RICHARD DAVIS: First up, what do you think Australia's trying to achieve from this forum?
RICHARD MARLES: Well, this is a very important forum, as they all are, but I think the theme of this forum - Oceanscape - and the focus on the issue of climate change highlight the most important challenges facing the Pacific today.
If you look at those two areas, there's much that Australia is doing and can do to assist the region.
We are doing a lot in terms of fishery management, not just in terms of the maritime surveillance of illegal fishing, but also with the Tuna Fishing Commission about appropriate levels of catch taken from the fisheries of the Pacific to make sure they are sustainable. We'll continue to provide assistance in that area.
If you look at the area of climate change, this is the single most existential issue exercising the minds of the people of the Pacific and the Pacific looks to us for global advocacy on this issue. We are providing that in the United Nations, around the world and through our own actions by introducing a carbon price in Australia.
So, I think all of these are good examples of the way in which we are working with the Pacific and the significance of this year's forum.
RICHARD DAVIS: Fiji's expected to be discussed. Can the Australian Government countenance Fiji's return to the forum before 2014?
RICHARD MARLES: Well, the issue with Fiji's return to the forum is demonstrating that we are seeing a return to democracy in that country. Now, as we stand here this week, we're unable to make that claim. But we have seen progress in Fiji during the course of this year. The Constitutional Commission which has been undertaken by Professor Yash Ghai, a very eminent internationalist, is a serious process. It's one that we continue to watch very closely and indeed we are supporting this through supporting issues around the electoral management of Fiji.
We are the single biggest bilateral donor to Fiji, not only globally but in relation to its electoral preparedness. So we're working very closely with Fiji and we do acknowledge the progress that's being made, but there is still more work to be done. Issues of human rights in Fiji need to be addressed, the freedom of the press needs to be addressed in Fiji. In terms of this forum, the Pacific Island Forum's Ministerial Contact Group is seized of the issue of Fiji. It's really for them to continue to assess - beyond this week - progress in Fiji. If there is such progress that warrants decisions in the forum, then they can make those recommendations.
RICHARD DAVIS: But until Fiji holds what are considered to be free and fair elections Australia won't support them getting back into the forum?
RICHARD MARLES: Well, until Fiji returns to democracy. That's the point at which Fiji would likely return to the forum. And let me say this, the fact that Fiji is not here is a source of pain to every country in the Pacific, including Australia. Fiji is absolutely central to the Pacific family and they're vital to the Pacific economy. We are as keen see Fiji participate in the forum and fully participate in the Pacific family as anybody else, but that can only occur when Fiji has truly returned to democracy. There are steps and there are more steps to go. It's for the Ministerial Contact Group to assess the point which Fiji's at and to make recommendations accordingly.
RICHARD DAVIS: So just to be clear, the point at which it has been a democracy may not necessarily be when…
RICHARD MARLES: Well it is a matter for the Ministerial Contact Group to assess. We need to see that Fiji has properly returned to a state of democracy, that human rights are being respected across the board, that we have a freedom of the media and that we are witnessing a truly democratic process occurring in Fiji. Now, as I say, there are steps towards that. There are more steps to go. The Ministerial Contact Group is the group that is best placed to assess where Fiji's at and make recommendations as a result.
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