Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs, the Hon Richard Marles MP, has completed his first tour to the Pacific region, visiting Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, New Caledonia and New Zealand from 5-12 October 2010.
The trip was Mr Marles first as Parliamentary Secretary, reinforcing the closeness and depth of Australia’s bilateral partnerships as well as Australia’s strong role in helping to build regional stability, sustainable development and better lives for the region’s people.
Mr Marles said 'my visit was very warmly welcomed and was seen as a statement of the high priority that the Gillard Government gives to the region and its firm commitment to strengthening further Australia’s engagement, both at a governmental level and through people-to-people links'.
'There is much goodwill in the region towards Australia, and appreciation of Australia’s role as as a close neighbour and friend'.
Mr Marles' meetings in Papua New Guinea with Prime Minister Somare and a range of Ministers reaffirmed a shared commitment to take the bilateral relationship to a new level, that is not defined by aid.
'The joint Australia-PNG response to the review of the Development Cooperation Treaty provides an opportunity to re-shape our relationship and deliver better development outcomes from the aid program.
'Australia will continue to work with the PNG Government to realise the enormous potential of the PNG LNG project to transform the PNG economy and people’s living standards' Mr Marles said.
In Solomon Islands, Mr Marles confirmed Australia’s commitment to help the new Solomon Islands Government address the country’s economic and development challenges.
His discussions reaffirmed the high regard in Solomon Islands for the role that the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands has played in restoring security and building a stable foundation for the country.
In Vanuatu, current Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), Mr Marles talked with Prime Minister Natapei and Foreign Minister Natuman about working together to implement the Forum’s agenda in the year ahead.
Mr Marles said 'Australia’s development partnership with Vanuatu is a model of the excellent outcomes that can be achieved when there is strong commitment and sound governance by the partner country'.
Mr Marles' visit to Samoa soon after the first anniversary of the devastating tsunami allowed him to see the outstanding progress made by the Samoan Government and people in recovering from the disaster.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa expressed Samoa’s gratitude for Australia’s emergency response to the tsunami and continuing contribution to the rebuilding efforts.
Australia values Samoa’s strong record as a responsible and effective development partner.
In New Caledonia, Mr Marles reaffirmed Australia’s support for New Caledonia’s full memership of the PIF.
Mr Marles said 'I am impressed by the determination and efforts of all parties in implementing the Noumea Accord and working towards an outcome that will deliver a positive future for all the people of New Caledonia'.
The vital importance of close cooperation between Australia and New Zealand in the region was evident throughout the visit.
In his meetings in New Zealand, including with Foreign Minister McCully, Mr Marles underlined the Gillard Government’s continued commitment to working seamlessly with New Zealand to help achieve the outcomes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands countries want for the region and its people.
- Parliamentary Secretary's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- Departmental Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555