The Defence Ministers of Fiji and Australia met virtually yesterday for the third annual Defence Ministers’ meeting, highlighting the importance of the robust and burgeoning defence partnership between the two countries.
The Honourable Inia Seruiratu, Fijian Minister of Defence, National Security & Policing and the Honourable Peter Dutton, Australian Minister for Defence, spoke about the mutual value they derive from responding to security challenges in the Pacific together.
Minister Dutton said the Australian and Fijian military personnel had become accustomed to supporting one another and working closely during difficult times.
“We’ve seen this in times of crisis, both at home and abroad. Our recent co-deployment to Solomon Islands serves as a reminder of how shared responses with our Pacific family can underpin the security of the region,” Minister Dutton said.
“We want to train, work, exercise and deploy more regularly together so we are well prepared to respond to a range of security scenarios.
“As Vuvale, we will always be ready to work side by side when disaster strikes and in the interests of a secure and resilient Pacific.”
Australia and Fiji agreed to pursue greater interoperability between their armed forces, including an information sharing arrangement to make it easier for personnel to embed within the others’ system.
Improved interoperability across the security sector is a valuable enhancement noted by Minister Seruiratu, who is also Fiji’s Minister for Rural, Maritime Development and Disaster Management.
“The information sharing arrangement will complement the Status of Forces Agreement we are already progressing,” Minister Seruiratu said.
“Put together, we will have the foundations right for increased exchange between the Republic of Fiji Military Forces and Australian Defence Force.
“There is a lot that we can do in the area of disaster management and response. In light of the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, we need to work with others in the region to effectively respond.”
Despite COVID-19 making movement between countries difficult, the defence cooperation between Fiji and Australia has continued to grow, with preparedness for natural disaster response remaining a key line of effort.
The Ministers looked forward to meeting in-person at the South Pacific Ministers’ Meeting in 2022.