As Marise Payne stands in her colourful shirt for the obligatory photo opportunity at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru this week, she might do well to consider the high price Australia pays to prop up one of the most dysfunctional governments on the planet. As the newly minted foreign affairs minister, the arc of Australia’s influence in the Pacific is now Payne’s bailiwick, and Nauru is a country, it seems, edging closer to the cusp of democratic calamity. Economically it is beholden: Nauru survives essentially on Australian largesse and self-interest. In 2017-18 the Australian government directly provided two-thirds of Nauru’s entire revenue of $170m either as direct aid, resettlement and visa fees for refugees, fees to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre Corporation, or reimbursements to Nauru’s government. That’s before the $26m in taxes on high earners – paid mainly by Australians – and the airfares and charters on Nauru Airlines, the only way to reach the island. The economic relationship is one of client state and patron, in the view of many, but it is Australia’s publicly uncritical support for Nauru that is proving damaging. Australia’s moral authority as a champion of robust democracy and good governance in the… Read full this story
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