E&OE…

Thank you very, very much High Commissioner Kaloris, can I also start by adding my acknowledgement of country.

To you Prime Minister and to Mrs. Salwai, to your Ministers and to the members of your delegation can I also acknowledge Dame Meg Taylor, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, to our Australian High Commissioner in Vanuatu Jenny Da Rin and to you High Commissioner Kaloris, to the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and all the members of the Diplomatic Corps with us this evening, ladies and gentlemen.

It's a great pleasure to be with you this evening and thank you so very much for your warm welcome and your kind invitation High Commissioner.

Prime Minister, on behalf of the Australian Government, we are very, very pleased that you have come to Australia, we welcome you and your delegation here on this Guest of Government visit and we hope that you will enjoy your time here.

I have had the opportunity to visit your beautiful country twice as Minister for International Development and the Pacific and I hope that, our two island countries, they share so much in common and I hope that you will find beauty in Australia that rivals that in Vanuatu.

Can I start by saying that it was remiss of us this morning not to congratulate Vanuatu on your success at the Commonwealth Games that were held on the Gold Coast earlier this year, where Ni-Vanuatu athletes won 2 bronze medals.

Can I just say that Australia greatly values our friendship and our relationship with Vanuatu and of course the broader Pacific family.

Our relationship is a long-standing one.

And this year we celebrate 40 years of an Australian diplomatic presence in Vanuatu and I understand that Bill Fisher has been invited this evening, I'm not sure if he has joined us but he was the first High Commissioner to Vanuatu and 40 years is a long time.

But of course our defence cooperation has been 35 years in the making.

Over 40 years of diplomatic presence, we have developed a genuine friendship and a genuine partnership, a partnership that is broad and deep.

And we are are economic partners. Australia, as the Prime Minister indicated is Vanuatu's chief source of tourists, with almost 200,000 Australians visiting Vanuatu every year.

We are grateful that Vanuatu has enthusiastically participated in our Seasonal Worker Programme, with over 2000 workers located in rural and regional Australia every year.

And this visit; we have agreed to deepen our cooperation on labour mobility.

We both benefit from increased opportunities for Vanuatu workers to help fill critical labour shortages here in Australia and particularly in our rural areas, but at the same time assist with remittances toVanuatu.

Our PACER Plus trade agreement will strengthen the economic integration across the Pacific, and it will create, I believe, deeper conditions for a greater relationship between Australia and Vanuatu.

Prime Minister, can I thank you for your comments in relation to our assistance on humanitarian. We have been partners in times of natural disasters but your country is resilient and we know that it has repeatedly withstood the blows that nature has delivered to your country and your people have met with great resilience and I know that over time, our assistance and the assistance of other donors here have ensured that each time your resilience has been built to meet regrettably what will be the next natural disaster in our region. And Vanuatu being one of the most risk prone countries in the world, sure to be hit again.

We have been at your side and we will continue, Prime Minister to be at your side in times of need.

I am pleased that during your visit you have been able to visit firsthand the Australian Defence Force and see how we can help and how our defence forces have been able to assist and will continue to assist in relation to disaster relief efforts.

And we know, as part of our Defence Force Exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour, HMAS Success and HMAS Toowoomba transported humanitarian relief items to help your Government respond to the needs of your communities in the relocation from Ambae as a result of volcanic activities.

I am also pleased to report that most of Australia's Tropical Cyclone Pam recovery program is on track to be completed at the end of this year.

And on the 3rd anniversary of this devastating cyclone, the government of Vanuatu opened important social infrastructure on the island of Tanna, supported by our recovery program.

And to see primary schools, primary school classrooms, police houses, police headquarters, a new tuberculosis ward at the local hospital and also a new building for the Council of Chiefs is really very, very good.

And we wanted our support for Cyclone Pam to have a positive and longlasting impact on the lives of the ni-Vanuatu, to also upgrade their skills, to create the jobs that to benefit your local economy.

And the fact that these 26 buildings on Tanna were constructed by local contractors and local engineers demonstrates the achievement that we have both achieved.

Can I just say Prime Minister, we are security partners.

We have a common interest as do all our Pacific Island countries to ensure that we have a strong, a stable and a secure Pacific. This is the foundation for a prosperous region.

And during this visit we have agreed to commence negotiations on a bilateral security treaty.

And this security treaty will build on our existing security cooperation which spans across different areas.

We have been development partners.

We want to work with Vanuatu to develop your priorities to improve the lives of the people of Vanuatu.

Prime Minister, you have been a forceful advocate for education in your country. 

And during this visit, we have been able to highlight our long-standing support for Vanuatu's education sector.

And it is support that will continue over the years to come as we ensure that we have better outcomes for the boys and girls of Vanuatu.

And we want to see school enrolments improve, literacy and numeracy rates improve, we want to  strengthen teacher training and roll out a new curriculum.

We are going to also focus on Australia Awards scholarships for Ni-Vanautu to study both in Australia and in our region. And of course this builds on greater people to people links through our Colombo Plan.

We have volunteers that, now we have 71 Australian volunteers this year.

Can I thank all of you who have come here this evening and it's good to see so many members of the Diplomatic Corp but also those especially, as the Prime Minister has said, who have been accredited to Vanuatu.

We are keen to work with all of our international partners to improve the lives of the people of the Pacific.

And there is no region that is more important to Australia than our Pacific Region and our Pacific family.

Prime Minister, enjoy your time here in Australia, and can I, Tank yu tumas for joining us this evening (muffled)

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