Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, attended the third biennial South Pacific Defence Ministers' Meeting (SPDMM) in Auckland on Thursday and today.
Minister Payne and her counterparts discussed regional security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping, and the coordination of military exercises across the Pacific. The Minister lent her active support to the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the South Pacific with the offer of training and mentoring opportunities.
The Minister also advised the meeting in relation to design changes in the new Australian-built Guardian-class patrol boats which will remove unnecessary obstacles to the operational deployment of women in maritime security roles.
"Australia is a strong supporter of the SPDMM, which is the only ministerial-level defence meeting in the South Pacific and it plays an important role in the region's security architecture," Minister Payne said.
SPDMM 2017 was hosted by the New Zealand Minister of Defence, the Hon Gerry Brownlee, and included Ministers and senior defence officials from Australia, France, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and for the first time Fiji. Observers from the United States and the United Kingdom also attended.
"I welcome Fiji's decision to join the South Pacific Defence Ministers' Meeting in 2017.
"As a key regional security partner, Fiji will make a valuable contribution to the forum," Minister Payne said.
All of the SPDMM member countries have a shared interest in the stability and maritime security of the South Pacific. Australia has long held and prioritised that interest and will continue to do so through our ongoing commitment to regional defence engagement and the development of strong partnerships across the Pacific.
The next meeting will be held in Fiji in 2019.