Remarks following meeting with Prime Minister Sogavare

  • Speech, check against delivery

Thank youPrime Minster Sogavare. We are delighted to be here on my fourth visit toSolomon Islands. Thank you and your Ministers for welcoming us into yourCabinet Room.

Mydelegation comprises of course the High Commissioner and Minister forInternational Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells,and from the Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, SenatorPenny Wong, and the Opposition Minister for International Development and thePacific Senator Claire Moore. This delegation underscores the bipartisancommitment in Australia by successive Australian Governments to therelationship with Solomon Islands.

We arefriends, we are neighbours and we are partners. This has been demonstrated byour historical connections from your time of Independence. Also when SolomonIslands was in need of help, Australia was willing to lead the RegionalAssistance Mission Solomon Islands, also known as RAMSI thirteen years ago tohelp restore law and order here in Solomon Islands, and thirteen years, nearlyfourteen years on I believe that RAMSI has completed its mission.

Law andorder has been restored. There has been a re-establishment of nationalinstitutions, and a re-building of business and community confidence in thepolice and also in the nation. We are pleased to continue to support SolomonIslands, post-RAMSI. And while the RAMSI forces will leave, we will continue toprovide support to policing, and governance, and justice issues, with anAustralian Federal Police presence here.

Ourrelationship has also been based on our defence cooperation, and I'm pleasedthat Australia has taken part in Operation Render-safe to ensure thatunexploded ordinance from World War Two that continues to be found, aredisposed of to keep Solomon Islanders safe.

We continueto work together with the Pacific Maritime Security Program, and Australia willcontinue to support this island nation with patrol boats so that you can keepyour nation safe from threats like illegal fishing.

Ourrelationship is also developing into more of an economic partnership, movingbeyond the traditional aid-donor, aid-recipient, and I am pleased that thereare so many opportunities for Australia to support economic development andjobs here in Solomon Islands, including through engaging the private sector.

We arepleased with the progress of trade negotiations under Minister Tozaka for PACERPlus, and Australia is also delighted to offer opportunities for SolomonIslanders to take part in the Seasonal Workers Program, so that in areas ofunmet labour market demand in Australia, Solomon Islanders can work inagriculture, horticulture, hospitality and tourism.

We're alsosupporting Solomon Islanders through our commitment to climate change,resilience initiatives, and as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, ensuringthat the Pacific, including Solomon Islands, gets its fair share of funding.

Finally, Ijust wanted to mention the New Colombo Plan. There are many Solomon Islandersthat have studied in Australia, and undertaken other forms of research andeducation under Australia Awards. Well now we're sending young Australians toSolomon Islands, and by next year, in the first four years since itsestablishment, our New Colombo Plan will have seen over 270 Australianundergraduates working, studying, living here in Solomon Islands.

So it's avery close relationship. We host many people of Solomon Islands origin inAustralia, and I know that Australian businesses, investors and tourists lovecoming here.

It's been anabsolute pleasure taking part in this meeting with you Prime Minister Sogavare,and we look forward to inviting you to Australia in 2017.

Media enquiries