1. Opening remarks by Prime Minister Salwai
· Hon. Prime Minister, let me again take this opportunity to welcome you and your delegation to Port Vila, Vanuatu and to thank you for the opportunity to meet again, so soon after our very cordial meeting on the margins of the APEC recently in Port Moresby, and my Guest of Government visit to Canberra, in June 2018.
· Your visit to Vanuatu at this time, not only comes at a critical juncture in Australia-Vanuatu relations, but also marks a historical milestone for the Vanuatu Government, to receive such a high-level visit – for which the Vanuatu Government and People are very much honoured.
· Australia-Vanuatu relations have never been better, and will continue to grow stronger!
· I wish to also convey at the outset the Vanuatu Government’s desire for this visit to continue to build on recent developments; further to strengthen our strategic partnership and mutual development cooperation – all within the principles of mutual respect and equal partnership.
· I would also like to acknowledge the excellent and unrelenting support by the Australian High Commissioner, H.E Jenny Da Rin and Staff of the Australian High Commission in preparing for this important visit.
2. Opening remarks by Prime Minister Morrison
3. Remarks by Prime Minister Salwai
Thank you Excellency.
National Development Priorities
1. The Vanuatu Government has set for itself a very optimistic national development blueprint, the National Sustainable Development Plan: 2016-2030 or Vanuatu 2030 – The People’s Plan; to guide its development planning and administration for the ensuing 15 years.
2. Vanuatu 2030 charts the country’s vision and overarching policy framework for achieving a Stable, Sustainable and Prosperous Vanuatu over the next 15 years, and sets out national priorities and context for the implementation of global Sustainable Development Goals over the same period.
3. Shorter-term planning goals and priorities are captured in the Budget Policy Priorities for 2019, comprising (i). Improved Business Opportunity and Investment Environment (ii). Improved Infrastructure (iii). Improved Education Quality and Accessibility (iv). Improved Quality Health Care (v) Improved Service Delivery (vi). Improved Resilience and Natural Resource Management; and (vii). Social Inclusion, Security, Peace and Justice.
4. In launching its Budget Policy Priorities the Vanuatu Government has also engaged development partners, and appreciates the ongoing and wide-ranging partnership with the Government of Australia in realizing priorities so-listed.
Trade & Economic Relations
5. With regards to trade and economic relations, the Vanuatu Government continues to place special emphasis on increased trade with Australia, particularly via incremental increases to its export base. The focus being on the primary sector, via value-add-initiatives, targeted at import substitution and balancing of bilateral trade.
6. The Productive Sector 2019 is one such initiative which is aimed at increasing production and promoting value addition, especially of primary products with comparative and competitive advantage both in the domestic and export markets. This is also in line with general efforts to adequately prepare Vanuatu’s smooth transition and graduation from LDC status after 2020.
7. Envisaged benefits and outcomes of such efforts include the creation of much-needed employment opportunities in rural settings, increase in direct investments via the creation of environments that are conducive to investment, and boosting tax revenue to support the domestic economy.
8. The Vanuatu Government also welcomes identified early interventions from initiatives such as the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program (PHAMA), in the hope to gauge direct assistance with its kava export industry.
9. As mentioned previously, infrastructural development remains one of the biggest priorities and challenges for the Vanuatu government, particularly in the development of climate-resilient and quality infrastructure. This is also particularly important in the social sectors of Health and Education
10. I would wish to formally acknowledge the Australian Government for its gracious part in the redevelopment of Port Vila’s critical urban infrastructure under the Port Vila Urban Development Program (PVUDP).
11. As you are aware, the PVUDP involves the direct redevelopment of Port Vila’s major arterial road, infrastructure and amenities, which has not only contributed to the aesthetic-beauty of Port Vila, but is a big boost for the country’s tourism sector which remains an important sector to Vanuatu’s economy.
12. In addition to generating employment, the Tourism sector has also contributed to creating much-needed positive spinoffs to the national economy, prompting the decision and request for prioritisation of remaining sections connecting the developed sections of the PVUDP road to the main wharf and Vanuatu’s Bauerfield International Airport, as the two main international ports through which Vanuatu receives most of its tourists.
13. The Vanuatu Government continues to value Australian support and assistance in this regards, even under the new $2billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP), which was announced in November 2018.
PACER Plus & Labour Mobility
14. The Vanuatu Government also appreciates assistance rendered to Vanuatu and other PIC’s in the lead up to the signing of the PACER Plus, and looks forward to completing national consultations in 2019, to allow for ratification.
15. Whilst already a major beneficiary of the Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP), Vanuatu is also greatly encouraged by the recent signing, in Nauru, of the MOU on the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS). We look forward to receiving positive feedback on trials which begun in December 2018, and the possibility to include other sectors.
16. It is our understanding that the PLS targets the semi-skilled labour workforce, and allows ni-Vanuatu to be accorded multiple entry visas for up to three years to enter Australia. We would also like to request assistance from the Australian Government in reviewing and upgrading the Vanuatu Institute of Technology (VIT), to allow the awarding of Level IV Certification.
