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State Reception, State House, Suva, Fiji

[As delivered]

  • Your Excellencies Ratu Wiliame Maivalili Katonivere and Adi Filomena
  • The Honourable Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama and Mrs Bainimarama
  • The Honourable Chief Justice Kamal Kumar
  • The Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatika
  • Former President, Major-General Jioji Konrote
  • Honourable Ministers, Assistant Ministers, Members of Parliament
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps
  • Heads of Disciplined Services
  • Permanent Secretaries
  • Your Excellency Luke Daunivalu, Fijian High Commissioner to Australia
  • Your Excellency John Feakes, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

It is an absolute delight for Linda and me to be here tonight. I want to convey our deep appreciation, Your Excellencies, for your hospitality during this State Visit.

It is wonderful to be able to travel again and to renew face-to-face contact that is so vital between partners, between friends and between families.

I am, however, going to have to rethink a golden rule I have in Australia that I never compare locations in Australia. It is a big trap for a Governor-General!

Fiji is a valued partner of Australia. Our bilateral relationship is underpinned by the Vuvale Partnership, signed by Prime Ministers Morrison and Bainimarama in 2019.

The Partnership provides a framework for how we work together. It emphasises the values that Fiji and Australia share, and our shared ambitions for achieving prosperity and stability in our region.

We have shared goals to increase our security, economic and institutional links, to implement more opportunities, to link our peoples and to tackle important global and regional issues together.

The unprecedented challenges and uncertainties we have faced since the Vuvale Partnership was signed two-and-a-half years ago have strengthened our resolve and brought us closer together. Through difficult times, the links between our peoples have remained strong.

Australia is enormously grateful for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces ‘Bula Force’ which came to the aid of people in Victoria during the devastating Black Summer bushfires in 2019.

And, again this year, the RFMF worked with the Australian Defence Force as part of Operation FLOOD ASSIST in flood-affected areas in South-East Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Similarly, through COVID-19 and two Tropical Cyclones, Australia responded quickly to work with Fiji to aid and rebuild.

Because that is what family does. We back each other, whether that is following bushfires, floods or cyclones.

Australia and Fiji share an interest in a peaceful, secure and resilient Pacific and we are cooperating closely to respond to common challenges.

We are working together in Solomon Islands to help maintain law and order. We worked together to provide disaster relief in Tonga, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Our joint responses show that members of the Pacific family are best placed to respond to shared challenges and to strengthen Pacific regional security.

Our security partnership has gone from strength to strength and is ambitious for the years ahead. We are seeking opportunities for our Forces to work even more closely, enhancing interoperability and preparing for the future.

Our economic ties also continue to grow. I am pleased that our pilot for the commercial importation of kava has commenced, and that Fijian kava is now available for purchase on Australian shelves. Your High Commissioner in Fiji knows exactly a bar in Canberra to go to, so see him if you need a tip!

Just this month we have seen hundreds more Fijian men and women travel to Australia under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility plan. This provides valuable opportunities for Fijians to support their families and communities back home. They are a welcome presence and have enriched diversity in their host communities across regional and rural Australia.

It goes without saying that our love of sport unites Fiji and Australia. Australia is pleased to be supporting Fijian teams to compete in the region and on the world stage. We have seen the Fijian Drua and Fijiana Drua men’s and women’s Rugby teams relocate to Australia to compete in the Super Rugby Pacific and Super W competitions. Congratulations to the Fijiana Drua who demonstrated their skill in winning the Grand Final last weekend!

Australia will support more teams and athletes from Fiji and the Pacific in the lead up to the Olympic Games in Brisbane in 2032. By supporting elite Fijian athletes we hope to inspire a new generation of Fijian sporting legends to strengthen the bonds between our people.

An important value that Australia and Fiji shares is respect – respect for each other, our environment and our joint commitments to our Blue Pacific. Australia acknowledges and respects Fiji's global leadership on climate change and its advocacy in that direction. The Australian Government has set a target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and the Pacific's priorities play heavily into Australia's considerations. Our collective efforts at COP26 last year achieved positive outcomes in the region.

Our Vuvale Partnership commits us to ensure that women are able to participate fully and freely in political, economic and social life. We are working together to promote women’s leadership and decision making, increase women’s economic empowerment, and seek to end violence against women.

While the past two years have thrown up unprecedented challenges, as vuvale we have pulled together. I congratulate the Government of Fiji for leading a swift and effective response to COVID-19.

I am proud that Australia was able to step up and support your health response, and that we are now seeing Australian tourists returning to Fiji and Fiji’s economy on a trajectory for recovery.

Our Vuvale Partnership continues to provide a platform for elevated cooperation, consultation and friendship between our two nations as we work together with the common goal of building a Pacific region that is secure, stable and prosperous.

‘Vinaka vakalevu’ and God bless, Fiji.