry. It’s not just what Grahame Southwick had said this morning.




TALEI TORA There’s reporting all the time of... I think there was the Fiji Navy and Customs recently that stopped a Chinese boat and saw that they had surpassed their quota. And we had a fishing ban on what we call kawakawa – I think it’s from the grouper family – and they had this, you know, because of the bycatch. And so, we’re hearing all of these reports all the time, yet our shores are filled with Chinese vessels continuously at the wharf. This is what people are seeing all the time.


TONY JONES OK. Aiyaz, is there going to come a time when you’ll have to reign this in and do something about your own waters?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Look, I mean, I think the question has an answer in itself. The fact that the Fijian Navy stopped those ships, the fact that the Fijian Navy actually got onto those ships, the fact that they found that they had overfished, that in itself is the policing angle of it. The reality of the matter is that, including the Spanish fleet, the Chinese fleet, the Taiwanese fleet, some of them actually engage in illegal activities. Some of them do actually fish, perhaps, species they’re not supposed to. In the same way I can talk to you about kawakawa and donu, where local fishermen are actually catching it during the ban period. So, my point being is that the reality is we’ve tried to...obviously tried to fix up some of these.

As you know, we now impose a levy. We impose a levy. So, previously, what used to happen, you had these sort of vessels, foreign vessels, used come to Suva Port and essentially get all the fish, load it onto these mother ships, they would take it off to fish processing plants, you know, in the Northern Pacific area. What we now have, if they do do that, there is actually a levy, we impose a levy, they have to pay the levy. Otherwise, they actually take the fish off the port, take it to a processing plant. At least it hits our GDP, at least it hits our books – before it didn’t. So, I mean, it is a challenge, and, of course, as many of the other Pacific Island countries will also tell you, that policing is a major issue. You know, we are large oceanic countries, the resources to police it is very limited. We have some countries...


TONY JONES Would you welcome, for example, Australian assistance...




TONY JONES the policing of this?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM I mean, Australia, actually, in this year’s budget, we have made...they have actually donated a vessel this year. I think it is either RFNS Savenaca or Volasiga, I’m not sure which one it is, it’s run by the Koreans. But also, the fact of the matter is that what we’re trying to do is to ensure that there is know, cooperation through FFA, and I think, you know, the director will be able to better answer that. Because the reality of the matter is these are migratory fish species – they don’t actually stick together within Fijian waters, they actually migrate across.


TONY JONES Alright. Manu, we’ll go back to you, and we’ll probably finish with you so we can get on to other questions. Thank you.


MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN Illegal fishing, such as overfishing, is not just the challenge for Fiji. It’s a challenge across the region, and it’s also a global challenge. Our FFA members, all 17 of them, have worked quite hard over the period of 40 years to put in place monitoring, control and surveillance tools to combat illegal fishing. And there’s been great assistance from Australia to that effort, working alongside the other 16 members. For example, the patrol boat program that has been mentioned by Minister Sayed-Khaiyum, and also the aerial surveillance program, basically extending the surveillance capacity over our vast EEZs, and it’s in addition to all sorts of other surveillance and enforcement tools that have been put in place. And, again, it just comes down to the collaboration of the 17 membership because of this critical challenge.


TONY JONES OK, Alex Hawke, do you want to briefly respond?


ALEX HAWKE Yeah, just briefly. Look, we do agree this is a big problem in the region, and it’s something that we help Pacific partners with – we have a $2.2 billion patrol boat program, so most countries will get two patrol boats to help with this, with long ranges. But illegal, unreported overfishing, we support very much the work of the FFA and what the region does together, but we think, in the next year, there’s huge scope for us to work together to do more to combat illegal and unreported fishing ‘Cause the science tells us overfishing and all of the illegal and unreported and overfishing that goes on is really hurting the fish stocks and hurting the region’s main earner for all Pacific countries.


TONY JONES Thank you very much. Sorry, Manu, briefly.


MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN Also, the FFA commissioned a study that’s revealed two important facts. One is that over US$616 million is lost through IUU fishing, ‘cause we’re trying to quantify how much IUU fishing is happening in the region. The other revealing fact was that we’re not dealing with purely illegal vessels anymore, those that we’ve don’t licence. Over 95% of our illegal fishing challenge is vessels that we actually licence, who are misreporting or underreporting or not reporting, and that goes directly to your question about overfishing. So, again, that collaborative effort for surveillance, enforcement, to ensure compliance with our laws is key.


