The Aussies get it, why can't McCully

I have been saying for many years that our policies over Fiji, whilst deeply hypocritical, are also not working and allow China to increase its influence in the Pacific to fill the void left by Australia and New Zealand. It turns out that i ahve been right all along. China is funding huge amounts to Pacific nations.

China’s secretive aid programme to Pacific nations over five years totals just over $800 million, according to the latest Lowy Institute report on assistance from the communist state.

And the institute’s estimate for 2009, the most recent review, is that China pledged almost $270 million in loans and aid grants to Pacific nations that year.

Australia, at least the Liberals in Australian have woken up to this fact with their spokeperson for Foreign Affairs calling for a change in policy.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said Australian aid money was spread too thinly in the region, allowing China to fill the void and gain greater influence through “diplomacy dollars”, as the influence of Australia and New Zealand fell.

“I don’t see it as a threat as such, but we should be very well aware of what is going on, and the significant influence China is able to achieve through aid and development projects . . . and the role it has throughout the region,” Ms Bishop told Sky News’s Australian Agenda. “What I would do is, with New Zealand, look to see if we could joint-venture some project development assistance in the Pacific with China.

While our policy and Australia’s has been to tut-tut over Fiji and to wag?the?finger at other Pacific nations, Chinas policy has been to shower them with money. Little wonder that our freezing out of Fiji has largely been ineffective. The failure of the policy is most stark in regards to Fiji.

The Deputy Opposition Leader has also called for a new approach to Fiji.

She says while the Government should not condone the country’s military regime, it was clear the current approach had failed.

“It’s some years since we imposed sanctions and we have to ask, are they being counterproductive?” she said.

“Are we actually achieving a return to democratic rule? I don’t believe we are.”

Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth in 2009, over its refusal to hold elections, since the 2006 military coup.

Last year Fiji’s military ruler, Frank Bainimarama, said he wanted to ditch ties with Australia and New Zealand and align his country with China.

Ms Bishop says sanctions have not managed to bring about democracy in Fiji.

“I would engage with Bainimarama on the question of electoral reform, provide assistance to draft a constitution, provide assistance to hold an election, so we could see a return to democratic rule,” she said.

Julie Bishop is dead right. For the all the hubris, finger-wagging and tut-tutting over Fiji not a single thing has been done to assist Fiji to return to democracy. Meanwhile China has assisted where we refused to. The policy wonks in Canberra and Wellington who thought that these actions would work clearly need to be fired.