The Australian Prime Minister’s historic and first official visit to Vanuatu has reinforced the importance of this relationship for both countries, following on from the Prime Minister of Vanuatu’s official visit to Australia in June last year.
Australian PM Scott Morrison and his counterpart, Charlot Salwai have yesterday reaffirmed the strong, enduring and multifaceted relationship between the two countries.
In a joint press statement, the two Prime Ministers said that this relationship is based on common values, shared aspirations, respect and friendship, and their shared interest in the peace and prosperity of their home, the Pacific.
“We work together to support economic and human development, national security and regional stability, climate and disaster resilience and response and other areas important to our relationship and our region,” they stated.
“Today (Wednesday) we have undertaken to build on these firm foundations.
“The links between people, communities, educators and students, sporting groups and churches in Australia and Vanuatu are longstanding and extensive. They are the ties that bind us. We want to build on those links and make them stronger.”
According to the press statement, PM Scott Morrison said that due to the strong partnership Australia is committed to helping Vanuatu achieve its national development goals, including in education and skills development in urban and rural areas to create jobs and economic growth, build climate resilient infrastructure, support responsive and capable institutions to deliver services.
“We are increasing labor mobility opportunities that will deliver dividends for Vanuatu workers and Australian businesses, Vanuatu already has the highest participation rate in the Pacific under the Seasonal Workers Program and will benefit from the new Pacific Labor Scheme,” he said.
“We will work together to improve selection and preparation of new entrants, enhance links with Australian businesses and employers and maximize skills development opportunities.
“We are pleased to welcome the first twelve in-Vanuatu workers under the new scheme to Australia in December 2018.”
The Australian PM announced that Australia will provide more high quality major infrastructure and economic investments together with Vanuatu.
“We have officially opened the Lini Highway upgrade and completed the Port Vila Urban Development Project, this $39 million investment has transformed Port Vila’s road and drainage network and provides public amenities such as walking paths, public restrooms and laundry facilities,” Mr Morrison said.
“The new $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) announced in November 2018, will also provide substantial new sustainable infrastructure investment opportunities.
“This initiative will offer grant funding and long-term loans to support high priority infrastructure development in telecommunications, energy, transport and water.”
Australia confirmed continued support for the reform and revitalization of Vanuatu’s national television and radio broadcaster, the Vanuatu Broadcast and Telecommunications Corporation (VBTC).
Morrison stated that passion for sports is a strong bond between Vanuatu and Australia so the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program provides a framework to develop sports cooperation and as part of the program, Australia will bring the Young Matildas to the Pacific in the second half of 2019.
“This will be the first Australian national football team tour of the Pacific since 2006,” he said.
The press statement reported that Australia will continue to support Vanuatu in its development efforts in building its resilience and response to and recovery from natural disasters.
“Australia’s $50 million investment in TC Pam recovery and reconstruction has helped to rebuild community infrastructure and revitalize Vanuatu’s economy.”
Mr Morrison was quoted saying that Vanuatu currently faces challenges from volcanic activity on Ambae and Ambrym and in the face of these events, Australia always stands ready to assist its Pacific family.
“Australia has provided $5.5 million to assist people affected and will also provide support to refurbish Port Vila Central Market House that was damaged during TC Pam,” he said.
Mr Morrison reiterated that Australia will continue to deepen their security partnership with Vanuatu and they are working together to build police capability, improve infrastructure and officially opened the upgraded Police College yesterday afternoon.
“We are also upgrading infrastructure for the Vanuatu Mobile Force and Police Maritime Wing, and will support training and leadership opportunities,” he said.
“In addition to this, Australia will support Vanuatu government to build a new police station on Malekula, we continue to cooperatively to advance a bilateral security treaty and guided by Boe Declaration on regional security, we will also work together to address the Pacific’s unique security interests including transnational crime, human, environmental and cyber security.”
Vanuatu will receive a replacement Guardian-class patrol boat under the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP), PMSP is a $2 billion (over 30 years) program which consists of replacement Guardian-class boats, integrated aerial surveillance and enhancements to regional cooperation.
“Australia congratulates Vanuatu on its hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2020. The PIF is a key multilateral forum for our region and an opportunity for Pacific Island Countries to engage in dialogue on critical issues facing our culture,” Mr Morrison said.
PM Salwai has acknowledged Mr Morrison for accepting the invitation to Vanuatu and said that the visit was not only a historic event but it has deepened Vanuatu’s relationship with Australia.
Both PMs conveyed how greatly they value the partnership between the two countries.
“We will work together to support a Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically.”
The Australian Prime Minister is on a two-day tour to Vanuatu and has paid a visit to the Head of State, President Obed Moses Tallis, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Police College.