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Pacific Cooperation Appreciated

Pacific Cooperation Appreciated

After a watershed year in the Pacific, Australia’s robust and cooperative approach is widely supported in the region. This is the clear conclusion I have drawn from my visits this week to New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji.

Many challenges remain, but through a cooperative approach countries in the region are delivering better outcomes for the people of the Pacific.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and agreement on reform of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) are two significant issues that highlight the importance of strengthened regional approaches to governance and security challenges.

Australia’s active policy approach stems from our responsibility as a member of the PIF and as a significant donor. We are also determined to protect Australia’s direct security interests.

Our approach recognises the centrality of good governance and law and order to broader economic development. Tangible gains can be made through strengthened regional institutions and, where practical, better pooling of regional resources. In Tonga I held constructive talks on a wide range of issues with the King, the Crown Prince, the acting Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament and other key ministers. Australia is supporting economic and public sector reform in Tonga.

I signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Solid Waste Management project that will deliver significant public health benefits to the people of Tonga, as well as protect their environment. I also passed on Australia’s thanks to the Tongan Government for contributing military personnel and police to RAMSI.

In Fiji I met business leaders and held consultations with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade Kaliopate Tavola. Fiji is a valued partner with which we cooperate closely in the region.

I expressed our appreciation for Fiji’s substantial contribution to RAMSI. With Health Minister Solomone Naivalu, I signed an Arrangement on the Fiji Health Sector, announcing a $25 million program to boost health services to the people of Fiji over the next five years.

I was accompanied on this trip by an all-party Parliamentary delegation consisting of Senator Brian Greig, and Members of the House of Representatives Luke Hartsuyker, Sussan Ley and Bob Sercombe.

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