By Lisa Martin
Australia and New Zealand have taken Nauru to task over the deteriorating state of democracy and rule of law on Nauru during Pacific foreign ministers' talks in Sydney.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully raised the issue of aid while meeting with Nauru's President Baron Waqa on the sidelines of the Pacific Island forum yesterday.
"I have asked ministry officials to complete discussions regarding our current concerns prior to the next tranche of New Zealand funding to Nauru, which is currently scheduled for August this year," Mr McCully said in a statement.
New Zealand is the principle funder of Nauru's justice system, chipping in $NZ1.2 million as part of a broader aid package.
Three opposition Nauru MPs were arrested last month for attending a protest.
Roland Kun had his passport cancelled and was pulled off a plane bound for New Zealand where his young family live.
Sprent Dabwido and Squire Jeremiah were again denied bail by a Nauru court yesterday.
The trio are part of a gang of five MPs who were last year suspended from parliament for talking to foreign media.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Sydney she wasn't worried about Nauru spiralling into a dictatorship but had concerns about recent developments.
"I sought assurances from (President Waqa) that the rule of law would be upheld, that the judiciary system would have integrity in its processes and that there would be fair dealing with the opposition members who had been either detained or charged."
Ms Bishop hinted it was unlikely Australia would follow New Zealand's lead on an aid threat.
Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said Australia needed to take a tougher line on Nauru and private conversations between Ms Bishop and the president were insufficient.
"You've got a bunch of dictators on Nauru at the moment who are really out of control."
Pacific Island Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said if forum members consider there have been serious breached of democratic principle or human rights they would intervene and the burden was not solely on Australia and New Zealand.
However, the situation was not close to that scenario, she said.
President Waqa described his talks with New Zealand and Australia as healthy.
"Mr Kun and three other opposition MPs will have their time in court and be offered a fair trial," he said in a statement.