Photo: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama met yesterday in Suva and reaffirmed the breadth and scope of the friendship between Australia and Fiji. We are natural partners, with a long history of cooperation and shared interests and values.
In recognition of our close cooperation, yesterday we agreed to elevate our bilateral relationship with the ‘Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership’, a broad-ranging and comprehensive agreement that will pave the way for deeper security, economic and people-to-people links. Vuvale means ‘family’, and we are committed to working together as family to strengthen our bond, grow our partnership, embrace new opportunities and address common challenges. Officials will work over the coming months to finalise the text of the agreement.
In demonstration of our personal commitment to this relationship, we have agreed to hold more regular ministerial and high-level meetings and exchanges, beginning with welcoming Prime Minister Bainimarama as a Guest of Government this year.
We will strengthen our defence and security cooperation, building on last year’s commitment to jointly redevelop the Blackrock Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Camp. Through this initiative, Fiji’s foundations on peacebuilding and security cooperation will be strengthened. We marked the start of construction with a ceremony at the site in Nadi.
Australia will also deliver a comprehensive border security assistance package to help reinforce the integrity of Fiji’s borders. The package of initiatives will build on long-established partnerships between our border security agencies, and will contribute to strengthening border management and security across the region.
We are also pleased to continue our work under the Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP). The PMSP is a $2 billion (over 30 years) program, which consists of replacement Guardian-class patrol boats, integrated aerial surveillance, and enhancements to regional cooperation. Fiji will receive two replacement Guardian-class patrol boats under the PSMP.
We are committed to deepening our bilateral trade and investment relationship, including through further trade liberalisation and economic cooperation. To this end, we will commission a trade and economic scoping study to identify ways to capitalise on the many economic opportunities between our countries, including taking into account issues relating to double taxation.
Australia is committed to increasing labour mobility opportunities for Fiji and other Pacific countries. We will immediately begin work on Fiji’s entry into Australia’s Pacific Labour Scheme in 2019 so that Fiji can take advantage of this partnership.
Australia welcomes Fiji into the Pacific Medicines Testing Program, a joint initiative of the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Fiji joins nine other Pacific island countries participating in this program.
Our personal connections and people-to-people links form the foundation of our relationship. Fiji acknowledges and welcomes the technical assistance and capacity building initiatives that Australia provides to complement the modernisation efforts of the Fijian institutions. We discussed ways to facilitate travel between our two countries.
Sport, in particular, is a shared passion. As part of Australia’s new Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program, the Australian Government will provide support for the travel costs associated with entering a team from Fiji to compete in the NSWRL Intrust Super Premiership in 2020. This would see Fiji’s best athletes competing in one of Australia’s most-loved sporting events. We also look forward to pre-season NRL matches being played the Pacific, including one match in Fiji in 2021. To celebrate women in sports, the Australian Government will work with Netball Australia to assist the Fijian national team prepare for the Netball World Cup in the UK in July 2019, through in-country support.
We are also pleased to announce a new Australia-University of the South Pacific partnership, worth $84 million over six years (2019-24), to support efforts to meet the tertiary education needs of the Pacific. The partnership will also support the Pacific to implement its new Regional Education Framework, with a focus on improving the quality of teacher education in the region.
The Australian Government, in partnership with FreeTV, will also commit $17.1 million to provide 1,000 hours of new Australian television content each year for three years to Pacific broadcasters.
Australia congratulates Fiji on its hosting of the Asian Development Bank’s Annual Meeting in Nadi on 2-5 May 2019. Fiji will be the first Pacific island country to host this important event. Australia will provide in-kind and financial assistance to support Fiji’s hosting.
Australia also welcomes Fiji’s bid to host the Pacific Islands Forum in 2021, the PIF’s 50th anniversary year. The PIF plays an important role in fostering political, security and economic cooperation across the Pacific, and providing Pacific island countries a united voice on the global stage. Fiji reaffirms its commitment to work closely with other Pacific Leaders in safeguarding our collective interests.
Fiji also acknowledges Australia’s support on recent leadership roles in the global arena, namely for climate change and Oceans Conferences, and we will continue to work together on mutual and strategic interests such as climate change, ocean health and regional security.
We commit to work together to strengthen further the bilateral relationship and to contribute our best efforts to making the Pacific a region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically.