Australia's Prime Minister Howard Raises Bar on
By Mary-Louise O'Callaghan
South Pacific Correspondent
SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 16, 2002 – The Australian)---John Howard
yesterday signalled Australia would be pressing for a greater commitment
to "good governance" from Pacific Islands Forum states meeting in Fiji
Playing down renewed pressure from island states over Australia's
refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions, the Prime
Minister said good governance and the maintenance of law and order were
the fundamental challenges facing many of the island states.
"It is the key issue," he said when asked whether a greater commitment
to good governance was the single most important matter before the
He also confirmed that more Australian aid was likely to become
conditional upon islands' commitment to good governance.
"Increasingly donor countries are wanting recipient countries to address
governance issues as a condition of receiving aid," he said.
Australia has already put conditions on some of its aid to Papua New
Guinea and the Solomon Islands in an effort to encourage economic
reforms and better governance.
Mr. Howard also defended Australia's decision to field former Australian
diplomat Greg Urwin for the post of forum secretary general. The post
has previously been held by Pacific islanders and Australia's candidacy
has created a frisson of controversy among some island personalities.
The Prime Minister said Australia would defend Mr. Urwin's bid on the
basis of merit.
Mr. Howard later defended Australia's decision not to sign the Kyoto
protocol, which aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by
Tuvalu Prime Minister Ma'atia Toafa had urged Australia to sign.
Mr. Toafa, as spokesman for the smallest of the forum's island states,
said it was disappointing that as one of the region's largest aid
donors, Australia did not "play its part" in averting "a disaster"
facing the region.
"It is very sad. I would have expected Australia to play its part in
ensuring industrialized countries respect and implement the Kyoto
protocols," he said.
Mr. Howard said Australia would not sign the protocol so long as the
U.S. and some developing states would not participate.
"But we are committed to keeping our obligations under Kyoto – we're
within striking distance (of that)," he said.