Interview with Randy Ronny, Eco Paradise FM, Palau

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Flight from Brisbane to Koror, Palau-Australia relationship, Blue Dot Network and quality infrastructure, Japanese release of treated wastewater from Fukushima, signing of an MOU between EcoParadise FM and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Randy Ronny, Eco Paradise FM: A good G'day to Minister the Honourable Pat Conroy. Thank you for joining us, we're happy to have you here.

Minister for International for Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy: G'day back to you. How are you?

Ronny: I'm good, yeah. We're so excited and how was the trip over to Palau? How was the flight?

Conroy: It was very smooth. I was on the Brisbane to Palau Air New Guinea flight and it was great. It was really good and importantly there were a few tourists on the plane, so it was good. A few representatives from other Pacific nations going to a conference here for the Reserve Bank. So really good to see that connection happening and growing.

Ronny: Alright, that's great. So you are the Minister for International Development and the Pacific. So could you just kind of describe to us what you - or what the current relationship is between Palau and Australia?

Conroy: Well, I think that the current relationship between Palau and Australia is strong and it's only getting stronger. I think we've had an Ambassador on the ground since 2019. We've had diplomatic relations for 29 years, but an Ambassador permanently based here since 2019 and with President Whipps Jr this morning I toured the new embassy that has been opened for a few months so that the people of Palau and visiting Australians can come and visit.

I think our relationship is strong and we're working together on very many shared interests, whether it's protecting the Pacific from illegal fishing or fighting the scourge of climate change, or dealing with issues of commonality, I think the relationship is really strong and only getting deeper.

Ronny: Great. We're also here with one of our prestigious reporters from Palau, Tia Belau, you might have questions as well for you.

Reporter Tia Belau: Thank you, Randy. Thank you, Minister, for this opportunity to be able to ask you some of these questions.

So my first question to you is last week Palau and the United States held their first annual bilateral economic consultation meeting, which is required under the compact of the association, the relationship between Palau and the United States, and at the meeting Palau expressed interest in joining the Blue Dot Network for infrastructure certification. It's my understanding that Australia is part of the program and very supportive of the program, as well as Japan and other countries. So what do you think - so since Palau has expressed interest in joining the network, what do you think about Palau being a part of the Blue Dot Network?

Conroy: Well, Palau's already participating as part - there's a pilot project looking at the Palau cable 2 project. The Blue Dot Network is all about making sure that we've got the highest quality infrastructure in the Pacific. Too often, unfortunately, development partners haven't worked effectively with governments to make sure that we've got the best infrastructure, infrastructure that is built to survive climates, whether it's typhoons up here or cyclones below the equator. And involves skills transfer, involves appropriate use of local labour.

So the Blue Dot Network is about having a certification of the highest quality infrastructure and a pilot project is right now happening with Palau and I'd be keen to see Palau even more involved. We've partnered on some really good infrastructure, including the Palau solar project, which I will be visiting with President Whipps shortly, and we'll be cutting the ribbon on the spur for the cable project a bit later today. So I think there's great opportunities for us to work together on infrastructure, to really increase economic growth and development in Palau.

Belau: Thank you, Minister. Now my next question is this is also a very - it's a dominating issue in the region as well as locally, and last week Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr was in Japan, and in Japan he voiced his support of Japan's plan to release over 1 million tonnes of treated water from the nuclear plant, from Fukushima, into the Pacific Ocean. So there is still a lot of Pacific island countries as well as civil society organisations opposed to the plan. So I would like to get your thoughts or your position on this matter.

Conroy: Well, Australia's position is quite common or consistent with a lot of Pacific countries which is any release of water has to be guided by the best scientific principles and research and that's why we were really happy that Japan requested that the International Atomic Energy Agency come in and be part of the process and oversee it and they've stood up a team and they're providing scientific oversight. And it's really important also that Japan consults with Pacific countries about this and they're doing that as well.

So overall, Australia's position is as long as the best scientific principles are being followed, we're broadly comfortable with what's happening, and we've seen a level of consultation from Japan that quite frankly other countries don't do. And hence the visit by President Whipps Jr was very important last week.

Belau: Thank you so much, Minister.

Ronny: Well, you kind of mentioned a little bit about Palau and Australia's relationship being strong. Lastly, how would you develop that relationship? How would we continue to strengthen that relationship between Australia, and I know Palau supports Australia in a lot of things, some controversial, but how do you think we can develop that relationship?

