Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare and the Minister for Police, National Security and Correctional Services, Hon Stanley Sofu yesterday held bilateral discussions with the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands, Hon Concetta Ferriavante-Wells on various issues of bilateral interest between Solomon Islands and Australia.
The dialogue held at the margins of the 8th Australia-Solomon Islands Business Forum covered a proposed visit by Hon Concetta to Solomon Islands, the drawdown of the RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) including a proposed policing framework for the post-RAMSI era, Solomon Islands cruise tourism potential, Australia’s continued support for Solomon Islands including the advancement of women, Australia’s Seasonal Workers’ Scheme programme for Solomon Islands, sports development and the outcome of the recent Australian election results.
The meeting was the first official engagement of the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands since the Turnbull Government recent re-elected to power and also her first official engagement with any foreign dignitaries.
The Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands told Prime Minister Sogavare and Minister Sofu of her keenness to visit Solomon Islands soon and the Solomon Islands leaders expressed their delight over the significance Hon Concetta places on Australia’s relations with Solomon Islands as reflected by eagerness for a Solomon Islands visit soon after taking office.
The parties then expressed their desire to finalise discussions on a Memorandum of Understanding on a policing arrangement between Solomon Islands and Australia for the post-RAMSI era when the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands visits Solomon Islands.
Also on the issue of RAMSI drawdown, Prime Minister Sogavare stated that the DCC Government is committed and will provide Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services adequate budgetary resources to take on the bulk of policing cost currently funded by Australia through RAMSI to ensure the sustainability of ongoing policing operations and programmes.
On the issue of Australia’s Seasonal Workers Scheme programme for Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Sogavare acknowledged Australia’s commitment to the Seasonal Worker Programme, and advances that has been made to make the programme effective. He expressed the desire to see Solomon Islands increased participation in the Horticulture sector, and also for the expansion of Solomon Islands workers’ engagement to other sectors such as livestock, poultry, dairy farming and tourism.
He said the contribution made to the Solomon Islands national economy through Australia’s Seasonal Workers’ Scheme has been significant and the Solomon Islands Government would like to see this contribution enhanced.
The Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands in turn acknowledged the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Sogavare and assured that the Australian Government is committed to the Seasonal Workers Programme and its success. Minister Ferriavanti-Wells also indicated plans to include Age-care as a part of the Labour Mobility programme.
On the issue cruise ship tourism potential of Solomon Islands, the Australian Minister for International Development who is the Member of Parliament for the Wollongong area, which is one of the busiest ports in Australia, said she plans to encourage more cruise ships to visit Solomon Islands in an effort to support its tourism industry.
She stated that the Australian Government is supporting the Solomon Islands Hydrographic Division to produce hydrographic maps to enable more cruise ships travelling to other places in Solomon Islands, apart from Honiara.
As to Australia’s continued support for Solomon Islands including the advancement of women, Prime Minister Sogavare and Minister Sofu expressed the Solomon Islands Government’s appreciation to Hon Concetta for the significant role that Australia continues to play towards the development of Solomon Islands. In particular, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude in response to the announcement made by Minister Ferriavanti-Wells on Australia’s commitment of SBD$2.3-million for the advancement and empowerment of women in Solomon Islands. There was a shared recognition of the importance of the role of women and the contributions women are likely to play in economic growth, if given greater opportunities.
Both Prime Minister and Minister touched briefly on both countries’ shared passion for sports and possible opportunities that could be explored for the development of sports in the future. The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to inform Hon Ferriavante-Wells of Solomon Islands successful winning of bid to host the South Pacific Games in 2023.
They also welcomed the recent Australian election results which saw the re-election of the Hon Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister and expressed the anticipation of the Solomon Islands Government to working with the Turnbull Government in addressing issues of interest between Solomon Islands and Australia and taking their bilateral relations to new heights.
The Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Islands acknowledged these sentiments and assured the two Solomon Islands leaders of Australia’s unwavering commitment to see Solomon Islands progress in its development endeavour.
The meeting was also attended by the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, His Excellency Andrew Byrne and Acting Solomon Islands High Commissioner to Australia, Ms Fiona Indu.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sogavare and his delegation will travel on to the capital of the Republic of China on Taiwan, Taipei, later tonight.