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Factba.se: Australia DFAT Country Briefs - Nauru


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Nauru is an island republic in the South Pacific Ocean, 42kms south of the Equator (0°32' S, 166°55' E) and 4,000 km north-east of Sydney. A raised fossilised coral atoll, Nauru is one of three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean — the other two being Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia. Nauru has a total land area of 21 square kilometres.

Nauru has a population of approximately 10,000 people, most of whom are indigenous Nauruans of predominantly Micronesian origin. Non-Nauruans are principally other Pacific Islanders, Chinese, Australian and Filipino expatriates.

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Nauru is one of the world's smallest independent, democratic states. Its constitution, adopted in 1968, established it as a republic with a Westminster style parliamentary system of government. The Constitution underwent a process of review from 2004 and in August 2009 the Parliament unanimously passed two amending bills; one containing changes which may be amended by a majority in parliament, and another for changes which the current Constitution requires be passed by a popular referendum.

The President is currently elected by and responsible to the unicameral Parliament and, in an unusual variation of the Westminster system, is both head of government and head of state.

The Nauruan Parliament consists of 18 Members of Parliament. As there are no political parties in Nauru, all MPs stand as independents. MPs are elected every three years by Nauruan citizens over the age of 20. At its first sitting, where possible, Parliament chooses a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker and Chairs of Committees before proceeding to elect the President from among the remaining members. The President then appoints five members of Parliament to join him (or her) in forming a Cabinet.

In 2010 Nauru's parliament was deadlocked after three government Caucus members transferred allegiance to the opposition, thus levelling the Chamber to nine MPs a side. The deadlock was resolved in November 2010 when Ludwig Scotty, a former President, agreed to be Speaker. As the Speaker does not vote, caretaker President Marcus Stephen thus garnered enough support to be appointed the President by a vote of 9-8. On 10 November 2011, President Stephen resigned the presidency amidst corruption allegations. He was replaced by Frederick ('Freddie') Pitcher who was elected by Parliament by a vote of 9-8. At a further sitting on 15 November 2011, government MP Sprent Dabwido changed his allegiance, tilting the numbers in favour of the opposition. The opposition won a vote of no confidence and then nominated Dabwido as its candidate for President. In the subsequent ballot, Dabwido defeated Pitcher by a vote of 9-8 and was elected President.

Parliament presently has before it the Constitution of Nauru (Parliamentary Amendments - PA) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2010. If this Bill secures the required two-thirds majority support of Parliament, the PA Act (as amended) will enter into force at the time of the next general election. Two key components of this Bill will be an independent Speaker and a 19th MP.

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Nauru faces serious economic challenges. Phosphate production, which began to decline in the late 1980s (from 1.67 million tonnes in 1985-86 to 162,000 tonnes in 2001-02) halted in 2003 before recommencing in mid-2006, with steady increases each year (projected to be 450,000 metric tonnes in 2011-12, up from around 385,000 metric tonnes in 2010-11). Funds invested in trusts to provide post-mining income for Nauru are largely gone and the Nauru Government has assessed Nauru's total debt as $869 million, or 20 times current GDP (Nauru 2009-10 Budget). Only about one third is external debt. The government has developed a debt management strategy, based on seeking remission and rescheduling of as much of the debt as possible.

Economic indicators for Nauru (such as GDP, current account balance and GDP per capita) are not available. Data from Nauru's statistics department shows Nauru's exports grew strongly after exports of phosphate recommenced in mid-2006. However, poor infrastructure, and exchange rate and market price fluctuations have meant that export earnings from phosphate have failed to meet government forecasts.

Fishing licenses issued to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States of America are an important source of revenue for Nauru. Pelagic fish abound in Nauruan waters, but Nauru has been unable to establish a fishing industry of its own. An Australian-funded fisheries adviser has been engaged to help maximise revenue from the country's marine assets.

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Australia enjoys good relations with Nauru and is its key trade, investment and development assistance partner. In August 2009, then President Stephen signed a Pacific Partnership for Development at the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns, hosted by then Prime Minister Rudd. The Australian Government also upgraded the status of the Consulate-General to that of a High Commission in August 2009. The Hon Richard Marles MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs visited Nauru in November 2010.

In September 2011, Prime Minister Gillard announced that Nauru would be among the countries included in the expanded Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme. The scheme facilitates the recruitment of seasonal horticultural workers from Pacific countries by horticultural enterprises in Australia to meet their seasonal harvest needs.