TONY JONES OK. You’re watching a special edition of Q&A made in partnership with our colleagues at the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation. Our next question comes from Avikesh Kumar.


AVIKESH KUMAR Thank you. Is the traditionally expected submissiveness from women a factor for domestic violence or violence against women? But also to Miss Virisila, how can we shift away from this expectation, and what are you doing about it? Also, what can parents do to sort of move away from breeding toxic-masculine boys? And to Mr Khaiyum, what are you doing to engage young people...engage and empower young people to help prevent this violence in the future?


TONY JONES OK, well, I’ll throw this straight to Virisila, since it’s your main area.


VIRISILA BUADROMO (LAUGHS) ‘Cause I’m the feminist and I work in women’s rights, the assumption is that I should be the one combatting violence against women. I think... (LAUGHS)


TONY JONES At least, Virisila, that you should be the first to comment on it.


VIRISILA BUADROMO No, I think that... I think that... I mean, I actually think that I’m a scratched record. I mean, people have heard me talk about this issue often enough. Really, this should be an issue that those who are in power, like the two ministers who are sitting here, should be commenting about and telling us what are their governments doing, or what are they doing personally, to address toxic masculinity and to also address this issue around gender inequality, which is what really drives violence against women in all...women and girls in all its form in our regions.

In terms of what I do, sitting in forums like this is one of the spaces where I’m able to do this, but also I feel that it’s my life work. I’m, you know, always...not just me, but with others, I’m always pointing out when I see that there’s inequality, and how we can work together to try and address some of these issues. But I think that the question should be, what can we do together? I think that’s the main thing that I’m trying to point out here, that what can we...what can we do together to try and combat this issue? Because it’s not just about women’s rights organisations, it’s not just about feminists, but it’s all of us as a community, as a family. What are each of us going to do to try and eradicate this epidemic that we have?


TONY JONES Virisila, just to interrupt you there.




TONY JONES I mean, you point to it being an epidemic, and you’re right – all the reporting from the South Pacific suggests there’s an epidemic of violence against women and children in the South Pacific. I mean, yes, it’s global, but...


VIRISILA BUADROMO It’s also an epidemic in Australia.


TONY JONES Yeah, sure.


VIRISILA BUADROMO I mean, the statistics I was seeing was that...


TONY JONES I’m talking about the reporting of the statistics in your region. So, what do you put that down to, and what are the consequences?


VIRISILA BUADROMO I mean, one, it is, know, it’s a society, as you rightly pointed out, that devalues women, that sees women as second-class citizens, right? I think it’s also the system that we live in that promotes this sort of behaviour. I mean, if you look at our region, we have the highest number...I mean, we have the worst statistics in terms of violence against women globally, we have the lowest number of women in parliament, right, and we’re also at the forefront of climate change. When you put all those things together, it means that women in our region, we are the most vulnerable...women and girls in our region are one of the most vulnerable people in the world. And the question is not what I’M going to do about it, but what are our governments, right, and what are each of us as individuals are going to do about it. Right? It needs to be about all of us.


TONY JONES Right, let’s throw it to a couple of the politicians. And, well, tomorrow, you’ll be...


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Do you want to go first?


ALEX HAWKE I’m happy to.


TONY JONES ...the acting prime minister, so presumably you can do anything you want, Aiyaz. What are you going to do about this?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM If I could read out this quote, it says, and I quote, “This culture, what we call the butaraki, the beating, is deeply ingrained in parts of the Fijian psyche, but it is simply not acceptable in the modern age.” Now, that’s a quote from our Prime Minister. Now, I think the question is... There’s a couple of prongs. I mean, I noticed the gentleman...


TONY JONES For the Australian audience, what does that mean – the beating?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Butaraki is basically the culture of beating up people – in particular, in this case, women. It was acceptable. And what... You know, he’s the first prime minister that has actually come out openly and had said that this culture does exist, in an open platform, in fact, in a domestic platform and also international platform. That, I think, is a start. I mean, I sort of noticed you sort of flinching there when I quoted that. The reality is that you have to be able to talk about these things openly in the public space, so the fact that you have a prime minister of Fiji for the first time saying, “Look, this culture does exist and we need to be able to address it.”

