Visit to New Caledonia
During my visit to Noumea this week, I led Australia's delegation to the 11th Ministerial Conference of the Pacific Community (SPC) on 21 June, the first Australian Foreign Minister to attend the Conference since its inception.
Ministers from SPC member countries discussed new areas of cooperation on ocean science and how best to ensure the long-term health of our oceans, which are vital to Pacific economies, livelihoods and cultures.
I announced an additional $3.5 million for the SPC to help Pacific island countries address the risks to their maritime zones posed by sea-level rise, and other climate-related impacts and affirmed our recent announcement to help combat marine litter through the Pacific Ocean Litter Project.
Discussions with Pacific leaders and ministers, including from Cook Islands, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, focussed on the implementation of our Pacific Step Up initiatives. This included the new Office of the Pacific, planning for the new Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP), to be established on 1 July, and expanded opportunities in Australia for Pacific workers under the Pacific Labour Scheme.
SPC Ministers announced the appointment of Dr Stuart Minchin as the next Director-General to lead the SPC. Dr Minchin is currently Chief of the Environmental Geoscience Division of Geoscience Australia. I acknowledged the significant contribution made to the SPC over the last six years by current Director-General Dr Colin Tukuitonga and wished Dr Tukuitonga and his family well for the future. I look forward to working closely with Dr Minchin as he takes up his new role.
In bilateral engagements with New Caledonian leaders we discussed upcoming Pacific Islands Forum meetings, and issues of mutual interest including regional security and Australia's work with France in the Pacific, gender equality and addressing gender and family violence.
I also visited HMAS Farncomb, which is conducting a port visit to Noumea as part of a regional submarine deployment, accompanied by Deputy Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Mark Hammond, High Commissioner Thierry Lataste and General Thierry Marchand, FANC Commander.
Australia values our strong and enduring partnership with France in the Pacific and looks forward to continued close cooperation.