Press conference, Lautoka, Fiji

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: MOU on port infrastructure and services, MOU on cyber security cooperation, $100 million Pacific aviation partnership

Speaker: Bula Vinaka, Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Pat Conroy, Excellency, [indistinct], ladies and gentlemen. Bula Vinaka also to those who are watching the live stream on the Fiji government Facebook page.

There will be two MOU signings today and a grants agreement signing as well. The Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Conroy will make some brief remarks before we will then have a press conference.

So, without further ado, Sirs, we shall proceed to the signing. And the first one will be the Memorandum of Understanding on Port Infrastructure and Services by the Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Conroy. And also signing the grants agreement at the same time for the Lautoka Port master plan, the Chairperson of Fiji Ports Corporation Limited, Mr Pita Wise, also [indistinct] Office of the Prime Minister, and the Australian High Commissioner for the Republic of Fiji and Special Envoy for the Pacific and Regional Affairs, His Excellency Ewen McDonald.

Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka: Talk first and then sign, or sign first then talk?

Speaker: Sign first then talk, thank you, Sir.

Prime Minister Rabuka: Thank you very much.

Speaker: Now on to the second signing, which will be on the Memorandum of Understanding on Cyber Security Cooperation, the Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Conroy.

We shall now call on the Honourable Prime Minister Honourable Sitiveni Rabuka to deliver his remarks, Sir.

Prime Minister Rabuka: [Indistinct], Honourable Pat Conroy, Minister for International Development and Pacific and Minister for Defence Industry, distinguished guests and your colleagues from Australia, Excellency, Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon.

Six months ago, I was in Australia on the invitation of the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Albanese, and a guest of the Australian government. During my visit we signed a renewed and elevated Vuvale Partnership, which articulated our desire to lift our bilateral relations to greater heights. Today marks a significant milestone in those relations.

I'm pleased to welcome Minister Pat Conroy and his delegation to Lautoka as we witness another milestone in our Vuvale Partnership, elevated Vuvale Partnership with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Fiji and Australia on ports infrastructure and services and the MOU on cyber security cooperation.

The MOU on Port Infrastructure and Services outlined the framework for cooperation with regard to the preparation of proposed investments into Fiji's Port Infrastructure and Services which will be managed by the Fiji Ports Corporation Limited FPCL. Australia's commitment to assist in the development of Fiji's ports is an important component of the revitalisation of Fiji shipbuilding industry.

I also acknowledge the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific – AIFFP – in providing grant financing to the Fiji government and the Fiji Ports Corporation Limited.

One of my government's priorities is to revive Fiji's shipbuilding industry. This MOU is an important step to achieving that. As a partner and neighbour, friend and member of the Vuvale, Australia has stepped in to grant Fiji the necessary support as we work on delivering the government priority. Packed into this MOU is the potential for increased job opportunities, development of specialised skill sets and the stimulation of investments and economic activities. The impact of this Australian investment in the region will be much wider and deeper.

Raising the standard of Fiji's port facilities will increase our ability to meet local and regional demand. As a hub, it means the corresponding improvement of services to the wider Pacific region.

The MOU on cyber security cooperation, the MOU aims to build on and provide a framework for cooperation on existing cyber security and critical technologies amongst various cybersecurity-related agencies. The MOU essentially highlights our cooperation in the identification and protection of critical infrastructure and critical information.

Fiji and Australia cooperate in various holistic cyber security efforts, which are now covered under the framework of this MOU. Some of this joint effort will include the Cyber Security Services in the Pacific project – CSSP – focusing on strengthening cyber security governance and incidental risk [indistinct] frameworks.

Secondly, development of national computer emergency response, a response team the CIRT and focuses protection against detection – and response to cyber security incidents.

Fiji's entering its second Cyber Maturity Model, or CMM. The Cyber Maturity Model currently underway will inform the development of our national cyber security strategy.

The signing of this MOU today strengthens our existing collaboration efforts and works towards our objective to build and maintain a Pacific region that is peaceful, that is prosperous and resilient.

Today marks another milestone in our partnership and is testament to the maturity of our Vuvale relationship. To Australia we say vinaka vakalevu. Thank you very much.

Speaker: I will now call on the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Minister for Defence Industry, Honourable Pat Conroy, to deliver his remarks.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy: Prime Minister Rabuka, your assembled permanent secretaries, Australia's representative to Fiji Ewen McDonald, Bula Vinaka. It's a pleasure to be in Fiji, and I appreciate the privilege and honour that Prime Minister Rabuka has done me and Australia by meeting with me continuing to progress the elevated and renewed Vuvale relationship between our two great countries.

Prime Minister Rabuka's Guest of Government visit to Australia six months ago was a milestone in the relationship between our two countries. It elevated and renewed the Vuvale relationship, and today is about deepening that and building on it.

