Tuvalu State Dinner, Funafuti

  • Speech (check against delivery)


Thank you for your warm welcome and hosting us.

I would like to acknowledge, as I would in Australia, the traditional island leaders of the land where we meet. I was honoured to be welcomed by members of the Falekaupule earlier today.

  • Prime Minister the Honorable Feleti Teo OBE
  • Foreign Minister Paulson Panapa
  • Cabinet Ministers
  • Acting president of the Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu
  • Members of the diplomatic corps
  • Fellow guests

It is wonderful to be back in Tuvalu.

As Deputy Chief Henry said this morning, Tuvalu is where the beautiful spirit of people and nature come together in harmony.

The fatele I attended in April last year has been a highlight of my time as Australia’s Foreign Minister.

The energy and enthusiasm of the performers was infectious – even I was on my feet.

It is an honour to return so soon and to bring my colleague Senator Birmingham to experience for himself Tuvaluan culture and hospitality.

And to demonstrate by his presence the bipartisan nature of the support for Australia’s relationship with Tuvalu.

I suspect he too will be learning some new dance moves before this evening is over!

40 years ago, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, also travelled to Tuvalu.

He was a Labor giant, an inspiring leader, and in our party and our country, someone you could describe as an elder.

He was here for a meeting of the South Pacific Forum, the pre-cursor to the Pacific Islands Forum.

Prime Minister Feleti, I understand your father was Governor General of Tuvalu at the time.

He welcomed Prime Minister Hawke and other Pacific leaders to your beautiful islands.

Mr Hawke was touched by the hospitality he received and later spoke of his appreciation of the rich culture of Tuvalu.

Australia’s leaders understood the importance of our countries working together, in the Pacific way, to achieve our shared vision for the Blue Pacific continent.

Because how we choose to work together shapes our region– towards a Pacific that is peaceful, safe and prosperous.

Prime Minister Hawke recognised that being a part of the Pacific family conferred precious benefits, and great responsibilities.

Because none of us can achieve the future we seek alone.

Our vision for the region is grounded in respect. Respect for sovereignty. Respect for your priorities.

Fundamentally, sovereignty is about being able to chart your own destiny.

The thing about sovereignty is that it is best assured when acting together.

We are counting on each other to ensure our region remains safe and secure.

And the greatest threat to this is climate change.

I would like to express my deepest sympathies to those whose homes and livelihoods were impacted by the king tides and poor weather earlier this year.

But I want to assure you that you have more than just my sympathies – you have my commitment to action.

I was Australia’s very first climate change Minister.

I have seen how years of disagreement on the best way to tackle climate change hindered and delayed the transition of Australia’s economy.

Australia’s transition is now on the right path and picking up speed.

And within this decade, 82 per cent of Australia's electricity generation will be renewable, a huge transformation for Australia.

Renewables made up just 32% of Australia’s electricity generation in 2022.

It is a huge transformation, but we are getting on with the job, with renewables up 25% in the national electricity market since we came to office.

We must also do what we can to adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already upon us.

Tuvalu is on the front line of climate impact and on the front line in advocating for action.

You show global leadership in finding innovative ways to protect your people, your culture and your future.

I have been inspired by the deep connection you have to your land and sea, and we are committed to helping preserve it.

First Nations Australians share this deep connection to land and sea – connection to country is intrinsic to their culture and identity.

We understand how important it is to ensure that people can maintain a connection to their history, culture and tradition – wherever they are.

This is how we understood Tuvalu’s proposal to Australia for our partnership, now known as the Falepili Union.

We welcomed Tuvalu’s request to elevate our relationship.

Our response is an expression of our sincerity, an embodiment of our commitment to this partnership.

The Falepili Union is about our collective sovereignty, safeguarding our future and supporting the people of Tuvalu to stay and thrive in your homeland.

These steps we are taking together – they represent steps Australia has taken with no other country.

Australia has provided a security guarantee to support Tuvalu in a humanitarian disaster, a pandemic or the event of attack.

For the first time ever, Australia will create a special visa pathway to support mobility with dignity.

This pathway is designed to provide a genuine choice for Tuvaluans about what is best for them, for their families, for their communities.

For the people of Tuvalu who choose it, this will enable them to live, work and study in Australia and travel with ease between Australia and Tuvalu.

It is also the first time in history that two nations have agreed in a legally binding instrument that statehood endures in the face of sea level rise.

And through this visit, I am proud to be able to agree with Prime Minister Feleti our shared understandings about how we will bring the Falepili Union to life, with close consultation across our communities.

Since the signing of the Falepili Union, Australia has committed more than $110 million in additional assistance to Tuvalu.

The Government of Tuvalu laid out its twenty-one priorities with vision and clarity, and climate change adaptation is right at the top.

We are proud partners in the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project.

Thank you to Siose Teo, Ulu Fenua of Funafuti, for showing us the site today and explaining how you intend to use the reclaimed land.

And thanks also to Hall Contracting, an Australian company, who are doing great work, including coastal adaptation works on Nanumaga and Nanumea.

I’m pleased to confirm tonight that Australia will provide an additional $19.1 million to support the further expansion of the project.

It takes our total support to the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project to $38 million.

It’s great to know other development partners have also committed support – including the Green Climate Fund, United Nations Development Programme and Taiwan.

We continue to call on others to join us in supporting Tuvalu’s climate adaptation needs.

But our support for building Tuvalu’s resilience goes beyond land reclamation.

We will continue to work with Tuvalu to support education, health and economic growth.

We are aware that cost of living increases are hurting Tuvaluans, as indeed they are hurting Australians.

Australia will commit $10 million in budget support over two years to sustain critical services.

Australia will provide $50 million to support Tuvalu’s access to an undersea telecommunications cable.

We are working closely with the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and other partners to deliver this transformative digital access.

Australia will provide a new Guardian-class Patrol Boat in the third quarter of this year.

And $15 million for a new National Security Coordination Centre in Tuvalu.

This will enhance cooperation and interoperability in emergency response.

We are listening, consulting, responding – Australia wants to be a good neighbour to Tuvalu.

This is what it means to act in the spirit of Falepili.

Our commitment to count on each other will not waver.

Thank you for having us.

Fakafetai lasi [thank you].

I hope you all enjoy this wonderful evening.

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