Thank you Prime Minster Sogavare. We are delighted to be here on my fourth visit to Solomon Islands. Thank you and your Ministers for welcoming us into your Cabinet Room.
My delegation comprises of course the High Commissioner and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and from the Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Penny Wong, and the Opposition Minister for International Development and the Pacific Senator Claire Moore. This delegation underscores the bipartisan commitment in Australia by successive Australian Governments to the relationship with Solomon Islands.
We are friends, we are neighbours and we are partners. This has been demonstrated by our historical connections from your time of Independence. Also when Solomon Islands was in need of help, Australia was willing to lead the Regional Assistance Mission Solomon Islands, also known as RAMSI thirteen years ago to help restore law and order here in Solomon Islands, and thirteen years, nearly fourteen years on I believe that RAMSI has completed its mission.
Law and order has been restored. There has been a re-establishment of national institutions, and a re-building of business and community confidence in the police and also in the nation. We are pleased to continue to support Solomon Islands, post-RAMSI. And while the RAMSI forces will leave, we will continue to provide support to policing, and governance, and justice issues, with an Australian Federal Police presence here.
Our relationship has also been based on our defence cooperation, and I’m pleased that Australia has taken part in Operation Render-safe to ensure that unexploded ordinance from World War Two that continues to be found, are disposed of to keep Solomon Islanders safe.
We continue to work together with the Pacific Maritime Security Program, and Australia will continue to support this island nation with patrol boats so that you can keep your nation safe from threats like illegal fishing.
Our relationship is also developing into more of an economic partnership, moving beyond the traditional aid-donor, aid-recipient, and I am pleased that there are so many opportunities for Australia to support economic development and jobs here in Solomon Islands, including through engaging the private sector.
We are pleased with the progress of trade negotiations under Minister Tozaka for PACER Plus, and Australia is also delighted to offer opportunities for Solomon Islanders to take part in the Seasonal Workers Program, so that in areas of unmet labour market demand in Australia, Solomon Islanders can work in agriculture, horticulture, hospitality and tourism.
We’re also supporting Solomon Islanders through our commitment to climate change, resilience initiatives, and as co-chair of the Green Climate Fund, ensuring that the Pacific, including Solomon Islands, gets its fair share of funding.
Finally, I just wanted to mention the New Colombo Plan. There are many Solomon Islanders that have studied in Australia, and undertaken other forms of research and education under Australia Awards. Well now we’re sending young Australians to Solomon Islands, and by next year, in the first four years since its establishment, our New Colombo Plan will have seen over 270 Australian undergraduates working, studying, living here in Solomon Islands.
So it’s a very close relationship. We host many people of Solomon Islands origin in Australia, and I know that Australian businesses, investors and tourists love coming here.
It’s been an absolute pleasure taking part in this meeting with you Prime Minister Sogavare, and we look forward to inviting you to Australia in 2017.
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