The Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, is being hosted in Australia this week under Australia’s Special Visitor Program (SVP). The SVP runs from 11 to 17 February 2019, and also involves meetings with representatives of the Australian Government and Parliament in Canberra, the Australian National University, and other programs in Sydney and Brisbane.

In Canberra, Hon. Regenvanu also met with the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Hon. Marise Payne, and Senior Executives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Hon. Anne Ruston, and the Minister and Assistant Minister for Trade.

In addition to also meeting with representatives of major political parties in the Australian Parliament, Hon. Regenvanu was also hosted to a Pacific Step-Up Reception, whence he also met with the Pacific Diplomatic Community and diaspora in Canberra.

Hon. Regenvanu’s SVP begun with a visit to the Peats Ridge-Family Fresh Farms in North Sydney, during which time he also got a first-hand briefing on the experiences and working environment of ni-Vanuatu workers in Australia, under the Seasonal Workers Programme (SWP).

The SWP which is targeted at the horticulture sector not only provides an important conduit for socio-economic development in Vanuatu, but also addresses labour shortages in the Australian market.

This was also confirmed by the Peats Ridge Farms-Management, who look forward to expanding operations into Queensland, of their thriving “baby cucumbers”, which are raised in sophisticated Glasshouses from Holland using Biomas heating from Denmark and Austria.

The Vanuatu Government continues to place special emphasis on enhancing trade and economic relations with Australia, via incremental increases to its export base and other initiatives such as the SWP and the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).

The PLS which involves the issuance of work visas of up to three years is currently being trialed in the horticulture sector, albeit may also include other sectors which are subject to ongoing discussions with the Australian Government and private sector.

Discussions with representatives of the Australian Government focused on improving political, trade and economic relations between Australia and Vanuatu. This also included discussions on the subject of kava, resulting in an agreement for an outreach in the near future by Vanuatu leaders to communities in the Northern Territory, in an attempt to foster a common understanding.

Consultations also included on opportunities to enhance cooperation in security, via the sharing of successful lessons-learned and technical capacity support. In addition to means to enhance people-to-people links and connections, via church partnerships, in sports and education.

There was also agreement for greater involvement of Australian and Vanuatu churches in labour mobility initiatives, under the new Pacific Church Partnership programs under the Pacific Step Up. Further for this to be piloted with Vanuatu, bringing together initiatives to strengthen pastoral and community care for ni-Vanuatu workers in Australia.

Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, is being accompanied for the SVP by Hon. Alickson Vira, Special Envoy for Labour Mobility, and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a representative of the Australian High Commission in Port Vila.

Source : Hon Ralph Facebook Page

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