BY GRAHAM DAVIS
AUSTRALIA'S impotence in influencing events in its own back yard is being demonstrated in dramatic fashion this week as Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama fulfils his long-held ambition to assume the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
All the other Melanesian leaders - from Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu plus the Kanak FLNKS from New Caledonia - are joining him for the group's summit in Suva tomorrow. It's also being attended by representatives from Indonesia, East Timor and - strangely - the European Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
The humiliation for Australia and New Zealand comes with the authority Bainimarama will now wield as the leader of a virile regional grouping - backed by the Chinese - that's increasingly regarded as more important than the long-established Pacific Islands Forum.