Nauru is a country it seems edging closer to the cusp of democratic calamity.
Economically it is beholden: Nauru survives essentially on Australian largesse and self-interest.
In 2017-18 the Australian government directly provided two-thirds of Nauru’s entire revenue of $170m either as direct aid – resettlement and visa fees for refugees – fees to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre Corporation or reimbursements to Nauru’s government.
That’s before the $26m in taxes on high earners – paid mainly by Australians – and the airfares and charters on Nauru Airlines – the only way to reach the island.
The economic relationship is one of client state and patron in the view of many but it is Australia’s publicly uncritical support for Nauru that is proving damaging.
Australia’s moral authority as a champion of robust democracy and good governance in the region is taking a battering.
By turning a blind eye to the disintegrating rule of law and flagging democracy in Nauru – Australia has abandoned the role of role model.
While New Zealand has withdrawn aid for the judicial system in protest – Australia continues to pump ever more funds into Nauru.