Journalist:

Probably just in relation to the Prime Minister's strong statement this morning, his reactions, if we could get your view?

Minister:

As I indicated in my speech, can I welcome the Prime Minister's indication of redoubling of efforts for cooperation between Australia and Fiji and I think that that's very good.  We really welcomed the Prime Minister's comments in relation to economic diplomacy.  I think for both our countries, that's very, very important.  I also noted the comments that the Prime Minister made in relation to recent events.  Certainly from Australia's perspective, we are watching developments and I have noted the Prime Minister's comments today.  I have nothing further to add than what I had said this morning.

Journalist:

But you did say something about freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are very important human rights?

Minister:

Well certainly, Australia, as a matter of principle, supports freedom of speech and supports freedom of assembly. 

Journalist:

Just in relation to Mr Koya, noting Fiji hasn't pulled out of PACER-Plus.  Just how important is PACER-Plus in relation to trade?

Minister:

We see PACER-Plus as being a very positive agreement and positive for Fiji.  So, during the discussions in Christchurch, and I'd like to thank Minister Koya for his constructive contribution at the PACER-Plus meeting in Christchurch, the ministers, trade ministers agreed to the legal text of PACER-Plus.  They also agreed to a timetable for market access negotiations to be lodged by the end of October and additionally, a timetable for the agreement to be signed by the end of the year.  So, Australia is happy to continue negotiations and indeed, as we said at the Pacific Island Forum, it is important that partners continue to negotiate and continue to negotiate in good faith. 

Journalist:

I just wanted to ask about Australian help for schools here, you've been up in Rakiraki recently, people are really doing it tough in Fiji, right around the country, and they still use UNICEF tents for schools.  How soon would you like to see new school classrooms going up and what category are they going to be built to because as we've had Australian government built schools built to Category 3 one year ago and they just went.  So what's the approach with rebuilding schools from Australia's perspective?

Minister:

Well during my recent visit, we went up to Ra province and to the areas that were very badly devastated.  The Australian Government is undertaking a program of rebuilding schools.  My understanding is that they will be built to Category 5 and building back better has really been a feature of what we would like to do.  The Australian Government has contributed a total of $35 million and that's a combination of not just the immediate aid that we gave in the aftermath of the cyclone including the contributions, extensive contributions of the military.  During my last visit here, the HMAS Canberra was here as well.  But that also includes building back better and I think that's very, very important because of course as part of building resilience in the Pacific, it's really important that we know that disasters are going to hit, we know there's going to be another cyclone so it's important that whatever we build back is resilient to the next cyclone.

Thank you.

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