LETTER TO THE EDITOR : Australia’s High Commissioner Wants To Set Record Straight

About the author:

Mataeliga Pio Sioa, Newsline Samoa newspaper editor. A veteran journalist in broadcast and print media.

  • Elephants playing around in the Pacific Islands
    Elephants playing around in the Pacific Islands

 

I am writing to correct some of the inaccuracies in recent Newsline editorials.

In reference to your editorial dated 10 February 2019, the Australian Government is committed to a constructive relationship with China, founded on shared interests and mutual respect.

We are seeking to deepen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for the benefit of both countries, including through annual meetings between leaders and senior ministers. Our broad and sophisticated relationship is underpinned by a successful Free Trade Agreement, two-way trade and investment, close cooperation on transnational issues, important research links and growing flows of students, tourists and migrants.

China remains Australia’s largest two-way partner by a significant margin, with annual good and services trade valued at $4155.2 billion (as of June 2017).

We have more university links with China than any other country, with over 170,000 Chinese students studying in Australia this year.

More than 1.25 million Chinese visitors contribute to cur valuable tourism market, worth $9.8 billion annually, and our societies are increasingly connected.

We acknowledge, including with China, that we have differences, and that closer engagement will be accompanied at times by friction arising fro our different values and political systems. However, we are committed to deepening cooperation in areas we have shared objectives.

Australia welcomes investments in the Pacific, including in Samoa, from all development partners that support sustainable development. We welcome deeper cooperation with China in the Pacific where we have share interests and this was reiterated during the Australian Foreign Minister’s visit to China 7-8 November 2018.

I also refute the implication in your editorial today (27 February) that the Australian Government would take any role in seeking to influence Samoan politics by following ‘the Russian lead.’

Social media, and the freedoms and challenges that it raises are affecting people communities and governments around the globe, including Australian Government.

We have recently had our own challenges with social media and transparency in political advertising, and have put in place measures to ensure the integrity of our electoral system. To imply that the Australian Government would seek to infiltrate the outcome of the elections in Samoa is erroneous.

I would be happy to come and talk to you at any time to help you understand Australia’s foreign policy agenda and the bilateral relationship with Samoa. I have sought on several occasions to come and meet with you over the past few months but unfortunately, you have not been available. I do hope we can meet in the near future in the spirit of mutual understanding.

 

 With best regards

Sara Moriarity

 

Talofa Madam High Commissioner,

 

Congratulations on the wonderful relationship you went into so much effort to detail between Australia and China. Truly envious ties.

Unfortunately, it adds to the confusion of all the anti-Chinese rhetoric coming from Australia of China taking over ‘Australia’s back yard’.

Samoa and other Forum Island members are of course implied as Australia’s ‘back yard’ but lets not go there for now. 

We don’t want to spoil the loving ties Samoa and other member countries have with Australia that you rightfully underlined.

In fact you will be hard pressed to find anyone around here who is not appreciative of the help by Australia.

The truth is Samoa and other island nations do indeed benefit so much with assistance from your government. 

Australian funded developments may not loom as visible as ‘roads that go nowhere’ or ‘buildings that cannot be maintained’ but they are there and fully appreciated.

Loans and assistance from China paid for all the more visible roads and buildings referred to and the island nations are grateful for them as well.

 What makes it puzzling for us in the islands and maybe China too, is that even an Australian Cabinet Minister soundly condemned the developments.

You yourself Madam High Commissioner share the Minister’s sentiments by welcoming the investments from other donor partners like China as long as they ‘support sustainable development.’

This is confusing rhetoric on the island nations right to decide for themselves, without being told by someone else, what is ‘sustainable’ or not for them.

The person who once complained that a ‘white man speak with forked tongue’ would sympathise with the confusion.

Your point about the editorial implying the ‘Australian Government would take any role in seeking to influence Samoan politics’ is to borrow from your own word ‘erroneous.’

Hate to point this out Madam High Commissioner but you took the gist of the reference seriously out of context.

The reference was at the parallels between colonialism and globalism and the influence of modern communications technology in inciting political changes.

Social media was highlighted as part of the global narrative because of the damning challenges of absolute freedom of expression on political leadership.

The editorial highlighted the example of the US presidential election where the Americans are increasingly discovering that the Russians manipulated voters support for President Trump.

The point the editorial made was the capability made possible by technology.  If   the Russians can do it to America, Australia and China are equally capable of doing the same to the Pacific Islands where both have vested interests.

The emphasis is on CAPABLE OF, not on putting it into practice, as you unfairly accused the editorial of implying.

Yes thank you for the invitation to ‘meet and greet’ and I apologise for not being available.

 

Best Regards

Mataeliga Pio Sioa

 

 

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