I completely agree with Virisila that we need to have a collaborative approach. It’s not only about politicians – it’s about faith-based organisations, it’s about NGOs, it’s about, you know, schools, it’s about universities and also about governments and parliament. And I don’t want to sort of sit here and give a list of all the wonderful things we have done, that we think is wonderful. The reality of the matter is that there is quite a few things have changed in Fiji. We had a penal code or what we call the Crimes Act. We now... So, we have a Crimes Act that used to be preceded by the penal code, which we borrowed from Queensland and, you know, India originally, from the colonial days, where, actually, domestic violence was a reconcilable offence. In fact, domestic violence was not even recognised as an offence per se. So now we actually have a domestic violence act, there’s various opportunities to get domestic violence restraining orders you can get at any time of the day. Now, what that means... Or any time on the night.


VIRISILA BUADROMO Could I just interject here?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM So, what you can do...


VIRISILA BUADROMO I mean, what you’re referring to, AG, that’s correct. I mean, you’ve done a lot of legal reform in this country, which is great – thank you very much – and there’s a lot of work that women’s organisations that I used to work for, we did all the foundational work for that. But what I’d like to point out is that a lot of...a lot of the legislation and policies that you’re putting in – which is great – that’s after the fact. By that point, women are getting beaten up or killed.

What I want to know is – and I think what everybody wants to know is – what are we doing to stop it before it gets to that point, before people go to prison, before...? Because there is this psyche that exists in our country, particularly in Fiji, and I’m sorry, but it’s a psyche that is perpetuated by...I have to say, your government, your prime minister has perpetuated this sort of psyche where violence is OK. Because as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, in the last year, there have been repeated incidents of people getting beaten up by the security forces. Butaraki – it’s not just about men hitting women. It’s about other people, you know? And in our case...


TONY JONES OK, I’m going to give Aiyaz a chance to respond, so let’s do that, and then I want to hear from the other panellists as well. So go ahead.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM​​​​​​​ If I can get back again to the domestic violence act. In fact, your...


TONY JONES Actually, can you just respond to what was said there, that there’s a broader culture of violence, that the security forces are involved in it and so on?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Sure. Can I come to that?


TONY JONES Yeah, sure.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM There’s actually a path I was following. I mean, she talked about the domestic violence act, that they’ve done work – yes. I mean, in fact, there was a domestic violence draft act, a bill, but no government had the gumption to actually put it in place – that’s the difference. You can do the work, but you need to have a political will to implement that. Now, the reason I was talking about all of that is because you’re trying to create a culture, of course it is after the fact, but it also has given rise to many women now coming to the forefront and actually reporting it because they feel confident in the system that if they do actually report a particular domestic violence incident, it’s not going to get swept away. They now have a no-drop policy.

I think the argument about security forces, I mean, the reality of the matter is that a number of facets within our society – people need to, you know, be able to be educated, there needs to be culture of removing the butaraki culture. Of course I accept that, you know, butaraki is not only about men bashing up women, it can be men bashing up men, but, again, you have to look at, are those people given redress? Are the people who, for example, were violated, the people who are assaulted, have they been able to go through a legal system to get redress? The reality is that... Some of the cases you have cited, in fact, people have been taken to court, people actually have been prosecuted, people have actually been convicted. Now, that is the point of difference. Now, then you get a deterrence effect. That is critically important, as you will know in your work. The reality of the matter is that when you actually have a problem, you need to be able to build a legal framework around it to be able to provide people redress, recourse, and then hopefully have a deterrence effect on it.


TONY JONES OK, Enele, I wanted to come to you on this, because you were prime minister of a South Pacific country, and it’s obviously a broader question than Fiji, so what do you say?


ENELE SOPOAGA Our experience in Tuvalu is that domestic violence against women has strong linkages with consumption of alcohol. That is the practical experience I know in Tuvalu. Women affairs office comes under me, and that’s the main issue. So...we need to... I agree with Madam, we need to take a comprehensive approach to this in society, not just putting a finger, blaming one sector, one group of society, but we must... For example, the example I cited in Tuvalu, deal with the issue of consumption of alcohol at the home and social places, and this often, in many cases, lead to violence at home – a husband coming home, maybe finding not enough food on the table and also some problems. But there are also other issues involving women, men’s violence against young girls that are prevalent in society, that we, as a society in the Pacific, must focus on and deal comprehensively through policies and regulations and social networking. I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done there to keep the women, our womenfolks, much safer than what the situation is in my own country. That’s my feeling and my practical experiences. And I strongly support work for men to take more responsibility in looking after their womenfolk. In fact, I suggested once, if we find a man know, being aggressive against women, we just tie him down and tie him to a coconut tree overnight and let the mosquitoes bite him and see what happens the next morning. Thank you very much.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Can I just make one point?


