CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Thank you. Can I just say, it’s really good to be here with you, Minister, to sign this. Australia is, of course - the Solomon Islands is our third largest aid commitment and, of course, we are the largest donor here. But as it's been said, what we really want to say as part of this and demonstrate as part of this Partnership Agreement is that there is, of course, a security component here, but our relationship goes far beyond the security component. It’s about economic growth, it’s about bringing stability, it’s about bringing governance, it’s about a whole range of things; and can I commend the Government of the Solomon Islands. We are... This Agreement reflects the national development strategy of the objectives of the strategy of the Solomon Islands, as well as Australia’s priorities. So this is mutual priorities in this Agreement, and it contains responsibilities for both the Government of the Solomon Islands and the Government of Australia. So we are very, very pleased to be signing this Agreement today, and I am very, very pleased to be once again here in the Solomon Islands, Minister.

DANNY PHILIP: 

Thank you Minister, and I would also like to respond to that. It’s an honour for me to be here with you today, to put my signature on today’s Aid Partnership Program that will continue in the next three years. And I think this week we have been having a few celebrations - not [for] the ending of RAMSI, but the achievements that RAMSI has brought to Solomon Islands. It’s very interesting and happening to know that our little children, our younger generations, are enjoying the celebrations this week and I think that the presence of our various government representatives of small island states in the Pacific – it is so happy. I think what a time to sign it, an Aid Partnership Agreement. It is symbolic - it symbolises a continuity of our relationship in the post-RAMSI period, so I would like to express how sincere we are as the representatives of the Government on behalf of our people to engage with Australia, our single-largest donor in this country. For - selfishly, we are really happy about that! And so, I’d just like to say on behalf of the Government that I represent, and many people out there in the provinces who might very much like to be part of these celebrations. Obviously, it is difficult because they are not here with us, but it does almost more than anything that we have this continuous relationship between our two countries.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Thank you. We are happy to take some questions.

QUESTION: 

Can you put a figure to this partnership?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Okay, the partnership goes for three years, in order to rely on the partnership over three years to align with the strategy of this Solomon Islands Government. In 2017-18, the commitment from Australia for aid is $142 million and so it’s roughly about $140 million or thereabouts of aid. So it’s a three-year partnership, and it sets out actually, as I’ve indicated, in quite detail, the responsibilities of both the Governments in relation to our aid partnership. 

QUESTION:

That’s Australian dollars?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Australia dollars, yes.

DANNY PHILIP:

I would just like to add, that I’m very much in line with the NDS – the National Development Strategy – more specifically, the MTDPs – the Medium Term Development Plans.  So it is a well-structured program.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

And can I also add to that, there is a focus - particularly it’s about promoting, obviously, security and stability and economic growth, and health and education. So quite a portion of our partnership will be focussed on the rural areas, particularly in health and education. And so it’s important to ensure that it’s across the board, and Minister and I had a discussion before the signing where we did look at some of the detail, and it’s really important, particularly after the events of recent years, to ensure that as we assist the Solomon Islands to increase its economic prosperity, that that prosperity is shared across the Solomon Islands, and not necessarily just in Honiara, or in the cities. 

QUESTION:

How does security come into that?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELL:

Well, there’s certainly the component - there is a security component. And as part of that, we will continue to provide post-RAMSI support. We do have about 44 AFP officers that will remain in the Solomon Islands, and they will be involved in mentoring, in training, and in an ongoing role - and they will be unarmed. Australia and Solomon Islands will shortly sign a bilateral security treaty, which can be invoked by the Government of the Solomon Islands for their - and the treaty will set up the parameters of evoking that. But, again, it will be done at the request of the Government of the Solomon Islands and, of course, we are very - as we have been in the past - respectful and want to remain very respectful of the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands. But this is a very good way that we can continue our relationship, and I have to say, is a very good model. This morning at the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Discussion, a lot was said about the success of RAMSI. But a lot has to be said about the success and the potential model that RAMSI can offer in terms of broader regional cooperation and broader regional security. And certainly from Australia’s perspective, as Prime Minister Turnbull indicated, that we are looking at stepping up our engagement in the Pacific, and regional cooperation and regional security is fundamental to that. And I think that in RAMSI, we have seen a very good model: a model that has been not only welcomed by the Pacific countries, it has been successful because it was a regional contribution. But we’ve learnt a lot of lessons and what is very clear from - and we will see this more in the post-RAMSI phase - is the benefits that have actually come to the police forces of our region. That’s really where I think the broader advantages of being of RAMSI... Yes, the direct benefit to the people of the Solomon Islands, but there is a broader Pacific advantage that’s come and we’re very, very pleased to see that professionalism that’s come to the police forces of the Pacific as a consequence of their involvement in this - or added professionalism, I must say.

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