Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met today in Honiara to celebrate Australia and Solomon Islands’ partnership as ‘true wantoks’.
As two proud sovereign nations in the Pacific family, Australia and Solomon Islands enjoy a close friendship and a shared history that was further strengthened by our partnership in the 14-year Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). As Solomon Islands celebrates the success of its first democratic election since RAMSI, Australia stands proudly as a partner and a friend.
Consistent with the Australian Government’s enhanced Pacific engagement, Australia and Solomon Islands will continue to work closely together to boost our engagement by strengthening community bonds and tackling common challenges.
We will work together to enhance economic growth and development in Solomon Islands. Australia will establish a bilateral infrastructure program, worth up to A$250 million in grant financing over 10 years. The program will support key national and economic infrastructure and will complement the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
Australia will partner with Solomon Islands to commission a scoping and cost-benefit assessment of the national transport core (NTC) initiative, which would connect 74 per cent of the population and 37 constituencies in its first 10-year phase and ultimately link all 50 constituencies and 100 per cent of the population by 2035. Australia will also support the build of a new Prime Minister’s Office/Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade complex. Australia will work on an initial design for a new, modern building to meet Solomon Islands vision of a transformed Honiara CBD.
Solomon Islands recognised the crucial importance to the country’s economic future of sound management of its mineral wealth, and to that end committed to enacting reforms that will ensure global best practice in the governance and regulation of the mining sector.
Working together to enhance opportunities for labour mobility delivers benefits for both Australia and Solomon Islands. Labour mobility helps fill labour shortages in rural and regional Australia while helping Pacific workers develop valuable skills and take up work opportunities. To ensure that the opportunity to work in Australia is available to all Solomon Islanders – including those in remote provinces and rural areas – Australia will provide A$2.7 million over three years to deliver additional support for recruitment and mobilisation of Solomon Islands workers to Australia.
We agreed on the importance of holding commercial operators to account for the oil spill caused by the wreck of the bauxite mining ship MV Solomon Trader in Rennell in February. We will raise the lessons learned from this near miss at the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting, to start discussions to progress reform in both shipping practices and mining governance in Solomon Islands and the Pacific.
In line with our bilateral security treaty, we commit to deeper cooperation on defence and security. Australia is providing technical assistance to help Solomon Islands develop a border security strategy, which will be used to inform possible future collaboration in this area. Australia is also pleased to provide infrastructure and communications upgrades to existing police outposts in the western border region. This support will be provided in accordance with the Solomon Islands’ three-phased approach to strengthening surveillance, response capability and protection of the country’s western border.
The links between our communities, including our religious, sporting and cultural institutions, are the crucial, enduring ties that bind us to each other. Australia is pleased to announce additional funding of A$260,000 for the ‘Get into Rugby’ Plus Program, which will initiate a women’s/girls’ Rugby 7s competition and develop highly trained coaches who can facilitate equal participation of boys and girls in rugby.
Australia will also assist Solomon Islands to develop its elite athletes through supporting elite sports training in Australia, as well as strengthening in-country capability to provide such training for a select number of Solomon Islands’ athletes to prepare for the 2023 Solomon Islands Pacific Games and the refurbishment of classrooms to help accommodate athletes and officials in 2023.
As part of the Pacific Churches Partnership initiative, we are pleased to announce that Australia will work with Solomon Islands churches across denominations to strengthen ecumenical exchanges with Australian church partners.
Recognising the importance of education, today Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand launched the Extraordinary Learning Resources Project at the Bishop Epalle Catholic School. The project is the most ambitious book distribution project ever undertaken in Solomon Islands, and will distribute over 580,000 books to boys and girls across the country.
Australia will continue its investments in the health sector and will work with other partners to support Solomon Islands in its endeavour to eliminate malaria by 2030 and to halt and reverse the non-communicable disease crisis in the country by 2030. Solomon Islands confirmed its commitment to maintain government investments in health, education, including by meeting agreed national recurrent budget allocations.
Together we will continue to exchange views, discuss our mutual priorities and monitor progress and implementation through regular high-level consultations between our two countries.
Through these initiatives and more, Australia and Solomon Islands will build on our strong relationship, and work together to make the Pacific region secure, prosperous, and stable.