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Dame Meg Taylor: Pacific needs to sit up and pay close attention to AUKUS

Wednesday 22 March 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Papua New Guinea, Regional

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Dame Meg Taylor: Pacific needs to sit up and pay close attention to AUKUS
News Programmes Schedules How to Listen About RNZ Pacific PACIFIC PAPUA NEW GUINEA22 Mar 2023 Pacific needs to sit up and pay close attention to AUKUS - Dame Meg Taylor 2:01 pm on 22 March 2023 Share this Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share via email Share on Reddit Share on Linked In Koroi Hawkins Koroi Hawkins, RNZ Pacific Editor @KoroiHawkins koroi.hawkins@rnz.co.nz Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific Journalist US President Joe Biden (C), British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) hold a press conference during the AUKUS summit on March 13, 2023, at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego California. - AUKUS is a trilateral security pact announced on September 15, 2021, for the Indo-Pacific region. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)Anthony Albanese (left), Joe Biden (centre) and British Minister Rishi Sunak (right) hold a press conference during the AUKUS summit on 13 March 2023 at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego California. Photo: AFP A Pacific elder and former secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum says Pacific leaders need to sit up and pay closer attention to AUKUS and the Indo-Pacific Strategy and China's response to them. Speaking from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Dame Meg Taylor said Pacific leaders were being sidelined in major geopolitical decisions affecting their region and they need to start raising their voices for the sake of their citizens. "The issue here is that we should have paid much more attention to the Indo-Pacific strategy as it emerged," she said. "And we were not ever consulted by the countries that are party to that, including some of our own members of the Pacific Island Forum. Then the emergence of AUKUS - Pacific countries were never consulted on this either," she said. Listen to Dame Meg Taylor on Pacific Waves duration7′ :53″ from Pacific Waves Add to playlist Download Download as Ogg Download as MP3 Download as AAC Play Ogg in browser Play MP3 in browser Play AAC in browser Listen to Dame Meg Taylor on Pacific Waves Last week in San Diego, the leaders of the United States, the UK and Australia - Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese respectively - formally announced the AUKUS deal. It will see the Australian government spending nearly $US250 billion over the next three decades to acquire a fleet of US nuclear submarines with UK tech components - the majority of which will be built in Adelaide - as part of the defence and security pact. Its implementation will make Australia one of only seven countries in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines alongside China, India, Russia, the UK, the US and France. "We believe in a world that protects freedom and respects human rights, the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states, and the rules-based international order," the leaders said in a joint statement. "The steps we are announcing today will help us to advance these mutually beneficial objectives in the decades to come," they said. Following the announcement, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wengbin said by going ahead with the pact the US, UK and Australia disregarded the concerns of the international community and have gone further down "the wrong path". "We've repeatedly said that the establishment of the so-called AUKUS security partnership between the US, the UK and Australia to promote cooperation on nuclear submarines and other cutting-edge military technologies, is a typical Cold War mentality," Wang said. "It will only exacerbate the arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and hurt regional peace and stability," he said. The 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy is the United States' programme to " advance our common vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient." Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka called for unity in his first parliamentary speech for the year. Monday 13 Feb 2023Fiji prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka Photo: Fiji Parliament The Rarotonga Treaty On his return from San Diego, Australia's prime minister Anthony Albanese stopped over in Suva where he met his Fijian counterpart Sitiveni Rabuka. After the meeting Rabuka told reporters he supported AUKUS and that Albanese had assured him the nuclear submarine deal would not undermine the Treaty of Rarotonga - to which Australia is a party - that declares the South Pacific a nuclear weapon free zone. But an Australian academic said Pacific countries cannot take Canberra at face value when it comes to AUKUS and its committment to the Rarotonga Treaty. Matthew Fitzpatrick, a professor in International History at Flinders University in South Australia, said Pacific leaders need to hold Australia accountable to the treaty. "Australia and New Zealand have always differed on what that treaty extends to in the sense that for New Zealand, that means more or less that you haven't had US vessels with nuclear arms [or nuclear powered] permitted into the ports of New Zealand, whereas in Australia, those vessels more or less have been welcomed," he said. Professor Fitzpatrick said Australia has declared that it doesn't breach it, or it doesn't breach any of those treaty commitments, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. "I think it's something that certainly nations around the Pacific should be very careful and very cautious in taking at face value, what Australia says on those treaty requirements and should ensure that they're rigorously enforced," Fitzpatrick said. Parties to the Rarotonga Treaty include Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Notably absent are three north Pacific countries who have compacts of free association with the United States - Palau, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Dame Meg Taylor.Papua New Guinea's Dame Meg Taylor the former secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum. Photo: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

A Pacific elder and former secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum says Pacific leaders need to sit up and pay closer attention to AUKUS and the Indo-Pacific Strategy and China's response to them.

Speaking from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Dame Meg Taylor said Pacific leaders were being sidelined in major geopolitical decisions affecting their region and they need to start raising their voices for the sake of their citizens.

"The issue here is that we should have paid much more attention to the Indo-Pacific strategy as it emerged," she said.

"And we were not ever consulted by the countries that are party to that, including some of our own members of the Pacific Island Forum. Then the emergence of AUKUS - Pacific countries were never consulted on this either," she said.

Read more: pay close attention to AUKUS - Dame Meg Taylor

Comments

Te Tuhi Kelly on 01/04/2023

Do you honestly think they care what you think. It's a bit rich coming from a country who sold their commodities for a pittance, rorted the system for back handers, corruption is rife, have a corrupt political system, ineffective police, bashes the beejeebers out of their women, and you talk about wanting to sit at the table with the big guys. Clean up your own backyard before you preach about consultation and wanting to have a proper say, being a baby cry and a hypocrite is more in keeping. They look at you as a banana republic, what did you expect.