Thank you Prime Minister and your Ministers for joining us, it is a great honour to have you here this evening.
To the Members of Parliament;
Senior government officials;
Representatives of the business and community sectors;
And many distinguished invited guests;
Vanuatu is the second country I have visited since my appointment as Minister for International Development and the Pacific.
Australia greatly values our relationship with Vanuatu.
We are two countries which are not just neighbours; we share many of the same challenges and opportunities.
Both our countries rely heavily on the strength of our tourism and both rely on our agricultural sectors.
We both regularly experience the power and fury of Mother Nature, in the form of cyclones, floods, drought and many others.
We share a commitment to the values of democracy, respect of human rights and good governance.
Ladies and gentlemen, Vanuatu has many friends around the world.
They come to enjoy the beautiful scenery, explore the complex and rich cultures, and create connections with this country’s welcoming residents.
It did not come as a surprise to many Australians that Vanuatu was recently declared the fourth happiest country in the world – your hospitality and warmth are rightly famous.
I experienced this first-hand today, on Malekula, where the people welcomed me and spent time with me, to discuss the impact of Australia’s aid investments on the island.
I visited the Lakatoro Palm Lodge and discussed TVET program and how business has grown and developed following participation in the skills for economic growth program.
I met women at the Malampa Women’s Handicraft Centre who had benefit from access to TVET centres where they had been able to increase their income earning capacity through technical skills training and business development coaching.
I met members of the Vanuatu Police Force and Justice Agencies who had benefited from the Vanuatu Policing and Justice Support Program at the launch of research on conflict management and access to justice in rural areas.
And I met with the Cocoa Growers Association in Lakatoro to discuss training and support through the Australian Centre for International Research and our Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program to improve returns obtained from cocoa growing through encouraging higher productivity.
As a lover of Haigh’s chocolate myself it was really great to know precisely where Haigh’s source their cocoa and I must admit this afternoon, as I was flagging a bit, Haigh's chocolate went down really well.
But these are just a few examples of where we are working constructively with the Vanuatu Government to achieve our common goal of a strong, prosperous country, with a happy and industrious population. A country where all its citizens educate their children, access quality health care, find fulfilling employment and contribute to a stronger Vanuatu.
When Australia reaches agreement with the Vanuatu Government on how to spend development assistance, it looks to the long-term. Our development programs stretch for years, constantly adapting to changes in the environment, because education and health, infrastructure and economic development do not cease to exist after a year or two.
Australia has invested heavily in these sectors and we will continue to do so.
In consultation with the Vanuatu government, we invest in the areas in which the people of Vanuatu want us to invest.
We invest in the classrooms where their children go to school and in the teachers who teach them.
We invest in the health clinics in rural and remote areas, to bring quality healthcare to those that had none.
We invest in roads to ensure farmers and businesses can get their goods to markets and generate income. And I saw this first-hand in Malekula today.
We invest in Vanuatu’s women and girls, who we know hold the future of the country in their hands, just as much as men do.
We invest in agriculture and tourism, providing jobs and economic growth.
We invest in skills and knowledge, to equip Vanuatu with the tools it needs to succeed. And we invest in Vanuatu’s ability to protect its marine resources, and to police its streets.
I use the word invest quite deliberately. In the business world, individuals invest in businesses that they believe will grow, that will generate profit and bring them good fortune.
Our investments are no different.
We too invest in what we believe will grow, in what we believe will generate returns. And we hope the good fortune we generate will flow directly to our friends and neighbours, to their children and to their future.
Strong economies, stable and measured governance, healthy and well educated populations are the key to peace and prosperity. And there is nothing more important to Australia than peace and prosperity in its immediate region.
Can I conclude by reaffirming Australia’s commitment to Vanuatu. Most especially to its development and economic growth after Cyclone Pam.
Australia will stand with Vanuatu to ensure our common goal of a stable, secure and prosperous Vanuatu is achieved.
Can I thank you once again for joining us this evening and
most especially to you Prime Minister and your Ministers for honouring us with your presence.
I hope you have an enjoyable evening.
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