Introductory remarks - The Lowy Institute FDC Pacific lecture, Old Parliament House, Canberra
I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting this evening, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples.
I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present, and extend that respect to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have joined us this evening.
I also acknowledge Assistant Minister Watts, my Opposition counterpart Senator Birmingham, members of the diplomatic corps, and of course our hosts the Lowy Institute. Thank you Michael.
I can't pay my respects to First Nations people without acknowledging this is a difficult time for many.
This will be a time for healing, to come together as a country and chart a new course forward on reconciliation and closing the gap.
Our Government will listen to and be guided by First Nations communities on what these next steps will look like.
Because the referendum result does not diminish the voices and experiences of First Nations Australians.
And because this is not the end of the road.
This land is home to the oldest continuing culture on earth – the connections between the First Peoples and the peoples of the Blue Pacific stretch back through time.
Just as these connections form a part of our core history, they must also form our shared future – as a peaceful, stable and prosperous Pacific.
I know this is something many of my counterparts in the region understand and value deeply.
This includes, of course, tonight's distinguished guest – a great friend of Australia, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka.
At the outset, Prime Minister, I extend my sympathies to you and the Flying Fijians for yesterday's rugby quarter final. But it was an extraordinary achievement to reach the quarter finals – sadly, we did not!
And in this World Cup you beat Australia for the first time in 69 years, so humility on my part is certainly called for.
Since you were once a Flying Fijian yourself, Prime Minister, I guess you have been avenged.
As well as being a star on the rugby pitch, you competed in the 1974 Commonwealth Games in the decathlon, when you were also Fiji's flag bearer.
And now you are of course Fiji's flag bearer once more.
I also begin with my thanks, and the thanks of all Australians.
We appreciate Fiji's assistance in flying thirteen Australians from Israel earlier this week.
I'm pleased that Australia has been able to assist 30 Fijians - and 135 Pacific Island nation citizens overall - leave Israel.
This demonstrates how the countries of the Pacific count on each other – this is Vuvale in practice.
You are no stranger to the Middle East, Prime Minister.
I know you served in the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon and as commander in Sinai.
And I'm conscious that Fiji has hundreds of peacekeepers in the region right now.
Fiji has a proud tradition in peacekeeping.
In my national statement at the UN General Assembly last month, I said that Australia welcomes Fiji's proposal to establish a new Pacific Peacekeeping Network to strengthen our region's capacity and cooperation.
It is just one way in which Fiji is a force for peace in the world.
And you yourself, Prime Minister, are a highly respected leader who has demonstrated his sincere commitment to bringing people and our region together.
Since coming to office less than eleven months ago, you have shown his determination to build an economically stable and secure future for the Fijian people.
You have wasted no time in bolstering Fiji's democratic institutions, enhancing media freedoms and government accountability, and delivering your first budget.
Prime Minister, you have also demonstrated your commitment to building a stronger and more united Pacific.
Central to this is the way you have respected the institutions that protect it.
Your early diplomatic outreach to Kiribati was critical to bringing the Forum Family back together again.
Australia believes in Pacific sovereignty, with the Pacific Islands Forum leading the region in the Pacific way, guided by the 2050 Strategy.
Now, you are advancing your vision for a Zone of Peace, to create a region characterised by peace and prosperity, not conflict and division. This is a vision that we share.
Fiji and Australia understand that our security is enhanced when we work together, when we respond to Pacific priorities, and when we respect Pacific institutions.
We are counting on each other; to each play our part in a shared Pacific that is peaceful, safe and prosperous.
And we are counting on each other to face the threats to our future together - not least, climate change.
It is a true honour for our country to welcome a member of the Pacific family of such leadership and determination.
Prime Minister, I would like to thank you for your ongoing commitment to building a peaceful and prosperous Pacific.
I know everyone here is very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you.
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