The Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon. Peter Shanel Agovaka held a fruitful bilateral meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence for Australia, Hon. Richard Marles on Wednesday 28 June 2023.
During the meeting, the Supervising Foreign Minister, Hon. Agovaka acknowledge the cordial bilateral relations with Australia and for the assistance provided to Solomon Islands over the years. Among the issues discussed include, Security, Development, Trade and People to People relations.
On security, Minister Agovaka acknowledge Australia’s support through the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force (SIAF) following the November 2021 riots and the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF). He informed the Deputy Prime Minister that security during the Pacific Games in November – December this year and the National General Elections next year (2024) is critical. Minister Agovaka reiterate that Australia’s support under SIAF and its ongoing assistance to build the capacity and capability of the RSIPF is important to ensure people can watch and participate in the two events without any fear and are safe.
Minister Agovaka also raised the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States and expressed concerns on the potential leakage of nuclear waste from the nuclear submarines into the ocean and stress the importance of the Treaty of Rarotonga of which Solomon Islands align its position on.
On infrastructure development, Minister Agovaka acknowledge with gratitude the support provided by Australia to upgrade the Taro and Seghe domestic airports. The project is co-finance by Australia, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands government.
Minister Agovaka reiterated that such transformational and game changing projects is important for Solomon Islands because it supports inter-island connectivity, tourism and trade. He also mentioned the need to upgrade the Lata hospital in the Temotu Province to serve the people in the eastern part of the country who face tremendous challenge due to distance when it comes to medical needs.
On trade and labour mobility, Minister Agovaka acknowledge the opportunity provided by Australia through the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme to enable Solomon Islanders to work in various farms, factories and hospice in Australia. Currently there are 5,500 Solomon Islanders working in Australia under the PALM scheme. The scheme is beneficial for Solomon Islands as it provides job opportunities for the large youth bulge who have challenge in getting employment in the country.
Minister Agovaka informed that Solomon Islands is aiming to increase its numbers in the coming years. An area that is worth considering is to provide training for the seasonal workers to assist them to establish their own business when they complete their contract and return home.
On People to People relations, Minister Agovaka raised the issue reciprocal visa waivers for Solomon Islands. This is not a new issue as it has been raised over the years.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Richard Marles was pleased to meet with the Supervising Foreign Minister and assured Australia’s ongoing support to Solomon Islands.
The bilateral meeting concluded with both Ministers reaffirm the close bilateral relations of both countries and reiterate their willingness to work together on areas of mutual interests and benefits.
–MFAET PRESS RELEASE