Fiji PM in Canberra for talks with Morrison

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his Autralian counterpart Scott Morrison in Australia last week. Picture: SUPPLIED/FIJI GOVERNMENT

CANBERRA, 16 SEPTEMBER 2019 (AAP) – Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama will enjoy all the trimmings of a ceremonial welcome at Parliament House as part of his official visit to Australia.

Bainimarama, who arrived in the country for private engagements last week, flew into Canberra on Sunday ahead of Monday’s talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He is due to meet other ministers and Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, as well as laying a wreath at the Australian War Memorial.

“Australia and Fiji, a key regional leader, have a strong friendship and a long history of co-operation, shared interests and values,” Morrison said announcing the visit last week.

“We are all part of the same Pacific family, the Pacific vuvale.”

But it was only a few weeks ago at the Pacific Islands Forum that  Bainimarama launched a scathing attack on Australia’s approach to the island nations, particularly over climate change and new coal mines.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Bainimarama accused Morrison of being “very insulting and condescending” during a leaders’ retreat.

“I thought Morrison was a good friend of mine. Apparently not,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack didn’t help matters at the time, saying he gets annoyed when Pacific countries point the finger at Australia and say it should be shutting down its resources sector.

“They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit; pick our fruit grown with hard, Australian enterprise and endeavour and we welcome them and we always will,” McCormack was reported as saying.

Bainimarama said the comments were insulting and disrespectful.

Albanese said he would be surprised if the Fijian leader in his meetings didn’t raise his concern about Australia’s position on climate change.

“We need to be sensitive to the need to deal with our pacific neighbours in a way that gives them respect and acknowledges that climate change is the number one issue which they want engagement and leadership from Australia on,” Albanese told reporters on Sunday.

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