TONY JONES Well, very briefly.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Very, very briefly. We also now, we set up a 24-hour domestic violence helpline. So we’re working...


TONY JONES Does it involve coconut trees?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM No, absolutely not. It’s a helpline. We work with the NGO women’s crisis centre. The Minister for Women is here, and she will tell you that it has been working out quite well since 2017. We also have a helpline 24 hours for...a child helpline, you mentioned about children too.




AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM We also have in place new laws, so, for example, if a child turns up at the doctor with bruises that cannot be actually explained, it is incumbent upon the doctor to report it to the authorities. So, those are the practical measures that I’ve been taking.


TONY JONES Alright. Thank you. We’ve got to move on, we’ve got lots of different questions. The next one comes from Karo Ngatoko.


KARO NGATOKO Thank you. The tragedy of the measles epidemic sweeping the Pacific at the moment is multifaceted and complex, but I’d like to hear from the panellists to what extent you think governments should act when it comes to the spread of incredibly harmful misinformation such as the anti-vaccination movement on social media?


TONY JONES Yeah, Virisila, I’ll start with you on this and move to Alex, ‘cause we want to hear what Australia might be able to do about this. Go ahead.


VIRISILA BUADROMO Um... Sorry, what was the question again?


TONY JONES It’s the measles epidemic which has killed 44 children in Samoa, and the question of anti-vax campaigners being partly responsible.


VIRISILA BUADROMO Yeah, I mean, it is a real challenge, and the fact that these anti-vaccination – what do you say? – advocates are using social media to promote this, to promote anti-vaccination, I think it is really problematic. And... I think for me the question is, how did we get to this point where we have measles? I mean, this is something that I remember when I was in school, and that was a long time ago, you know, everybody was getting measles, and I remember when I got to about class six, I thought that measles was actually “cured”, and it seems like it has come back again. To me, I feel that this is a breakdown of our health system, right? It’s not just about the misinformation, but the question also has to be – what’s happening to our health system that children are not getting vaccinated the way they used to get vaccinated 30 years ago? What has happened to these vaccination programs?


TONY JONES Alright. Manu, what do you think? I mean, everywhere we’ve gone, we see fear here in Fiji that the epidemic that started in Samoa could spread, that is already spreading, in Fiji, and questions about the safety of children.


MANU TUPOU-ROOSEN So, addressing any challenges that’s faced by the public health system is key, and also awareness-raising and education programs would be critical to addressing this challenge. Yes, even in the Solomon Islands there’s concerns there about the measles outbreak reaching our shores. So, again, it goes back to working together to tackle this challenge.


TONY JONES Alex Hawke, is there something Australia could do? Because there seems to be a huge missing, or a gap, in the amount of vaccine available.


ALEX HAWKE Yeah, no, thanks, Tony, and thanks to the questioner. And, yeah, I had an update – we have an Australian team that’s in Samoa that went straight there on the request of the government with eight beds to help – and we’ve had more than 50 people die now, most of those are babies, very small babies, so it’s a very serious issue. Australia spends a lot of money propping up and investing in funds like the Global Fund and Gavi, you know, serious people that do a lot of vaccination for children, but vaccination rates are too low across the Pacific, sometimes in Australia they remain low as well – in many of our states, we work very hard on this – but we make vaccines available to the Pacific as well.

And there’s no doubt we’ve got more to do, but in Australia, for example, we also had to take on anti-vaxxers in our own country, and we did that through our welfare system – you wouldn’t be able to access government payments or child care, for example, if your children were unvaccinated. We had to take some very serious measures that we’d never contemplated before and that still met resistance. People wanted to send their children into child care facilities unvaccinated, and so we all have to work together in changing attitudes on this to make sure... When 50 small babies have died in Samoa, you know, it is a tragedy. There is a lot to do in this space, and we’ll be here to help.


TONY JONES Yeah, Aiyaz...


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM​​​​​​​ Yeah, sure.


