January 29, 2019

Australia’s Pacific engagement praised

The country has acknowledged Australia’s ‘Step Up Engagement’ with the Pacific region including Solomon Islands. 

Outgoing Prime Minister, Rick Hou acknowledged this at a recent Australia Day celebration in Honiara. 

“My Government welcomes the appointment of a Deputy Secretary within DFAT, solely responsible for the Pacific. 

“This initiative signifies Australia’s increased attention on the economic and social well-being of our Pacific region,” he said. 

He said the recent announcement by Australia’s Prime Minister in Papua New Guinea to uncap labour mobility and the issuance of travel cards for senior politicians and public servants are welcome developments for the region and for Solomon Islands.

“It is a great start toward what might one day turn into a reciprocal visa arrangement for our peoples,” he said. 

Hou said Labour mobility is a priority of the Solomon Islands government. 

“The recent opening of the Australian labour market for semi-skilled workers under the Pacific Labour Scheme to complement the Seasonal Workers Scheme will unlock opportunities for our unemployed youths.

“In this context, I am pleased to report that a number of hospitality workers left our shores to work in Australia in December, with another group travelling next month,” he said. 

He added employers from the Meat industry were recently in the country and had selected some twenty workers to travel next month. 

“Australia’s support through the Boost Programme is starting to drive employment numbers in the labour mobility space,” he said.

He then assured that the relations between Solomon Islands and Australia are going from strength to strength. 

“We hope to cement this even further with a planned opening of a Consulate-General presence in Brisbane this year – our main port of entry into Australia,” he added.

Speaking at the ceremony, Hou highlighted all that Solomon Islands has benefited and enjoyed with Australia and wishes Australia a happy 231st day. 

“Your Excellency, my Government and the people of Solomon Islands convey our sincere congratulations through you to the government and the people of Australia on this auspicious occasion as you celebrate the 231st Anniversary of Australia day,” he said.

He added, the Australian Day celebration has become part of the annual calendar in Solomon Islands.

It has also provided a platform where Solomon Islands also honours its’ friendship with Australia, the 12th largest economy in the world, and the largest donor to Solomon Islands. 

“Our connection with Australia is culturally rich and ethnically rooted. 

“We identify with Australia’s indigenous Melanesian populations in the Torres Strait.

Hou said Solomon Islands also share a common history through the South Seas Islanders who have made Australia their home.

“I am sure the recent passage of the Dual Citizenship Act can further cement Solomon Islands relations with our Australian diaspora.

“We continue to remember those 8,000 plus Australian wantoks, Police Officers, soldiers and civilians, who came to Solomon Islands through RAMSI to help us in our time of need, many of whom continue to speak fondly of their time in the Happy Isles,” he added.

SOURCE: SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS
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