Recent legislative changes in Fiji - Regulation of Spectrum Decree - Fiji National University Decree

There has been a spate of recent legislative changes in Fiji. In the absence of a parliament, Fiji’s Interim Government continues to enact legislation through Presidential decrees.

The most prominent decree relates to the regulation of spectrum in Fiji, with politicians from both Australia and Fiji weighing into the intent of that decree. The second decree relates to the establishment of a Fiji only university, unlike its regional counterpart the University of the South Pacific (“USP”).

Regulation of Spectrum Decree 2009 (Fiji)

There have been recent media reports on the Fiji Interim Government’s announcement that the Regulation of Spectrum Decree 2009 (“Decree”) has been approved by the Fiji cabinet, and that the Decree has been gazetted (according to media reports on 13 November 2009). Needless to say both Australian and Fijian politicians are saying their piece about the intent of the Decree. Unfortunately copies of the Decree are not available (despite our best efforts to obtain a copy), which means all we have to work with is a recent Fiji Ministry of Information media release (10 November 2009, No: 1937/CAB) (“Release”).

The Release suggests that the Decree allows for the facilitation of equitable allocation of radio frequency spectrum in Fiji which is used by both television and radio services and other forms of communications. It does not appear that the Decree extends to mobile phone operator licences.

Fiji’s Attorney-General alluded that the current allocation of spectrum was disorganised and conducted on an ad-hoc basis. The Decree supposedly implements the recommendations of a Fiji Ministry of Communications commissioned study on spectrum in Fiji which was conducted by a New Zealand company.

All current licences appear to have been converted to temporary licences while the Government undertakes a stock take to see whether current licensees are utilising spectrum effectively. Media reports suggest that licensees will not be entitled to compensation or any other remedy in relation to the cancellation, reallocation or any other action or decision taken by the Minister for Communications relating to their existing licenses.

The net result could be a reallocation of spectrum to allow for new investment in the broadcasting sector, with the Government suggesting that a tender process for new spectrum will be undertaken.

Fiji National University Decree 2009 (Fiji)

The object of the Fiji National University Decree 2009 is to establish the Fiji National University which will aim to serve the needs of the post-secondary educational requirements for Fiji. In effect the Fiji National University will be taking over the assets and liabilities of the Fiji Institute of Technology, Fiji School of Medicine, Fiji School of Nursing, the Fiji College of Agriculture, the Fiji College of Advanced Education and the Lautoka Teachers College, and a merged entity of these educational institutions is being established.

The Fiji National University is unlike the University of the South Pacific (“USP”) which also has its main campus (Laucala) situated in Fiji. The USP was established in 1968, and is one of only two universities of its type in the world. It is jointly owned by the governments of 12 member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa. USP also has campuses in all member countries, notably the Emalus Campus in Vanuatu where the School of Law is located.

The Fiji Minister for tertiary education has the power to appoint the governance members, including the Council of the Fiji National University, again unlike USP’s regional approach.

This article has been prepared for the general information of clients and contacts of PLN Lawyers Sydney and the affiliated firms of the Pacific Legal Network. While it deals with and comments on the law in specific areas it is not intended nor should it be used, as a substitute for specific legal advice as legal counsel may only be given in response to inquiries regarding particular situations.

Original article Pacific Legal Network News December 2009