Launch of photographic exhibit - Next Generation: Solomon Islands after RAMSI
Prime Minister Sogavare, Foreign Minister Tozaka, my parliamentarycolleagues in Senator Fierravanti-Wells, Minister Keenan, Senator Penny Wongthe Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the distinguished diplomats who arehere today, and the alumni of RAMSI – and I see AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvinhere for a start.
Prime Minister, I welcome you and your delegation here to Canberrafor your very special visit to our nation so shortly after the departure ofRAMSI from your country, and we've had a delightful couple of days with you. Iknow you're staying on in Australia to go to Sydney and Brisbane, and I knowthat Australians will warmly welcome you and embrace you, Solomon Islands beingone of our closest neighbours, our dearest friends.
This year in the 75th anniversary of the battle ofGuadalcanal, the war in the Pacific, we are reminded again of the debt that weowe the people of Solomon Islands for the support you gave us during some ofour darkest hours.
Prime Minister, you will recall that Senator Fierravanti-Wells,Senator Wong and I visited Solomon Islands last December with Senator ClaireMoore, and we were treated to a wonderful display of the Royal Solomon IslandsPolice Force and we noted the professionalism, the number of women in your PoliceForce, and how well trained they had been.
We felt very reassured that Solomon Islands was ready to take overthe law and order responsibilities for your country.
RAMSI has been an extraordinary initiative.
Fourteen years ago at the request of the Solomon IslandsGovernment, Australia led a regional response to restore law and order at atime of conflict.
From the Australian Government's perspective, RAMSI was a successbecause of the partnerships we have formed across governments – 15 PacificIsland nations were involved – across agencies, and the way we all workedtogether, sharing information, sharing knowledge, sharing experiences.
From the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade point of view, wehad oversight for the Australian Government, but the work of the AustralianDefence Force and the Australian Federal Police was extraordinary.
Representatives and officials in Finance and Treasury worked tohelp restore governance and support the Solomon Islands Government, ensuringthat they had responsibility for the safety and security of the people.
It is an example of Pacific Regionalism at its best.
Last weekend in Suva, Foreign Minister Tozaka and I were togetherwhen we discussed with other Pacific Islands nations the importance ofmaintaining peace, stability and security in our region, and RAMSI wasinvariably held up as an example of cooperation across the Pacific for a commoncause because it is in all our interests that there be peace, stability andsecurity.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade knew that there weregoing to be very many memorable moments during the 14 years of RAMSI, and thatwe needed an historic record.
In the period leading up to the handover, we engaged Sean Davey, aphotographer, to take images so that we can remember those very emotional butimportant days when RAMSI handed back to Solomon Islands the responsibility forlaw and order, peace, stability and security.
I understand he took about 5000 images and, Prime Minister, youand the Foreign Minister feature in a number of them.
Also a number of the RAMSI alumni, so many of them are here today,but there are some marvellous photographs – and I like the look on NickWarner's face there, very reflective – but this was an opportunity for us tocapture forevermore this historic moment when RAMSI came to an end.
Of course we will continue to support you and your people.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Turnbull and I with you, PrimeMinister, and Foreign Minister Tozaka signed a treaty for further cooperation,a framework in the event that there every be a need for Australia to work withthe Government again in these circumstances, whether it be some kind of crisis,natural disaster, whatever it is, we will be there.
This is the depth of the relationship between Australia and theSolomon Islands; we know each other well, we've worked together over a verylong period of time, we trust each other, and we are friends.
So Prime Minister, I hope that you will be as delighted with thisexhibition as we are, Next Generation:Solomon Islands after RAMSI.
We are looking to the future, a positive, optimistic future forthe people of Solomon Islands with your friend Australia and the people ofAustralia.
I have great pleasure in launching this photographic exhibition, Next Generation: Solomon Islands after RAMSI.