Alex Hawke: Thank you and good morning everyone. Thank you for that very warm welcome from Minister Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Defence, National Security and Foreign Affairs. Thank you to the acting Commander of the Navy, Commander Marika Vosawale, I appreciate your words. To the Acting Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and all the officers and members of the Fiji Navy who are here today, thank you for being here for a very important ceremony and a very important day.
I just want to say a big thank you again to the Government of Fiji and to Minister Seruiratu for their very warm welcome, for the role they play in regional security and securing not just the borders of Fiji, and the economic zone of Fiji, but the work they do in helping all the countries in the region, including Australia in our security partnership. So we thank you for the work that you do - the hard work you do - in that regard.
Today I am here to break ground on a new wharf and I am delighted to be here for that. Wharf infrastructure is very important and as Minister Seruiratu pointed out, we have the new Guardian-Class Patrol boats in production. One is almost ready, I think you’ll be very excited to see it on 16 December. They have been very well received by partner countries and the standard of the boat, which you can see the model here, is absolutely first class.
With the new boat you need a new wharf, and we are very pleased to partner and make sure that this infrastructure here at RFNS Stanley Brown will be first class and ready to go for your new Guardian Class patrol boats.
I think you know through the Australian Government’s Pacific Maritime Security Program, through the Morrison Government, we are providing Pacific Patrol Boats throughout the Pacific to make sure we have regional security, economic security, and countries can continue to extend the range of their operations and the vital work you are doing to look after your interests, but also regional security interests.
Here of course at this wharf we are going to see a new pier and dredging works to make sure these boats are securely berthed.
As Minister Seruiratu pointed out, our security and defence partnership is a deep one, a strong one, one that continues to grow, and I think will be a very strong partnership for many years to come. Our history of working together only continues to grow and this wharf will be another example of that.
Of course just last month I was here in Fiji with Minister Seruiratu, hosted by the Fiji Government, to visit our other shared project, the Blackrock Military Camp. I have to say again that Blackrock Peacekeeping, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Camp, will be, I think, world leading as well, here again in Fiji. Prime Minister Morrison and Foreign Minister Payne visited there and we were very impressed. It will be a world-class facility.
I think the partnership that Australia and Fiji shares in so many of these spaces, including humanitarian and disaster relief will be recognised in the region and the world. So thank you again to the Government of Fiji.
We see many benefits of this project here and at Blackrock - economic benefits, regional security benefits - and we’re very much looking forward to cooperating with the Government of Fiji for many, many years to come on these essential projects.
I note finally, we are working with Fiji on the design of a new maritime essential services centre, which will comprise the navy headquarters, hydrographic service, coastal radio station, and the FMSRCC [Fiji Maritime Surveillance and Rescue Coordination Centre].
So thank you once again. It is a real privilege to be here to break this ground with Inia today. I know they say to us as members of parliament, politicians, when you need to get some hard work done, we are here, we’ve got a shovel, we’ve got a bit of dirt, Inia and I are expert at moving dirt, so we’ll show you how it is done. We’ll get it started.
It is very ceremonial today, but it is symbolic of our partnership, symbolic of the work we are doing together. We are very proud to be cooperating so closely with Fiji and it is just great to be here with another important project in the evolution of our partnership. So thank you again.