AUSTRALIA will lose its political and strategic influence in Fiji if it doesn't restore good relations as soon as possible, says former prime ministers Sitiveni Rabuka.
According to an AAP report carried by Pacnews, Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka told a meeting in Sydney that Asian powers, such as China, were building new relationships with Fiji while Australia hid "behind a wall of political correctness".
Another speaker at the 2nd International Defence and Security Dialogue said Australia had "lost the plot" in regard to security in the region.
Major-General Rabuka, who led the military coup in 1987, said it was important to quickly restore relationships because of the attention and influence Fiji was getting from Asia.
"While the past 25 years of the Australia-Fiji relationship has been strained and dominated by isolationism and a diplomatic feud, Australia must realise that the longer the isolation, the more difficult the restoration," he told the forum.
"After Fiji normalises its own national political situation, Fiji will expect the quick restoration of bilateral relationship with Australia".
Australia-Fiji relations have been strained since the government was removed in 2006.
Australia has also imposed financial and travel sanctions on Fiji until democracy is restored. But Fiji has been pursuing relationships with other countries and has upped its involvement with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), which includes PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the forum was told.
Professor Richard Herr, from the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji, said Australia had "lost the plot" about regional security.