TONY JONES It has a sense of... 50 babies dying says “national crisis”. The fear in Fiji is there’s not enough vaccine to go around. Is it true or not true?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM No, you know, we have an interesting history with measles. Back in about 1875, one of the chiefs went off to Sydney and they came back... They went to a chief meeting, chiefly meeting. But 69 chiefs were infected, and we lost approximately…the figures are from 25,000 to 40,000 Fijians actually lost their lives at that point in time, around about 1875 or so. So we have an interesting history.

We started vaccination for measles around about in 1982, where it became compulsory in schools. I think maybe this was when Virisila was in school. And then, of course, we started this program. This time around it’s been picked up from New Zealand. I understand it was somebody visiting from Samoa, then went across to Samoa. We have some new stocks that’s arrived. We have, you know, a very robust vaccination system and, again, I think it’s also the attitude of parents too. People need to take a lot of responsibility to get their children vaccinated at the very early age.

But we’ve had an outbreak in one of the provinces here, in Serua/Namosi, about 11 people, and two from the Suva area and two from the Rewa area. But definitely we have a huge vaccination. Already about 100,000 people have already been vaccinated. We’ve got another program, in particular in the Central Division, to roll it out. But, again, we ask parents to take responsibility for it, make sure that their children actually get vaccinated.


TONY JONES OK, I’m going to move on. We’ve got so many questions. We’ve got a question from James Harris.


JAMES HARRIS Is Chinese development assistance the way forward in the Pacific? In particular, is there an opportunity for Pacific nations to leverage competition between China and the other donor powers?


TONY JONES Yeah, Enele Sopoaga, given China’s interests, can you leverage competition to do better with the other donors?


ENELE SOPOAGA You want me to compare Tuvalu and China? No, but I have a well thought out answer to this very question, and I thank Harris for raising this question. I think, as I have commented in public before, the Belt and Road programs that are being pursued by China in the Pacific is really stripping off important and vital resources of the Pacific region, particularly impacting on the lands, on the...the owners...the family-owned properties, and it is really very, very damaging. And, of course, I do not want to criticise China for this, but this is an observation. And we want to venture further into the real cause behind this. We have left a big vacuum in the Pacific under perhaps development assistance for too many years. And that’s why China is around the Pacific seeking for and trying to implement its Belt and Road program in almost every country in the Pacific. They move starting from economic partnerships and eventually into political partnerships engagement as well.


TONY JONES Does that worry you?


ENELE SOPOAGA It worries me a lot.




ENELE SOPOAGA Because we are...we are built up, brought up with the education that is based on democratic values and values that are based on the rule of law here in the Pacific. You ask every Pacific student in the USP, they never learn communism as a doctrine of administration in wherever they come from through the university here. Communism was in fact something that we had tried, you know, during the Second World War and all that campaign that followed to avoid coming into the Pacific. Tuvalu has a strong relationship with the Republic of China and Taiwan because that relationship is based on the rule of law, on the values, the principles of trust and non-communism here in the Pacific.


TONY JONES Here is a quick one for you before I bring in Alex Hawke. And that is, if the Chinese were to come to you, as they have to other countries, and said, “We’ll pay for all your infrastructure projects, the climate adaptation that you want. All you need to do is not recognise Taiwan.”


ENELE SOPOAGA It will not buy off our trust...




ENELE SOPOAGA values and principles that we were brought up under the British system that we have survived, and that we are now in the United Nations. Despite our insignificance in all factors of statehood, we are there in the United Nations because of those principles. By the way, Taiwan was a founding member of the United Nations.




ENELE SOPOAGA If you look at that.


TONY JONES Alex Hawke.


ALEX HAWKE Well, thanks.


ENELE SOPOAGA Thank you. Not China.


ALEX HAWKE Thanks, Tony. And, Enele, you know, I appreciate what you’re saying there. And I’m glad to hear there’s no communism at the University of South Pacific. I went to Sydney University and studied government and public administration. One semester there was six or seven ways to study communism in my degree, so I’m very glad to hear...


ENELE SOPOAGA What year was that?


ALEX HAWKE Well, it wasn’t that long ago.


TONY JONES You had to study it to know how to combat it, right, Alex?