Conroy: Well, we're both proud members of the Pacific family. We both play, I hope it's perceived as good, positive roles in the Pacific Island Forum and the Government of Palau has been really instrumental in supporting unity in the Pacific, implementing, and driving the Suva Agreement. And I think we can work closely together to improve infrastructure in Palau, to look at economic diversification, to improve tourism links, and improve connectivity.

If you think about two projects that I've been involved in in the last few days, I flew up on the Brisbane to Palau connector, which the Government of Australia is supporting to improve aviation connection between the two countries, and I'm helping cut the ribbon with President Whipps on the Palau spur cable to improve your data connections with the rest of the world. They're two ways that we can work together to improve connectivity. And both being strong voices in the Pacific Islands Forum and both arguing consistently for an open, prosperous, and stable Pacific, that is master of its own destiny. The Pacific Island Forum leaders resolved last year that Pacific security should be driven by members of the Pacific family and that's certainly something that we're very keen to work on together.

Ronny: Alright. Thank you so much, Minister, for joining us for this short interview. When we come back, we're going to be going into the signing ceremony between Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Eco Paradise FM. So, thank you, guys for joining us and don't go anywhere just yet. We'll be right back.

Ronny: Okay. I would like to ask our Director, the Director of Bureau of Archives and Media, Ms Linda Ngirameketii, to give us opening remarks.

Linda Ngirameketii: Good afternoon, Minister Pat Conroy and everyone. I am happy to welcome you to Eco Paradise FM Ngerel Belau and to stand before you today to commemorate this very important moment in media collaboration. Today we are here to celebrate the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Eco Paradise FM Ngerel Belau and Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In today's world, the media plays an important role in shaping opinions, disseminating information, and building bridges across nations. The partnership between EPFM and ABC carries the promise of strengthening the media between both Palau and Australia and by joining hands we continue on a journey that will amplify our voices, enhance our storytelling, and promote an exchange of ideas. And so, I congratulate Eco Paradise FM Ngerel Belau and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on this new partnership that will be testament to the power of media collaboration. May it bring us closer to greater connectivity, greater understanding, and harmony, thank you.

Ronny: Alright, at this time, I'd like to ask the Minister of International Development and Minister for Defence Industry, Honourable Pat Conroy, who is going to be our witness today, to please give us some short remarks.

Conroy: Thank you, Ronny, and it's a real pleasure to be here to witness the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding between Eco Paradise FM and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is all about working together to do a couple of things. One, work on creative projects together and, secondly, provide more content that projects Pacific voices into the Pacific. It's really important that the people of the Pacific hear stories about themselves and that are relevant to their experiences, and this agreement is all part of that and it's all part of bringing the people of Palau and Australia together. So it's a real pleasure to be witnessing the signature today.

Ronny: Alright. So with that said, ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to have our Minister and our Director please go ahead with the signing. This MOU has already been signed by the ABC representatives in Australia and right now this is the last part of the signing ceremony where the Minister of State, Honourable Gustav Aitaro, and the Director of the Bureau of Archives and Media, Ms Linda Ngirameketii, will be signing to close off the MOU.

Gustav Aitaro: Thank you. Thank you very much, Honourable Minister Pat Conroy. Thank you for gracing this building and our staff and our program with your presence and your team. Welcome to Palau. As you mentioned, and also was referred to by Director Linda, this is an opportunity to make connectivity more closer to Palau and Australia. You know, the projects and programs are very much - we look forward to them. As you mentioned, not only with the terms of security but more culture, more people-to-people connection and, you know, I referred to the ABC not as, of course, it's the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but now it should be called Australia-Belau Connection.

So with that, I would like to thank you, Honourable Minister Conroy, for coming to visit us in Palau and to be the first person to actually connect us to ABC. Thank you, Director Linda, Ronny, and also the EPFM team. They've worked hard for this and especially Richelle Turner, your ambassador. She has been very instrumental in connecting this partnership and cooperating between us and Australia. So, again, thank you very much. Thank you.

Ronny: Okay. So with that said and with our MOU signed, right now it's time to initiate this connectivity with the first program from ABC that is being - that is going to be played right now which is called Stories from the Pacific. So just an FYI on Stories from the Pacific, it features a lot of different issues, a lot of things that interest us here in the Pacific. So with that said, I'd like to ask the ministers to please do the honour in pulling that lever and initiating the first program to be played here in EPFM, Eco Paradise, from ABC. Okay, in 3, 2, 1.

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