As the Prime Minister said, the memorandum of understanding between Fiji and Australia on the Port Infrastructure and Services will enable greater cooperation in Fiji's maritime sector and demonstrates Australia's commitment to working together to build Port Infrastructure and Services, including on shipbuilding and ship repair. And that's particularly of interest to me wearing both my hats as Minister for the Pacific and Minister for Defence Industry. We're both island nations where maritime is essential to our economic growth and future prosperity, so our partnership there is so important.

The second memorandum of understanding between Fiji and Australia is on cyber security cooperation and it provides a framework for cooperation to meet our shared cyber security challenges that face our region. Our region has seen a number of cyber-attacks over the last few years. It threatens both our economies, it threatens a peaceful and prosperous region, as Prime Minister Rabuka said we are aiming for.

So, this provides a framework, and the three initial activities, as detailed by the Prime Minister, are an emergency response team to deal with cyber-attacks, a focus on building the economic opportunities in Fiji, and developing – and this is incredibly important – local capability in cyber. This is something that the Fijian government has been so strong on, and we fully support building local capability.

As part of the elevated Vuvale, Australia is also investing up to $10 million for an Infrastructure Master Plan for the Colonial War Memorial Hospital, which I know is such an important facility for Fiji. And in recognition of Prime Minister Rabuka and his government's passionate support of education and advocacy for young people in Fiji, we are quadrupling the number of Australia Award Pacific Scholarships offered annually to Fijian students, and that will move from 12 in 2024 to 50 in 2025. And that will be delivered through our ongoing partnership with Fiji National University.

And also, to support Prime Minister Rabuka's vision for Fiji to be the hub for the Pacific – and he's absolutely right to identify that role as something that Fiji is providing – Australia will invest $100 million Australian –


Minister Conroy: Thank you, Prime Minister - $100 million Australian in a new five-year Australia-Pacific partnership for aviation program. This will commence later this year, which will work with Pacific countries to build a safer, more resilient and sustainable aviation sector. It will be centred on Fiji as the regional hub, and tomorrow I'll be visiting the National University to meet some of the fabulously skilled aviation technicians that are being trained there to promote safe air travel not just for Fiji but for the entire Pacific region.

We also have already provided $210 million Fijian to support a number of road and bridge projects and airport development. Importantly, this embodies the vision of the Australian government to support local economic development. So that money will lead to the employment directly of 1,500 Fijians, and I'm proud to say that 75 per cent of the contracts will go to local firms.

Prime Minister Rabuka: [Indistinct]

Minister Conroy: Thank you, Sir. It's all about giving local Fijian companies and workers the opportunity to build their country and build their skills.

And, finally, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge and congratulate Prime Minister Rabuka and the people of Fiji on the brilliant season so far by the Fiji Drua and Fijiana Drua teams. Commiserations on the result on Sunday, but to win two grand finals in a row in your first two years and then be runner-up in your third year is a tremendous achievement for the women's team. I've said previously the first rugby match my daughter watched was you thrashing the Waratahs three years ago, and it inspired her passion for rugby. And I know the continuing success of the Fijian Drua team inspires women and girls not just in Fiji but around the world.

And congratulations on the Fijian Drua team being in the top eight, and a fabulous result over the week spend. I'll say this a bit more quietly when I visit Samoa and Tonga, but a very strong result beating Moana Pasifika recently. And as a Brumbies fan, congratulations on walloping the Waratahs a few weeks ago as well.

So, thank you again for having me, Prime Minister Rabuka. Our elevated Vuvale relationship is at the heart of our relationship with Fiji. It's at the heart of our relationship with the Pacific, with the Pacific region, and we look forward to building on it in the years to come. Thank you very much.

Speaker: Thank you, Honourable Prime Minister and Honourable Conroy.

We shall now move on to the last segment of the program, which is a press conference. So, ladies and gentlemen of the press, please share and state your name and the organisation you represent and to whom you're directing your question to. And just a kind reminder, please do confine your questions to the signing ceremony that you just witnessed. Vinaka.

Prime Minister Rabuka: No questions?

Minister Conroy: Very comprehensive.

Prime Minister Rabuka: Very significant that we made this five days after Anzac Day.

Minister Conroy: Absolutely. And Prime Minister Rabuka did us the courtesy of visiting our barracks in Brisbane to inspect one of the 14 Bushmasters that we are supporting the Fijian military with for their peacekeeping duties. And the contribution of the Fijian military to peace in not just our region but the world is remarkable, from supporting the Solomon Island elections right now to peacekeeping in the Middle East. I had the pleasure of visiting the Fijian battalion that's deployed right now to the Sinai Peninsula, and it's remarkable what your military does every day.

Prime Minister Rabuka: Vinaka.

Speaker: Any questions from the local press? No? Thank you.

Prime Minister Rabuka: Thank you very much.

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