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PACIFIC BEAT - ABC RADIO AUSTRALIA Updated October 6, 2010 10:44:46
Tuvalu's new prime minister, Maatia Toafa, faces a number of distinct challenges - ruling a country that has become the face of climate change, but also keeping on the right foot with the 11,000 people he shares just 26 square kilometres with.
His new government has also had a very busy initiation with his election, that of the speaker, and the celebration of 32 years of independence on October 1st - all within the space of a week.
Mr Toafa was ousted by a vote of no confidence the last time he was prime minister from 2004-2006.
Prime Minister Toafa hopes he will preside over a more stable government this time around.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Maatia Toafa, newly elected Prime Minister of Tuvalu
TOAFA: I think so, I would say it is more stable. You never know, politics is politics. What these people on the other side are trying to do again is something that no-one can guess Geraldine. But in the overall outset it's more stable now.
COUTTS: Well in the elections, five of the 15 members of parliament are new. Will that enable you to make things more stable now that you've only got a few newcomers to the parliament?
TOAFA: Yeah, I think the idea is to get the number right, meaning turn five because 15 altogether. Yeah, once I get the number right, then things can be more stabilised.
COUTTS: Why do you think you were voted in, Maatia Toafa, this time replacing Apisai Ielemia.
TOAFA: Well, like any other simple setup with Tuvalu that the government in opposition is of course the government in waiting. But I think what has happened is the people wish, I believe they want a change because of what they have witnessed through the past four years, may it's to do with the government's handling of the affairs of the country, but then again, is one's case the people may want a change for the better.
COUTTS: Well Tuvalu has made its mark on the international stage for a number of occasions, Copenhagen and a few of the other meetings, where the Tuvalu made impassioned pleas to the world audience to understand the impact that climate change is making on your nation with a population of just 10,900. Is that something that you are going to be mindful of and what approach will you take to climate change now that your the prime minister of Tuvalu?
TOAFA: I think we still made to follow the same path. Climate change for Tuvalu is being witnessed on its impact to a small place like Tuvalu, so yes we will take the same path and at the time or the adaptation actions to counter the impacts already being witnessed.
COUTTS: And what are the impacts in Tuvalu, because you will be aware of course that there are still climate change sceptics that don't believe that there is anything different and don't believe that countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati are being troubled, that their troubles are man made, so they've stop mining sand and they will not have the sea level rise issues that they do. What do you say to those people?
TOAFA: The impacts we have been witnessed presently of course is the coastal erosion. We've experienced severe natural disasters - the coral bleaching, the uncertainty of the weather has a lot to do with that - and of course the underground water, salinity has increased and that made our agricultural activities more difficult which is a challenge to our people.
COUTTS: Former prime ministers have gone round the world asking countries like Australia, and John Howard the former prime minister being one of them, if you can relocate your entire population to one of the islands off the north of Australia. You were turned down. Are you still shopping around for a new home to relocate your people of Tuvalu? Is it that serious, climate change?
TOAFA: I don't think resettlement is an idea, well it may be an option available to us, as leaders I think we need to meet these challenges and stay hard on them, meaning to do the right thing now be able to save the country. Identity is very important. You have your people, the same land and your culture. Once we are to relocate, meaning we will lose our land, which is a very important component of anyone's identity.
COUTTS: What are the money making prospects for Tuvalu, because there are few as I understand it. You have got a trust for money coming in, but how do you make money now? What are the sorts of things that you can do? I mean tourism has not been a great option for you.
TOAFA: Yeah, tourism has not been a great option for us, but right now we are very much dependent on donor generosity. Of course are seafaring industry has been affected negatively because of the global economic financial downturn. The windfalls, the fisheries, have been good over the past two, three years. I mean fishing licenses revenue. And of course our dot-TV is still reaping very little really.
COUTTS: Well, that has been a controversial issue hasn't it, the TV.com that you have not made the money that was proposed. Why is that?
TOAFA: I think is to do with the agreement that we signed a long time ago, but we need to improve on the terms and conditions, especially the revenue on the fee contracted, so we are looking for other avenues where we can make money. But the fisheries is of course our mainstay and we need to develop fisheries at the national level.
COUTTS: Now is your cabinet settled, have you picked all the people that you have around you and are they up and running yet?
TOAFA: Yes, is all in now, up and running, except for the small things to be finally resolved, but is up and running. Everybody is in there.