Australia's new government has appointed a veteran politician to help heal relationships between Australia and nations in the region.

Australia's newly-elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has appointed Duncan Kerr as Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Pacific, according to Radio Australia. According to Radio Australia's Pacific Correspondent, Campbell Cooney, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he wants Duncan Kerr to help heal the damaged relationships between Australia and countries like Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji.

Relationships between Australia and some nations in the region, particularly Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, had soured under the previous administration of Prime Minister John Howard. There were issues over the recent coup in Fiji and the Moti Affair (Solomon Islands' Attorney-General) involving both Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) in the Solomon Islands.

Radio Australia quotes Mr. Rudd as saying, "Someone with such extensive experience as Duncan, will help rebuild the fabric of personal and political relationships with the governments of the South Pacific."

Mr. Kerr held a federal seat for over 20 years for the Australian Labor Party and was Australia's Attorney General under Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1993, before becoming Justice Minister, holding that portfolio until 1996.

Mr. Kerr was also the Dean of Law at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1980s.

Radio Australia also added that the responsibility for policy and representation of Australia in the region will belong to Australia's new Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith.