COMMENT:

Fiji's cantankerous leader Frank Bainimarama won't be following Jacinda Ardern's desperation to get to the leader's retreat for the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru today.

Bainimarama's given the tiny island state, with a population about the same size as my home town of Gore, a wide berth. Fiji was kicked out of the forum almost a decade ago for its refusal to hold democratic elections but was readmitted four years ago.

The Fijian leader dislikes the domination of the forum by New Zealand and Australia and says he'd like to re-engage once we're gone.

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But in reality that's why we are engaged, we're the pawns in the big power play in this part of the world by China and the United States, with the latter largely forgetting about this region until The Dragon started breathing hot cash into the island states. And that's why Bainimarama is so smug, although that's likely to change once China starts calling in its debt of more than half a billion dollars to Fiji.

Ardern's flash visit will make her the most powerful leader there today, Australia's Scott Morrison's got other things on his plate. It's just as well he's not there though because Ardern seems intent on having some sort of dialogue with some of the 900 refugees on the island, 130 of them children. Any contact wouldn't be welcomed by Australia.

Nauru is after all Australia's penal colony, set up in 2001 with what the Howard Government saw as the Pacific Solution, to ensure boat people were denied their asylum seeking dreams. The Aussies pay the country to keep them at an ocean's distance from their country with their number diminishing at a snail's pace, being drip fed to the United States, providing they're not from Iran, Somalia or any Muslim countries.

They're being kept well away from the clinking of the Pacific leaders' cocktail glasses, but Ardern hopes to speak to some of them or at the very least, people who are caring for them.

She's adamant she doesn't want to offer these abused people false hope but says the offer to take 150 of them remains on the table. Australia wants an assurance from this country that if they come here, they can't use us as a backdoor to get in there.

Last month a letter was sent to Ardern's office by Nauru refugees pleading to be allowed into New Zealand, promising they had no desire to go to Australia who not surprisingly they see as cruel and heartless.

Whether we get to see any refugees from Nauru though is, insists Ardern, a matter for Australia. But if we're really sincere in the offer to help out in what is a humanitarian crisis why we can't give Australia the assurance they want is beyond me.

Actions speak louder than words.

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