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18 March 2014


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Appeals to superior sovereign entities like Australia seem fraught.
Australia unsaddled herself of Common Law baggage with the events of the Australia Act of 1986.
With that, much of the previous millennia's development of "Constitutional democracy" took a big hit.
Judiciaries began to dance to rules of law that seem destined to appeal to so called "International obligations" as the benchmark.

Globalisation has gutted the former Constitutional democracies of superbly developed protections of "rights" substituting impositions of statute law.
Is it any wonder that PNGeans have trouble protecting "land rights" etc when their big next door neighbour has inflicted a similar form of tyranny upon her own people?

In this excellent article, the author asserts that Australia has an obligation the step in to overturn unjust or illegal decisions taken by the power elites that have emerged in Pacific nations.

This expectation is based upon at least one false premise, which is that Australia actually has both the will and capacity to successfully intervene in the affairs of other nations.

The bitter lesson of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is that even the most well intentioned and powerful intervention aimed at imposing democratic solutions to other people's problems is doomed to failure.

The intervening power all too soon becomes the focus of local and nationalist resentment and suspicion. Its motives are invariably ascribed to self interest and even its most benign activities like building roads, schools and hospitals are interpreted as mere window dressing for much more sinister aims.

The horrible truth is that democracy is no more "exportable" than communism proved to be simply because the prevailing cultural and social norms in the "target" country always trump rationality and logic.

There seems to be no painless way for any country to successfully create a democratic form of government under which the "rule of law" will prevail.

This should be no real surprise to anyone. After all, it took a mere millennium or so for the "Westminster system" and its various derivatives to emerge from what was a long and lamentable litany of civil wars, protracted periods of absolutism and frequent outbreaks of repression.

So, given this background, it is not likely that Australia can or will intervene in Nauru's affairs, especially as its own national interests would not be served by picking a fight with the current government.

At best, its diplomats will be quietly and discretely whispering in the ears of those in power in the hope that they will see the error of their ways.

Thanks Francis.

While a difference does exist in the style of political governance, I wouldn't say it is 'quite different' with respect to the effects on the judiciary and the issue of rule of law.

In both countries, and not forgetting PNG, the integrity of the judiciary was equally undermined, raising serious questions about the rule of law and the separation of powers.

While prevailing political circumstances are an important consideration, the question is whether those circumstances should dictate or measure the degree to how Australia, as an independent, established democracy, responds to these pressing issues.

Should Australia's response be different to a coup d'etat country than a country that is not, i.e., a democracy, when the judicial institutions are equally affected in both countries?

To think so would be to believe in the idealism of democracy and that is far from the reality we are seeing in the Pacific islands.

I like your argument, Bal, but the situation in Nauru is quite different from that of Fiji. Nauru although experienced constitutional crisis like Fiji, the former did not involve coup while the latter did.

With this backdrop, I would not accuse Australia of double standards as the position of Australia on Fiji and Nauru depended very much on the prevailing political circumstances in each country.

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