Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared herself “on the same page” as Nauru and Papua New Guinea, despite concerns Labor’s new Pacific solution could see asylum seekers held indefinitely.
Ms Gillard arrived this afternoon for the Pacific Island Forum in the Cook Islands.
She told reporters soon after landing she will meet the leaders of Nauru and PNG to hammer out agreements on reopening processing centres.
But she denied any difference had emerged with either country over the length of time people might be held.
“Our policy push here is to make sure people do not get any advantage from having got in a boat,” Ms Gillard said.
But she did not say how long people would typically wait for resettlement without attempting a voyage to Australia.
Nauru’s Foreign Minister Keiran Keke said he did not want to see people held indefinitely on Nauru, and joined PNG’s Prime Minister in saying Australia would be expected to settle people found to have genuine asylum claims.
Asylum seekers are far from the only issue on the agenda.
Ms Gillard said the forum would be discussing protecting the Pacific Ocean and building skills for people in the region — and she will also bring a personal focus on gender issues.
“As the only woman attending the forum – the only female leader – I will be focusing on gender equality,” Ms Gillard said.
The Pacific ranks worst in the world on representation of women in politics. When Australia and New Zealand are excluded, only 3.5 per cent of roles in the region are held by women.
Ms Gillard said gender issues mattered not just because men and women should be equal but the participation of women helped development.
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