Remarks, Launch of Friends of our Pacific Family - Parliament House, ACT

02 Dec 2019
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you, David, can I first of all acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, elders past, present and future and acknowledge any veterans who are us today and thank them for their service.

Can I also of course acknowledge you and Anthony Albanese, who is here I just saw him just a second ago. It’s great for us both to be here together with the many parliamentary colleagues who are also here today, and are an important part of this initiative. And members of the diplomatic community, the Fiji delegation led by the honourable Alexander O'Connor. Can I particularly give a fond greeting to all the Pacific church leaders who are here today. I think that's just absolutely tremendous. And of course, to Tim, who is here today thank you very much for your involvement in these initiatives.

Can I say that people understand that I have a deep passion for our Pacific family. And it goes back a very long time. And I'm so thrilled about the way that we've been able to work together with our Pacific family to address so many of the challenges that they face in each of their own countries. And this is not a new thing, Australia has been a great friend and a close friend to the Pacific over a very long time.

And I know that in my own extensive travels in the Pacific, not just as Prime Minister but well before then, that this is well understood and deeply valued. And this initiative that we're launching today, I’m pleased to launch is part of that step-up, that we're engaged in in the Pacific.

We have already taken many steps in the Pacific. But this most recent one over these recent years and in stepping up again goes beyond just what the government does. And I think one of the most exciting things about this new initiative is it is engaging I think all Australians in this process. And the fact that it is now engaging the parliament in this process on a bipartisan basis, a multi-partisan basis indeed, and the relationships that can be formed directly between our parliamentarians and parliamentarians who operate under very similar systems throughout the Pacific. And the exchange that can take place there, I think is a very important part of that relationship building that takes place. We have a unique history with the Pacific. Not just in times during the Second World War, but over a long, long period of time. But it's very difficult, I think, for us as Australians to go beyond and I'm sure, I notice Ambassador Culvahouse here as well here today.

It's very difficult for us to go beyond the great debt we owe to our friends in the Pacific for the way they stood with us, and by us and cared for us and particularly our serving men and women during those darkest of times. That is a debt that will never be repaid and that will be a debt that we carry with us, but we carry it with us gladly.

Out of respect for our Pacific brothers and sisters, the other important part of the relationship, which is reflected here by the attendance of church leaders, is there's a great community of faith, which I know a lot about across the Pacific. It's one that I enjoyed from a very young age.

And nothing stirs my heart more to hear a Pacific choir, whether it's in Samoa or whether it's in PNG or in Fiji or the Solomons. And I got to say, Prime Minister Mr Sogavare, has got a pretty good voice.

And it's even better, as was an occasion I had many years ago, younger when Jenny and I were in Fiji and were attending a conference of Pacific Church leaders in a particular mission, and we had them all in the one place all singing at the one time.

And I'll never forget that. But what it reminds me of, seeing you here today. Is that is another great point of connection in the Pacific community, of Faith, there exists a great point of connection. And then, of course, there’s sport and there’s rugby league and all of those things.

I note that Fiji coming into the Metropolitan Cup I think is next year will actually be sitting under the Shark’s banner this year so there you go. I'm sure I'll get up to a few games and see them play. When they come into that competition.

But these are the friendly links. There are a lot of strategic links where we're working together on security issues. There is the humanitarian links that we work on when we're dealing with health challenges, when we're working, one of my proudest is the Prime Minister's XIII when I go to PNG or Fiji or any of these places. The message they carried, both the men's and women's team carry a message about opposing domestic violence and raising these issues throughout the Pacific community.

And so whether it's on disaster relief and preparedness for disaster relief, the work that we're doing in Fiji and establishing a base for disaster response, which I visited just recently, there is an engaged day to day relationship. And of course, on the defence side of things where we support those who engage in peacekeeping operations around the world.

So it's a deep, it's a rich, it's a very faithful, it's a very loving relationship that exists amongst our vuvale, our family across the Pacific. And we are very, very pleased that you've both taken this step to form this group, which will ensure that those connections now speak to the relationships between our parliamentarians and you create a new community amongst our parliamentarians. So I'm very pleased to launch this initiative.

And thank you very much for it being another important component of the Pacific Step up. Thank you.