Speech - Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

  • Speech, check against delivery

JULIE BISHOP: Thank you Secretary Robert for your very fine words and your generous welcome to the Australian delegation. Mr President, traditional leaders, members of the Cabinet, the Government, distinguished guests, friends of FSM, friends of Australia, all.

We are deeply honoured to have been invited to take part in the Sakau ceremony when we arrived here this evening. We feel a deep appreciation for the traditions and culture of FSM after our visit to Nan Madol this morning.

As Australia's Foreign Minister I am very proud to lead a bipartisan delegation here to FSM and the North Pacific. I am joined by Minister Fierravanti-Wells, Senator Wong and Senator Moore. This delegation represents the will of the Australian Parliament in that the Australian people are supportive of a deeper, stronger bond between Australia and the people of the North Pacific, in particular here in FSM.

This morning when we visited Nan Madol it reminded us of the ancient culture here, the history that goes back centuries. There's an eerie spirituality about that site but it reminds us all to respect our cultures, respect our differences and respect each other – and that is the basis of the friendship between Australia and FSM.

Australia has been a longstanding friend of the Federated State of Micronesia. I believe we were the second country to recognise your independence after the United States and we want to ensure that the friendship between Australia and FSM endures. To that end, we see it as a partnership. We want to be part of the shared vision of a free and open, safe, secure and prosperous Pacific region and we are all part of that Pacific family. It is in our shared interests to ensure that we work together, we collaborate, we cooperate to achieve that shared vision of an open, free, prosperous, safe Pacific. Today we have also visited your patrol boat unit and it made us all very proud to see the vessels that Australia had gifted to FSM some years ago, but how magnificently maintained they have been. We certainly look forward and I know your crew are looking forward to the new vessels arriving in 2022. If we can put pressure on the boat builder to deliver more quickly, Mr President, I assure you that we will do so.

We recognise that you have a very large EEZ. You have significant security challenges and we want to partner with you to ensure that you can tackle those challenges of transnational crime, of illegal fishing. In fact, I should remind us all that today is the United Nations day for the Fight Against Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, and the prohibition that we all need to ensure is place in relation to that insidious practice. So we will work together on your Pacific Patrol Boat Program, and it was delightful to meet a number of your crew who trained at the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania. This is part of our partnership, the transference of skills and training and education.

Later in the afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting a number of FSM alumni, citizens of this country who have trained in Australia or elsewhere in the Pacific under our Australia Awards scholarships. And again, an opportunity to demonstrate the depth of our relationship, as your citizens who have been Australian Awardees, are Ambassadors for our country, in your country. Likewise, this year we are funding a young student from the Australian Catholic University to study here and work here in the area of public health. Her name is Grace Corcoran and we certainly hope that she will be the first of many Australian students to spend time here.

While our governments agree on many policies, including commitment to the Paris Agreement, and while we work together to tackle issues like climate change and regional security and economic development, it is the people-to-people links that will ensure that this relationship endures. There are a number of young Australians who are volunteering here in FSM and I feel sure that we will see more Australians spending time in this beautiful paradise. It certainly is one of the most pristine regions in the world, and long may the North Pacific continue to be such a beautiful ecological wonder.

We hope to help you achieve your aims, realise your dreams – and you can count of Australia to be a partner with you, in good times and in bad times. Ours is a relationship that will endure.

Mr President, thank you for hosting us here today.

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