ALEX HAWKE I’m glad you say that, Tony. I’m very glad you said that. And I’m sure the viewers will be back home too. Look, this is a serious question, and I would just say here, I think we don’t look at the region through a geostrategic competition lens. So I think what Enele said is the most important thing – there’s nothing more important to a country or a people or a region than its sovereignty, than your control of your own destiny, your freedom to live the way you want to live, to make your own decisions, and that’s the goal of Australian policy in the region and what we do in the Pacific. Anything we do is designed to support sovereignty of countries, their decision-making capacity, improve the lot and wellbeing of people. And that’s the way we look at it.

And we welcome partners from around the world – doesn’t matter what country they are. If they want to come and help vaccinate children in PNG, I think we should welcome people coming from other parts of the world, and they do, whether they’re from the United States, or interventions from Japan, or New Zealand, or France, other countries.

And there’s no doubt – and I can say this to all my friends here on the panel and people I’ve worked with in the last seven months in this role – this is the Pacific’s time. There’s certainly a lot of interest in the Pacific, and we do have to take account as the united people in this region of how to use this time to do better for people in the Pacific. But that doesn’t mean compromising values and sovereignty. That’s where I think there’s a difference sometimes in the behaviour. And I think people in the Pacific are very savvy people at working out who’s coming into the region with their agenda in mind and their priorities in mind, versus what’s good, I think, for Pacific countries. And, you know, I found that to be the case. I think they’re very good at understanding who comes in with an agenda that isn’t on their agenda.


TONY JONES Does Australia have anything to fear from increased Chinese influence and investment in the south Pacific?


ALEX HAWKE​​​​​​​ Well, not if it’s geared around those things I talked about – making people’s lives better. If it’s about health, if it’s about education, if it’s about prosperity, economic prosperity, absolutely not.


TONY JONES What if it’s about debt?


ALEX HAWKE Well, we warn our partner countries that it isn’t a good idea to go into bad debt or take on too much debt regardless of who the lender is. And, you know, our infrastructure bank, we’ve set up a $2 billion infrastructure financing facility which will help with the Pacific infrastructure shortfall. There’s a huge shortfall, as you can imagine, all across the Pacific. We say to countries – “We cannot lend to you if your debt is unsustainable.” And there’s only a few countries in that category at the moment. But, you know, we work with credible partners like the ADB, the World Bank, the IMF, and if you bring those sort of partners in, you know that their interest is in making sure the country is prosperous. And that’s the kind of partner we want to see. We want to see these sort of partnerships, Tony. I think what the problem is, is if anybody is trying to put you into debt, you know, with finance that looks very concessional. If it sounds too good to be true in terms of concessional finance, it probably is too good to be true.


TONY JONES Alex, I’ve got a question on this. I’m going to go to that one, from Avinash Kumar, and then bring in the other panellists. Avinash.


AVINASH KUMAR My question is for the Minister. What is stopping Australia from allowing the Pacific Islanders to work freely in Australia? Um... Australia is putting a lot of aid money in the Pacific. I think if you allow people to work in Australia and allow them to have a decent work, and also Australians would benefit by having people who speak proper English.




AVINASH KUMAR So what’s the...?


ALEX HAWKE Yeah, great question.


AVINASH KUMAR No, I... I mean, you say that Australia has a very strict immigration policy, but what can be done about that?


ALEX HAWKE Yeah, this is a great question, and thank you. Two things we are doing already – we’ve got our Seasonal Workers Program and our Pacific Labour Scheme. And now our government has put forward, more than ever before, access to the Australian labour market where we have shortages and shortfalls. We’re very proud of this because, you’re right – having an economic region where people can access our economy and return and there’s a free flow of capital and labour, will be to great benefit of every country. But, for example, we’ve got people from the Pacific working all through the regions of Australia at the moment on short-term visas, which are agricultural primarily, but we’ve brought in the Pacific Labour Scheme, which are longer-term visas, sometimes up to 2-3 years working in more and more sophisticated sectors of our economy.

Why do we have a strong visa system? We’ve got a strong biosecurity system in Australia, we’ve also got a strong immigration system in Australia, and that has to be taken account of. That’s a requirement of the Australian people. But opening up our labour market has been a priority of our prime minister, Scott Morrison, and our government. It’s working very well. But we also want to make sure that remittances go back to Pacific countries, that people get skills, go back and work in Pacific countries, that economic opportunities are unlocked by the process of people coming and training and learning within Australia. And that conversation, we work very closely with governments like Fiji and other places to make sure there is the training, the skills, the opportunities so that when people do come and exchange in Australia they go back with skills that they can use and help the Fiji economy as well.


