Well Australia’s Minister for the Pacific and International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the two countries have agreed that Australia will explore options with the possibility of a study being carried out as well. I spoke with her a short time ago about the internet cable and Australia’s promise, but first began by talking about security issues.
We saw this week the Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai in Canberra meeting with his counterpart Malcolm Turnbull and other high level officials including yourself I believe. Amongst some of the things announced was the fact that Australia and Vanuatu will be commencing negotiations on a bilateral security treaty and also that Australia will be helping Vanuatu develop its very own and very first National Security Strategy. Can you tell us what these two large announcements actually entail?
Well, thank you Catherine, our bilateral security treaty will be on those common security interests such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime surveillance, border security, police and defence cooperation. Also we’ve been asked to provide some technical assistance to support Vanuatu to develop its first national security strategy and this will basically support a stable, sustainable and prosperous Vanuatu. In line, of course, with its own national sustainable development plan because let’s not forget that whatever we do with Pacific countries is of a bilateral nature, but is also in alignment with their own development plan and development prospects.
You mentioned there the fact that this will incorporate also police and defence cooperation. Now after this was announced earlier this week some observers have already linked these treaty negotiations with the issues around China, of course it had been reported earlier this year that China was interested in building a Military Base in Vanuatu, was that issue part of the reason for Australia and Vanuatu to be looking at developing this treaty?
Look, we’ve agreed to enhance police cooperation, this is actually quite common. These new MOUs provide basically umbrella arrangements covering often existing areas of security cooperation, as I said, with these countries on maritime surveillance, police, border and legal capacity building as well as new engagements often on identity, border and health security. And so this is the sort of thing that we are now going to do and as I said basically it’s strengthening security between Australia and different countries.
Other aspects of the meetings between Australian and Vanuatu officials, I wonder if I could ask about where things stand with an undersea internet cable. Pacific Beat broke the news last week that Vanuatu was also keen to discuss and bring to the table that issue because of course Solomons and Papua New Guinea are getting a cable that’s going to be funded primarily by the Australian Government. Vanuatu already has one, but it also has a private company that it has, that the Vanuatu government has shares in. It’s building one to Solomon Islands as well. The Vanuatu Infrastructure Minister in the lead up to their trip to Australia told me that he’d be looking for Australian assistance can you confirm that Australia has committed to anything there?
As you correctly indicated Vanuatu already has an undersea cable, but as a flexible and responsive donor Australia is willing to explore options for support to Vanuatu’s telecommunications sector and this could include potentially undertaking a study of Vanuatu’s telecommunications sector and a needs analysis of what their requirements are.
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