Doorstop - Honiara, Solomon Islands - 06/06/2024

06 June 2024



Subjects: Visit to Solomon Islands; Australia’s investment in school infrastructure upgrades; Australia’s contribution to upgrading water and bathroom facilities.

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Hi everyone. Thank you very much for being here. I'll just make a few comments and then I will throw to questions from local media. I just want to say it's such a wonderful experience to be here at Mbokona Community High School here in West Honiara and it's so wonderful to have spent some time with the students and to see first hand what Australian aid, what Australian partnership can contribute, and one of the things that we all know is that if we are serious about continuing to build a brighter future for Solomon Islands, we have to invest in education and Australia is very privileged to be your number one development partner and we commit to continuing to be your number one partner.

I've had a wonderful visit today, we think it's so important that ministers from Australia, ministers from development partners and economic partners come to Solomon Islands to listen to your priorities, to listen to the things that matter to you, to meet with the community, so I'm very privileged to be here for my third visit, be here as Australia's Foreign Minister and my visit comes shortly after the visit, of course, of our Deputy Prime Minister who was here on his 11th visit. So he really has spent a lot of time over many years in your wonderful, wonderful country. As you know, I met with the new Prime Minister, Prime Minister Manele. I welcomed the discussion we had where he spoke about the opportunity to transform our relationship in accordance with your priorities, the priorities of Solomon Islands. I look forward to continuing that conversation. We’re up for a much larger partnership with Solomon Islands, in accordance with your priorities, we’re up for that and we want to have that discussion as equals and as partners in the days and weeks to come.

The announcement today, the science lab you saw, is just one part of a bigger announcement, a bigger investment that Australia is making alongside New Zealand. We are investing $29 million, in Solomon Islands terms, across the education system providing critical educational infrastructure to 40 schools, 40 schools across nine provinces. So what you saw today is one of the investments but imagine that rolled out across 40 schools so that is a really good thing and we are really pleased to have partnered with Solomon Islands government and New Zealand to deliver that.

The other announcement today as you know was with UNICEF to provide water and bathroom facilities across 30 schools in Central Province. This matters actually making sure we have these facilities at school matters, it matters in terms of health but it also matters particularly for girls attendance and we see that around the world where you provide washrooms and those facilities you're more likely to see girls attendance. It's a small way we can assure that we get the benefit of the minds and potential of all of the people of the Solomon Islands. Happy to take questions. You go.

JOURNALIST: Welcome back to Solomon Islands.


JOURNALIST: For the ABC we last met in 2022, my question is why is Solomon Islands so important to Australia, what does Australia offer to Solomon Islanders that other countries cannot offer?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I would speak about what we offer. We see ourselves as part of a Pacific family. We see that we share a region, we share an ocean, we share history, we're so close in terms of geography. But what is most important is our futures are tied together and we see that your development, your security, your stability, matters to us because we are all more secure, we are all more prosperous when all the countries of the region can grow, develop and assure their own sovereignty and stability. We believe that in a world that is more contested, what we want is a region, a Pacific Islands region that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, we want a Pacific Islands region where all of us can make our own decisions, can exercise our sovereignty without fear and where we can all grow and live together peacefully, that's what we want and that's what we seek to offer. As I said to you, we come respectfully to listen, we want to work and we seek to work as equals and partners and what you see is very senior members of the Australian Government, the second most senior person and the third most senior person in our government have been here in just a matter of two weeks. And that tells you something about the priority we give this relationship.

JOURNALIST: On geopolitics, Australia has been a long term pretty smooth partner of Solomon Islands and last week the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands announced that geopolitics is here and this week people from the Chinese ambassador are firmly commitment to the One China policy. Also you meet with the Prime Minister, what is your take on this as a long term traditional partner of Solomon Islands?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I can speak for Australia. I can tell you what Australia's priorities are. We are your number one partner and we want to continue to be that. We see the importance of working together as equals and partners. We want to listen and work respectfully with you and that's how we approach this. We accord great weight to this relationship; as I said you've had the second and third most senior people in the Australian Government visit in just under a few weeks. I welcome Prime Minister Manele's views about this being an opportunity, this time being an opportunity to transform our relationship in accordance with Solomon Islands priorities. We are up for a much bigger, much deeper partnership with Solomon Islands. We are up for that and we are open to that in accordance with your priorities. And I hope together what we will see next time, five or ten years, the next students having even better schools and better facilities and more opportunities, and more opportunities to live and work in Australia, and one of the things I'm going to later today is a meeting with some Pacific Australia Labour Mobility workers, the PALM scheme. We know how important that is. We would like to talk about how we might grow that even more and grow the skills opportunities for young Solomon Islanders. We will be announcing more training opportunities later today. These are the sorts of priorities that you speak to us of. 7,500 jobs that job seekers each year and that we need to work together to make sure as many of those young people as possible have the opportunity for long term and fulfilling jobs.



JOURNALIST: I want to say thank very much for your such great support.


JOURNALIST: Australia and Solomon Islands, what do you want to achieve in the educational sector?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well I think you would have seen that we continue to invest in education. As I said today is one announcement out of many associated with our education investment. Some 40 schools will benefit from similar facilities and in addition we have the washroom facilities with UNICEF that's another 30 schools but more broadly we are your top development partner and we want to continue that. Anyone else?

JOURNALIST: My question is with your discussion with the Prime Minister today and other ministers how would you describe this; are you satisfied with the outcome?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look I'm very grateful for the level of engagement at senior levels of the government that I have been honoured to receive. I really enjoyed meeting Prime Minister Manele, obviously he was your Foreign Minister so I know him well. We've worked with each other over many years. I met with your foreign minister, Minister Shanel, I was very grateful for him for hosting me. I have met with your Police Minister, also met with the Finance Minister – former Prime Minister Sogavare – so I'm very honoured to have received the level of engagement at senior levels of your government that I have and I thank them for their courtesy and for their hospitality, for their Pacific hospitality. As I said to you, this is an opportunity with a new government for us to look at how we might work together even more. It's an opportunity to transform our relationship in accordance with Solomon Island priorities and that really was the focus of our discussions and it's an ongoing discussion and we are really pleased to be part of it.

JOURNALIST: There were discussions with former Prime Minister Sogavare in his capacity as Finance Minister, was there discussions on budgetary support from Australia?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well as I said we are up for a bigger relationship across the board and obviously we understand the difficult circumstances that Solomon Islands face and what I would say is our focus is not just on the now but what is it we can do together to build a brighter future because that – sovereignty means assuring that you can maintain your own stability, that you have your economic sovereignty, you're economically resilient, you can continue to grow your economy and you can then continue to lift your people's education and skills level. So we are very conscious that this is a discussion about all of the aspects of working together in accordance with your priorities to assure an even brighter future for Solomon Islands. Yes?

JOURNALIST: Thank you for coming. Just a question as you mentioned this is part of the greater or bigger announcements, when are we going to know other announcements – at the end of the day?

FOREIGN MINISTER: I think we are happy to give you more information but this announcement today is part of constructing similar education infrastructure at 40 schools across Solomon Islands, nine provinces so we put in 29 million of Solomon dollar investment across 40 schools in nine provinces and then there is a separate announcement which is the wash facilities, water and bathroom facilities and they are 30 schools across Central Province. So you will see there, you've got investments in many schools, it was great to have an opportunity to come here and speak with the students as they did an experiment and I look forward to coming here again. Thank you very much.


Media Contact:
Foreign Minister's Office: +61 2 6277 7500

Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.