Address to New Caledonia’s Congress
Introduction & acknowledgements
Bonjour et Bozu a tous et a toutes
Let me begin by acknowledging the High Commissioner of the Republic, Mr Louis Le Franc and the President of the Government of New Caledonia, Mr Louis Mapou.
I also acknowledge the presence of Australia’s Consul-General in Nouméa, Ms Annelise Young.
I thank the Vice President of the Congress, Ms Machoro Reignier, for the invitation to speak today.
Honourable Congressmembers, civil society, members of the diplomatic corps.
It is my great honour to be the first Australian Foreign Minister – and indeed, the first Australian minister of any kind – to address the Congress of New Caledonia.
Yesterday, I felt very fortunate and humbled to able to present a coutume to the elders of Drubea Kapoume and representatives from the Customary Senate.
And today, it is my privilege to address this preeminent institution, a beacon of New Caledonia’s commitment to democracy, representation and pluralism.
These are values that Australia shares.
I am pleased to say that the Australian parliament in which I serve is ever more reflective of our modern nation.
Australian parliamentarians have origins from across the world, and indigenous Australians have been elected in record numbers.
Our parliament and our nation are enriched by this diversity.
As Australia looks out to the world, we see ourselves reflected in it – just as the world sees itself reflected in us.
Our diversity is fertile ground for building bonds.
We want to work closely with the French state and New Caledonia to advance our many shared interests.
Because, ultimately, I think we hold the same desire for the future of our region.
We want to live in a region and a world that is peaceful and predictable.
Where our countries and peoples can cooperate, trade, and thrive.
Where our relations are based on true partnership, and respect for international rules and norms.
Where we respect the agency and leadership of regional institutions, from the Pacific Islands Forum to the Pacific Community, from the Joint Heads of Pacific Security to the South Pacific Regional Environment Program.
I commend the role that Nouméa has long played in fostering regional cooperation in the Pacific.
This morning, I visited the Pacific Community HQ, where among the many important projects, there are scientists mapping the effects of climate-induced coastal erosion.
Australia is committed to working with all peoples of our region.
As we engage, listening and respect are at the heart of Australia’s approach.
Last year, I opened the Australian Consulate-General in Papeete, making Australia the only country in the world with a diplomatic presence in every Pacific Islands Forum member.
That is the clearest demonstration of our desire to listen, to hear, and to work with everyone in the region.
In 1940 Australia opened its first diplomatic mission in the Pacific in Nouméa.
In 2016, we welcomed New Caledonia’s entry, with France’s support, into the Pacific Islands Forum.
As we face grave and unprecedented challenges – from climate, COVID recovery and intensified contest – we believe a united Pacific Islands Forum is central to protecting our shared interests in a peaceful, prosperous and resilient region.
Guided by the region’s shared vision set out in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, we know that we are stronger together.
We all have a part to play.
So we commend New Caledonia and the French State’s desire to work together constructively on regional engagement, taking into account their respective competencies.
You have much to offer.
From your economic strength, impressive education system, and commitment to renewable energy…
… to your abundant natural assets, your warm welcome to Australian tourists and rich culture.
Australia deeply values New Caledonia’s contribution and our unique relationship.
Climate change and energy
We share the belief, as set out in the Boe Declaration of 2018, that climate change is the ‘single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific’.
As Australia’s first climate change minister, I have a deep appreciation of the catastrophic threat posed by climate and the imperative to act.
I have seen firsthand the global leadership of the Pacific.
For too long Australia has neglected our responsibility as a member of the Pacific family to act.
But last year, the Australian people spoke through our great democratic process.
They elected not only a government that cares profoundly but a parliament that cares profoundly, about taking action on climate change.
We are proud to be bidding to co-host COP31 with the region in 2026. And I would like to express my deep appreciation to France for its support for this bid.
Through COP31, we hope to amplify the region’s leadership at a global level and build on France’s legacy of the Paris Agreement.
No small part of the climate challenge will be to shift the world’s energy habits – to move the world to clean energy and electric vehicles.
In this, both Australia and New Caledonia will play a major role this century. Our vision is for us to do it together.
New Caledonia’s nickel is a critical mineral for the production of electric vehicle batteries.
And Australia is a world leader in some of the green technologies used to transform nickel into EV batteries.
I know of at least two Australian companies interested in forming partnerships with New Caledonia in this sector.
Both our mining industries adhere to the highest standards of environmental, social and governance criteria.
And I am proud to announce today that Australia will fund a program that will allow us to continue to build on those high standards.
Six New Caledonian civil servants have been invited to participate in the Energy Resources Governance Initiative later this year.
This initiative brings together people from different countries to promote sound mining sector governance and practices, and to encourage the exchange of best practices.
Innovation and training represent a big part of the future of our friendship, with opportunities for our people to learn together, train together and work together.
In that spirit, I have relayed to New Caledonia’s authorities and the French State that Australia is open to jointly exploring the feasibility of New Caledonian residents joining the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility, or PALM, scheme.
The scheme delivers jobs for Pacific and Timor-Leste workers in regional and rural Australia, enabling them to develop skills, earn income and support their families back home.
The PALM scheme is one example of how we are working with Pacific partners to deliver for Pacific priorities and build a more prosperous and a more secure region.
France’s role in the Pacific
Australia is a close friend of France and we are very proud of our joint efforts in the region.
We value France’s contribution to security and prosperity in the Pacific.
The French-led Croix du Sud international exercise starting in a few days in New Caledonia will involve 250 Australians.
Only last month, through the FRANZ mechanism, our defence forces came together to deliver urgent humanitarian relief to Vanuatu after it was struck by twin cyclones.
France, Australia and New Zealand marked the 30th anniversary of FRANZ last year.
For us, it is at the very centre of the many humanitarian response mechanisms we belong to in the region.
Australia also welcomes France’s increased focus on development in the Pacific.
Officials in both our countries are working on a Letter of Intent between Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and France’s Agence française de développement on critical infrastructure and climate change resilience in the Pacific.
We welcome this commitment to work together, and we hope to foster more of it.
It has been a privilege to address you today.
We know that New Caledonia is at a complex, historic juncture.
And we recognise the work and commitment that it has taken to reach this point.
While institutional arrangements in New Caledonia are a matter for the people of New Caledonia and the French State…
Australia remains committed to our partnership.
In Australia you will find not only a constant neighbour, not only a reliable friend but a commitment to you as a family member.
As a sign of our longstanding friendship, it will be my pleasure, after this speech, to present to this assembly a gift on behalf of Australia and the Australian people.
It is an artwork by Australian artist Neville Narmarnyilk, a Bininj man from the rock country, West Arnhem Land, and a First Nations ranger, tour guide and artist.
Earlier this year, Neville and his nephew Terrah visited New Caledonia to discuss Australia’s Indigenous rangers program, and the ties between our cultural and environmental practices.
They met the Dayu Biik NGO in in Hienghène, artists at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, and gave a digeridoo performance at the Nouméa town hall.
My Consul-General tells me that Neville and Terrah loved their visit here – loved the warmth and generosity of the New Caledonians they met.
So the Consulate-General specially commissioned Neville to make this piece – and he graciously seized the opportunity to return the kindness and hospitality he received from New Caledonians.
The artwork depicts the Rainbow Serpent, part of the Dreaming and Creation story, one the oldest and greatest stories in Australia.
I saw many very fine works of Pacific art on display as I came into the Congress – a very distinguished collection.
I hope you enjoy this piece. It is a celebration of Australia’s culture and as a symbol of Australia and New Caledonia’s long and steadfast connection.
Merci beaucoup. Thank you.
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