Through COVID, tropical cyclones and volcanic eruptions, Australia has shown that we will stand with our Pacific family through good times and bad.
The Solomon Islands will always be a valued member of our Pacific family. At the request of the Solomon Islands, Australia and other Pacific nations moved quickly to help restore calm after civil unrest in Honiara last year. In doing so, Australia activated for the first time our 2017 bilateral security treaty with the Solomon Islands.
This collective effort builds on a long history of Australian support to Solomon Islands through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) from 2003 to 2017 and the current Solomon International Assistance Force.
When members of the Pacific family work together, we can respond to security challenges in our region. The Pacific family is best placed to provide security assistance to the Solomon Islands and stands ready to provide further assistance if required.
Australia is aware of the proposed China-Solomon Islands draft security cooperation agreement. We respect the right of each Pacific country to make sovereign decisions. We have regularly and respectfully raised our concerns with the Government of the Solomon Islands and will continue to do so. We would be particularly concerned about any action that undermines the stability and security of our region, including the establishment of a permanent presence such as a military base.
Yesterday Australia jointly announced with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare that in response to a request from the Solomon Islands Government, Australia would be extending the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force until December 2023.
We will also build an integrated police, health and disaster management radio network across the Solomon Islands.
Australia will construct a second patrol outpost on the eastern border of the Solomon Islands, in addition to the western border and patrol outpost in the Shortland Islands.
We are also providing budget support of A$22 million, which will help the Solomon Islands government fund the salaries of essential workers and mitigate the damaging fiscal impact of the November 2021 civil unrest and economic impacts of COVID.
Australia will continue to work with our Pacific family, in line with our values and the Pacific way. Last year, Australia spent a record $1.7 billion in development assistance and will continue to address our Pacific partners’ priorities such as climate change, COVID-19 recovery and economic and security challenges.
Australia will be transparent and respectful as a trusted partner as we seek to build unity across the Pacific. We will continue to support peace, economic prosperity, stability and democratic values in our region.