JULIE BISHOP Thank you Sue and I want to pay tribute to you for the marvellous job that you're doing as Australia's High Commissioner to Samoa. And even though you have one of the most beautiful outlooks in the world, we know that you work very hard in maintaining and enhancing the bilateral relationship between Australia and Samoa.
Prime Minister, it was an honour to meet with you today, and we are delighted to have a bipartisan delegation from Australia with Connie and Penny and Claire to congratulate you again on your remarkable fifth term as prime minister, and entering your 19th year as the leader of this nation.
Samoa has a fascinating history, and has often been the first to do many things. It was of course the first Pacific Island to gain independence, and I recall very well the marvellous Independence Day celebrations on the 50th anniversary in 2012. That was one of my five visits here to Samoa. But you have continued to show great leadership, not only of your nation, but also throughout the Pacific, and our all‐female delegation was somewhat struck by the constitutional change that you brought about to ensure that 10 per cent of the parliamentarians are women, and we've been delighted to meet a number of those parliamentarians here this evening.
You were also very conscious of ensuring that Samoa continues to grow economically, socially, and that it continues to develop while maintaining the historical customs, the language, the social and political systems that are unique to this country. But we were secretly very pleased when you moved Samoa west of the International Date Line, because it brought you closer to Australia and New Zealand, and that underscored your understanding of the future of Samoa and where it would derive much impetus for economic growth.
Australia and Samoa are close friends and close partners. We work together on many regional issues, and with Samoa, Australia led the RAMSI intervention in the Solomon Islands, where we were yesterday, and I thank you for the contribution that Samoa made to the stabilisation of the Solomon Islands over the last 13 years.
Together we're also very keen to conclude what's called PACER Plus ‐ a free trade agreement that will promote more trade, more exports within the Pacific and beyond, and greater development opportunities. This afternoon we signed the Australia‐Samoa Aid Program Agreement, and under four pillars of economic development, governance, health and education, Australia will work in partnership with Samoa to deliver on priorities for the betterment of the Samoan community.
What is special about this relationship is the deep connections between our people, and our love of sport. Now, I'm sure Joseph Parker will do exceedingly well in the heavyweight titles. We're all‐ sorry New Zealand; we're really backing Samoa on this one. But also so many Samoans or people of Samoan origin play sport for Australia and New Zealand, for other countries, and have made an incredible contribution to sporting culture throughout the world, and Samoans are much admired for their prowess.
We also have strong educational links, and there are New Colombo Plan students here in Samoa. In the first four years of this program, which sends Australian undergraduates to live and work and study in countries in the Asia‐Pacific, over 200 will have come to Samoa, and I think that speaks highly of Samoa's reputation. Samoa is a very popular destination for young Australians, but the investment that we make in this program ensures that the relationship between our two countries will endure. I've also been delighted to meet a number of Australian volunteers here this evening, some who are very young, some who are not so young, and again it underscores the deep commitment between the people of Australia and the people of Samoa.
So Prime Minister, thank you very much for your warm welcome here. You have in Australia a true friend, and together Australia and Samoa will continue to ensure that our people live in peace, stability, security and prosperity.
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