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Ingruber talks of disasters, education in Australia Day address in Solomon Islands

Speech – Australian High Commission

Prime Minister, The Hon Dr Derek Sikua Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, The Hon William Haomae, Ministers, Members of Parliament, Diplomatic colleagues, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, High Commissioner’s 2010 Australia Day Address


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Prime Minister, The Hon Dr Derek Sikua Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, The Hon William Haomae Ministers, Members of Parliament, Diplomatic colleagues, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to warmly welcome you all to this Australia Day Reception.

Today is an opportunity for Australians everywhere – and for our international friends and partners – to celebrate the experiences, achievements and values that we hold dear as Australians.

It is also a time to recognise our indigenous peoples, our rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and the challenges we face in building an even more successful, tolerant and inclusive society.

Few countries in the world had less auspicious beginnings than Australia. On several occasions, settlers and convicts alike came close to starvation. But we persevered and prospered, becoming the 14th largest economy in the world; an important development partner in the Asia Pacific region; and an active and respected participant in international fora.

We have also shown ourselves to be a true friend to Solomon Islands, ready to assist you in the important task of nation building.

We have been there in times of natural disaster, including the April 2007 tsunami, the floods of February 2009, and the recent earthquakes in Western Province and flooding in Guadalcanal – just as you supported us following last year’s devastating Victorian bushfires.

I am pleased that our cooperation, both regionally and internationally continues to expand, and that our bilateral aid program has increased 50 per cent over the past two years.

In my travels throughout this country I have seen first-hand that our investment in education, health, roads, agriculture, water, sanitation, and disease prevention is making a real difference to the lives of Solomon Islanders.

Some may ask why we do so? Why do we invest some 246 million Australian dollars per annum in a country some two thousand kilometers from our shores?

The answer is simple. We do so because the Australian Government and people are genuinely committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and because a strong, secure and prosperous Solomon Islands is in our national interests – and those of Pacific region more generally.

Prime Minister Rudd’s 6 March 2008 Port Moresby Declaration, foreshadowed a new era in Australia’s cooperation with Pacific island countries, based on mutual respect, mutual responsibility and mutual commitment.

The Solomon Islands- Australia Pacific Partnership for Development signed by Prime Minister Sikua and Prime Minister Rudd on 27 January 2009 gave effect to that commitment, and provides the centerpiece and touchstone of our daily working relationship. Pleasingly, Solomon Islands’ participation, along with other Pacific Islands Forum countries, in PACER Plus negotiations offers the prospect of a radically new economic and trade relationship with Australia and New Zealand, and one that will promote economic sustainability.

2010 is of course an election year. The elections will clearly be an important test for the country, of the ability of Solomon Islanders to express their views in a free, orderly, and democratic manner.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Solomon Islanders, and my diplomatic colleagues, for the very warm reception that I have received since arriving in Honiara eight months ago.

I would also like to thank Prime Minister Derek Sikua for joining us today, for his kind Australia Day message and for his Government’s active embrace, and constructive contribution, to the excellent relationship between our two countries.

I look forward to that close bilateral relationship continuing under a future Solomon Islands Government. Ladies and gentlemen, please charge your glasses and join me in a toast to the Government and the people of Solomon Islands.


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Address by Frank Ingruber, Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands

ENDS

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