17. Suffice it to say that labour mobility continues to provide an important conduit for socio-economic development in Vanuatu, as well as in other Pacific Island Countries, esp. via remittances.
Police Cooperation, Justice & National Security
18. Australia will continue to remain an important partner for Vanuatu, when it comes to police cooperation and security, also owing to its geographical proximity to Vanuatu and the sharing of a common sea border to the West of Vanuatu.
19. To that end, the Vanuatu Government greatly values and acknowledges ongoing support by the Australian government through national and regional police cooperation initiatives to uphold law and order, and security.
20. I would wish to also acknowledge support received under the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) and its continued support for the operations of RVS Tukoro and aerial surveillance under the Pacific Maritime Security Program.
21. And I note that there will also be a launching of newly refurbished Police College facilities today, for which the Vanuatu Government is most grateful. We also acknowledge planned infrastructural upgrade and ongoing support and training to the Vanuatu Mobile Force, Police Maritime Wing, as part of ongoing Police Cooperation.
22. Excellency, the need to upgrade the standard of the Police Academy is critical to tackle the new forms of the security challenges in our shores today.
23. Australian support to Vanuatu’s law and justice sectors also remain vital to the Vanuatu Government’s provision of services to its people. To that end, I wish to seek the assistance of the Australian Government towards the construction of a much-needed Hall of Justice.
24. The Vanuatu Government also welcomes ongoing discussions pertaining to security and Australian technical assistance rendered in relation to the development of Vanuatu’s National Security Strategy (NSS) which establishes the National Security Council (NSC). The Vanuatu government looks forward to the establishment of its NSC.
25. In my view the NSC will play an important role to manage national security challenges and development in the country including the consideration of the need to separate the force.
26. Australia’s contribution to disaster support and recovery has also often meant the difference in times of great devastation and distress, something which Vanuatu is all too familiar with. To that end, the Vanuatu Government seeks the assistance of the Australian Government in procuring a barge to be used in times of mass evacuation due to natural disasters.
27. The Vanuatu Government also looks forward to cooperating with the Australian Government on regional security elements, as capture by the Boe Declaration, which caters for non-traditional elements of security which includes transnational crime, human, environmental and cyber security.
28. The Vanuatu Government is also in the final stages of developing a National Cyber Crime Legislation which target in particular unscrupulous users of ICT, and to encourage the use of ICT as a platform to improve the livelihood of our people.
Political Reform & Governance
29. On the all-important matter of political reform and governance, the Vanuatu Government has since the political crisis of 2015 remained steadfast on putting in place measures to contribute to ensuring stability in policy and governance
30. In fact, the Vanuatu Government via the Ministry of Internal Affairs is currently consulting on four (4) separate legislative amendments to contribute to this end, specifically; Bill for the Political Parties (Regulation) Act, Bill for the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, in addition to amendments to the Constitutionand Bill for the Charitable Associations Act.
Cooperation in Social Sectors – Education & Health
31. In a similar vein, I also wish to acknowledge Australian assistance in the Education sector in Vanuatu, in early education, the provision of tertiary scholarships for ni-Vanuatu to study in universities in Australia and in the region; and the recently-announced scholarships for Pacific students to study in Australian secondary schools.
32. The Vanuatu government also welcomes increased opportunities for technical education and School Partnerships Program (BRIDGE), aimed at building teacher-to-teacher links in the Pacific, and the new Church Partnerships Program announced in November 2018. It is our hope that an increase in tertiary scholarships may also be considered.
33. The Vanuatu government also looks forward to ongoing Australian assistance with the government’s vision of tuition-free secondary education, up to year 13 and 14 for English and French schools respectively.
34. And as mentioned previously, the Vanuatu Government also looks forward to matching certificate levels at the Australian-Pacific Technical College/VIT with certification levels and skills required for successful participation in the PLS going forward.
35. In addition to the education sector, the Vanuatu government also looks forward to infrastructural support and development in the Health Sector, in addition to training.
Cooperation in ICT & Undersea Cable
36. The effective use of ICT is crucial to economic development of any country, and I am pleased to note as Chair of the National ICT Policy Development Committee, steady progress in the implementation of the National ICT Policy, not without assistance from important development partners such as Australia
37. By the same token, the Vanuatu government is grateful to the Australian government for committing to the implementation of a feasibility study into Vanuatu’s existing and future ICT needs and demands.
38. Finally, the Vanuatu Government looks forward to hosting the Pacific Islands Forum and related meetings in Port Vila in 2020, which also coincides with the celebration of Vanuatu’s 40th independence anniversary, and look forward to the usual support and cooperation from the Australian Government.
39. In closing, allow me Hon. Prime Minister to once again convey the profound gratitude of the government and people of Vanuatu through you to the government and citizens of Australia for their continued friendship and support of the ni-Vanuatu, especially during times of natural disaster.
40. Also that my delegation and I look forward to the rest of the visit. Encore une fois, notre immense gratitude. L'hon. Premier Ministre! I thank you!