TONY JONES OK, Aiyaz, I bring you in here, and you can comment on that and also on the previous question.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Yeah, I just, you know, with due respect to the former prime minister of Tuvalu, I mean, there are many so-called democratic countries during the Cold War, and even after the Cold War, that actually stopped the democratic rights of countries that they wanted to influence. So it’s not only about communist countries that actually influence the democratic rights of other sovereign states. I mean, South-East Asia is a classic example.


TONY JONES So what did you make of that earlier question that says perhaps Pacific countries – South Pacific countries – can leverage the competition between these donors, particularly when you’ve got China cashed up, coming into the region, offering big infrastructure projects?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM So, I just wanted to just preface that by one last comment. There are enormous levels of Chinese investment. They’re even leasing a port in Darwin. The Chinese are doing that. So it does not in any way affect, we believe, Australia’s right to sovereignty and Australia’s ability to govern its own self.


TONY JONES So you don’t see that as creeping communism?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Not necessarily, unless the Minister can say otherwise. But my point is that the reality is, of course, many people may argue that some of the Pacific Island countries don’t necessarily have the kind of, you know, oomph that perhaps Australia has to be able to leverage the growing influence of a very large country. At the end of the day, it’s about how you manage your affairs. At the end of the day, I think... The leverage argument, I think, is there. Yes, Australia... I mean, Australia for all these decades, in fact, has never made finance facility available to the Pacific for infrastructure development. Now, maybe now that they’re offering that is because the Chinese are actually offering infrastructure funds available for us. I assume that that’s what it is. Good for us, because now we can actually...we have a smorgasbord of financiers to actually choose from. We can go to the Australians, we can go to the Chinese, we can go to the Exim Bank of Europe, we can go to the Indians, we can go to ADB, we can go to the World Bank and try and get the best rate.


TONY JONES Let me just ask you this – so you have no concern at all that by accepting large amounts of Chinese money for infrastructure programs, that you are moving towards, as Enele suggested, some kind of political situation?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Sure. I mean, let’s talk about the figures here. Our debt stock is only 8.1% owed to the Chinese. The bulk of our debt stock is actually domestically, and the largest money we owe foreign-based is the World Bank and ADB. We, of course, owe money to...we have a global bond with JICA and IFAD. So it depends on how you manage it. Again, you know, the idea is to... If you embark on projects that are going to fail, I mean, if you’re going to go and borrow money from the Chinese to plonk a very large convention centre on top of a hill for $300 million, it’s only going to get used once a year, that obviously is a silly investment. But the investments...the loans that we have actually taken out from them… By the way, we stopped borrowing from them in 2012. We, in fact... The first loan was taken out by the Qarase government, for the e-government – they borrowed about $25 million. Since then, all the funding we’ve borrowed has been on roads, tar sealing of roads, and also low-cost housing projects. So the idea is to build capacity in infrastructure development. If you connect people with roads, with electricity, with water, you are actually increasing the productive capacity.


TONY JONES We’re almost out of time, but just a brief answer – you’re not at all concerned about China’s influence in the South Pacific growing?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Most certainly not in Fiji, because we manage our affairs well.


TONY JONES OK. We’ve got time for one last question, we’ll have to have short answers, and it’s from Vijay Narayan.


VIJAY NARAYAN My question is on the emergence of hard drugs in the Pacific. We’ve had methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine being found at the ports of entry, in nightclubs, on the streets. Children as young as 12-, 13-year-olds taking marijuana and methamphetamine. What can be done about it, and what are the plans going forward?


TONY JONES Virisila.


VIRISILA BUADROMO (CHUCKLES) Yeah. I mean, I... What can we do about it? Well, I think there needs to be dialogue in this country, in Fiji. There’s very little dialogue that’s going on other than what you’re seeing on social media. I think just two weeks ago, Leadership Fiji, which is a program in Fiji, had the first dialogue on drugs, that, you know, drugs is a huge problem in this country, bringing together stakeholders from the police, from mothers, from the health sector, the legal sector, to talk about this issue. Because it was an issue that was seen as something that Fiji was a transmit, like, the drugs were going through but not necessarily that people in Fiji were actually using these drugs. And as Vijay pointed out, some of them are as young as 10, 11 years old. So, for me, what I’d like to hear is... ‘Cause what’s interesting is that earlier this year parliament had a bill in front of it where both sides of the houses could have come up with a strategy to deal with this issue, but because the bill was proposed by the other side, the opposition, it got shut. And this is an issue...


