The Australian Senate committee for foreign affairs met with Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry and other senior Party members on Monday. Discussion centred on issues of mutual interest including economy, bilateral policies and national security. Fiji Labour Party briefed the committee on the fragile economic, political and social conditions prevailing in the country.
The Party specifically pointed out that the state sponsored discriminatory policies are in breach of the countries Constitution, Social Justice Act and several International Human Rights conventions. Mr. Chaudhry urged the Leader of the Senate committee; Hon. Peter Cook to work towards removing this state sponsored racially biased policies by imposing conditions in Australian governments Grant and Aid assistance to Fiji.
Immigration policies were also discussed, in particular the party expressed dismay with the current policy on issuance of student visa. Mr. Chaudhry raised that the current policy, which requires students to present evidence/guarantees for funds to cover the entire period of their study program is unreasonable and unrealistic and beyond the reach of many deserving students.
Mr. Chaudhry said the policy requiring evidence of funds being in deposited respective accounts for at least 3 months preceding application is indeed an onerous imposition and requested that the Australian government reverts back to the previous condition on student visa concerning the financial requirements.
The committee was also requested to consider short- term work permits for Fiji citizens in farming and construction sectors, particularly, taking into account Fiji’s ever-increasing unemployment rate that is now close to 30%.
The Party also expressed grave concern with the escalating law and order situation in the country, noting that Australia is currently engaged in facilitating expertise and funding projects to enhance the enforcement of law and order in the country. The delegation’s attention was also drawn to the depressed state of the economy, the main cause being the political instability. Threat over security of property and other rights of individuals were also highlighted. The party brought to the attention of committee the disintegration of law enforcement agencies including the judiciary, the failing law and order which is linked to the ever increasing poverty and crime rate.