The ICJ Case and Compact of Settlement

In August 1993, the Nauru and Australian Governments signed a Compact of Settlement (NACOS) which ended litigation by Nauru against Australia in the International Court of Justice over rehabilitation of phosphate land mined before independence. As part of the settlement, Australia paid Nauru A$57 million in cash and agreed to provide $50 million over a period of 20 years (paid in annual instalments of $2.5 million indexed at 1993 values, e.g $3.9 million in 2011-12). The projects to be undertaken with this money are governed by the Rehabilitation and Development Cooperation Agreement (RADCA). Australia and Nauru are cooperating closely on using NACOS funds to facilitate the mining of residual primary and, later, secondary phosphate reserves, followed by the rehabilitation of mined-out lands.

Australian development assistance to Nauru

In 2011-12 Australia will provide approximately $26.2 million worth of aid to Nauru with the AusAID bilateral country program accounting for about $18 million of the total. The rest is made up of the annual payments under the Nauru Settlement Treaty, as well as work through regional programs and other government departments, primarily the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Australia's aid to Nauru supports the Government of Nauru's own development strategy (the National Sustainable Development Strategy – NSDS). Australia provides more aid to Nauru than any other donor in most areas of government and public services. AusAID provides skilled people to operate in key leadership and management roles in government agencies such as the Departments of Finance, Education and Health as well as in State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) such as the Nauru Utilities Authority, and Nauru’s Fisheries Agency. The AFP also fills key policing roles including the Police Commissioner and some senior policing advisers.

As well providing skilled personnel, Australian aid also provides funding toward repairing and maintaining Nauru’s school buildings and hospitals as well as electricity generation and water desalination equipment. The redeveloped Nauru Secondary School, which includes Nauru’s first ever trade training school, was handed over in March 2010 and provides schooling for up to 450 students. Australia’s aid also helps Nauru pay for medicines and fuel to run the electricity generators and water desalination plants. Nauru has also successfully used Australian funding to improve its media network including radio and television broadcasting and to improve revenue collection and financial management. Nauru’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (http://www.ausaid.gov.au/keyaid/mdg.cfm) has been mixed. Progress has been made in areas such as improving maternal health, but remaining areas of concern include reducing child mortality and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Further information on Australia's development assistance in Nauru can be found on the AusAID website (http://www.ausaid.gov.au/country/country.cfm?CountryID=21&Region=SouthPacific).

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Australian exports to Nauru in 2010-11 totalled $15.09 million (principally pharmaceuticals; civil engineering equipment and parts; special transactions and commodities; iron, steel, aluminium structures and tobacco). Australian imports from Nauru in the same period totalled $8.34 million (principally crude fertilizers).

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Nauru became a full member of the Commonwealth in May 1999. Nauru was admitted as the 187th member of the United Nations on 14 September 1999 (http://dfat.gov.au/media/releases/foreign/1999/fa101_99.html) .

It is also a member of several regional bodies including the Pacific Islands Forum (http://www.forumsec.org.fj/) , the Secretariat of the (http://dfat.gov.au/geo/spacific/regional_orgs/pc.html) Pacific Community (http://dfat.gov.au/geo/spacific/regional_orgs/pc.html) , the Asian Development Bank (http://www.adb.org/) , the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) (http://www.unescap.org/) , and other specialised agencies.

Nauru maintains official overseas representation in Australia (Brisbane), Fiji, Taiwan, Bangkok, and at the United Nations in New York.

It has Honorary Consuls in London, New Delhi, Brussels, Israel and Kaohsiung (southern Taiwan). Taiwan and Nauru first established diplomatic relations in 1980. These were severed in July 2002 when the Harris Government recognised China, but were subsequently re-established by the Scotty Government on 14 May 2005.

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Our Airline (http://www.southpacific.org/map/airnauru.html) (formerly Air Nauru) currently operates weekly flights between Brisbane and Nauru via Honiara (Solomon Islands) (see schedule (http://www.ourairline.com.au/timetable.htm) ).

A valid passport and visa (or visa authority letter) is required for Australians travelling to Nauru. For further information, contact the Consulate-General of the Republic of Nauru (http://protocol.dfat.gov.au/Consulate/view.rails?id=140) :

-- Level 3,99 Creek Street, BRISBANE

-- Phone: (07) 3220 3040
-- Fax: (07) 3220 3048
-- Email: nauru.consulate@brisbane.gov.nr (mailto:nauru.consulate@brisbane.gov.nr)

Airport departure fees are included in the ticket cost. Nauru uses Australian currency but there is no bank or ATM on the island; sufficient cash should be brought for the duration of the trip. Neither cheques nor credit cards are accepted in Nauru.

Nauru is NOT a signatory to the International Drivers Licence agreement. It is not legal to drive a vehicle (or motorcycle of any size) without an appropriate local licence — the cost is $70.

Australians travelling to Nauru are advised to consult the Smartraveller travel advice website (http://www.smartraveller.gov.au).

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Last Updated: January 2012

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