ALEX HAWKE That’s very unusual.


VIRISILA BUADROMO ...that affects all of us. So I find that quite interesting.


TONY JONES OK, I’m going to throw that straight to Aiyaz.


ALEX HAWKE He’s laughing.


TONY JONES Obviously. Has politics ruined the war on drugs, Aiyaz?


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM Actually, I think Virisila is incorrect. There is no bill as such. I think it was probably a motion.


VIRISILA BUADROMO Still, it’s moving towards something.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM But there was a debate, and of course it was counteracted very intellectually from our side, essentially to say that there is, of course, as highlighted by Vijay... You know, it’s very interesting, I had a discussion about three or four years ago with one of the ministers from Maldives. Maldives is in the middle of the Indian Ocean and it is, again, a drop-off point. You know, you have your Irans, you have your Middle Easts, you have your Indias, your Sri Lankas. And the spill-over effect of being a transit point is that the locals actually get immersed into the particular drug. As we all know, the drugs that do pass through Fiji are essentially for the lucrative markets of Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne, etc. And they do come…

And we work very closely with the Australian intelligence forces where they’ve actually tracked the drugs, how they come actually from Central America and from South America, the yachts they use. They’re obviously using drop-off points. They’re using very sophisticated equipment, as you know. These things, the way they package it, they drop it into the oceans, it comes up at a particular hour and another vessel comes and picks it up. So we’re working very collaboratively with the Australian authorities and of course the New Zealand authorities.

And the reality of the matter is that synthetic drugs, or what we call psychotropic drugs, weren’t a feature of our drug landscape only a few years ago. We essentially knew marijuana, and marijuana is a bad drug. Now nobody actually talks about marijuana, but they talk about synthetic drugs, and we of course are talking about cocaine.

So what we are dealing… You know, for example, in this year’s budget, we actually allocated some funding to set up a special investigative team. I mean, these people are highly sophisticated. So our police officers can’t go along in normal cars, in rental cars, etc, etc.


TONY JONES We’re running out of time, so I’m going to get you to wind up your answer.


AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM​​​​​​​ We of course need to change our laws in respect of that. It needs to be a collaborative effort, of course. You know, society is changing. The way that we interact with our parents, the ability to communicate with our children is changing. And we need to have these collaborations across the social levels, but also at a trans-border level too.


TONY JONES OK. Alex Hawke, Australia is the end destination, along with New Zealand.


ALEX HAWKE Yes, look, we’re very aware of the trans-national crime issue, and it is a trans-national crime issue, so we work very hard with countries in the Pacific. Our Federal Police work with police agencies. But your question is very right, because you’ve got a lot of young populations in the Pacific and, as Aiyaz has pointed out, just in recent times we now see drug cartels targeting people in the Pacific on their transit points. So we’ll do a lot more in cooperation with our partner countries and patrol boat programs, everything we’re doing to combat trans-national crime in the Pacific. And look, Tony, if it is the last opportunity...


TONY JONES Yes, go ahead.


ALEX HAWKE ...I just want to say also to you thank you to the ABC and Fiji Broadcasting for doing this today. It’s fabulous you’re here in Suva, in the Pacific. And, you know, more of the ABC in the Pacific, I say.


TONY JONES Give us the funds and we’ll be back.


ALEX HAWKE There you go.


ENELE SOPOAGA I was going to say, Tony, no more raids, too.


TONY JONES Actually, we probably should end there, ‘cause that was an appropriate spot to do that. That’s all we have time for tonight. Please thank our panel: Manu Tupou-Roosen, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Enele Sopoaga, Alex Hawke and Virisila Buadromo.


ALEX HAWKE Well done, Enele. Good work, mate.


TONY JONES Thank you very much. And, of course, our wonderful Pacific audience, please give yourselves a big round of applause. Thank you very much. And thanks to the University of South Pacific, ABC International Strategy, and especially to our partners at the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation.

You can continue the discussion on Facebook and Twitter. Next week it’s the end of an era and the final Q&A of 2019, with: Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese; former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull; South African Australian author Sisonke Msimang; the chief executive of Australia’s Aboriginal-run Health Organisations, Pat Turner; and Nobel Prize winner for Physics and Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University, Brian Schmidt. A great line-up. Until then, see you.

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