27 February 2015
From the High Commissioner’s Desk Column
We were delighted last week to host a visit to Honiara by Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Investment, Steve Ciobo (in our system, a Parliamentary Secretary is much like a junior minister). It was the first visit to Solomon Islands by a member of the Australian Government since the election and an important opportunity for early direct contact between the Abbott and Sogavare governments.
As you may have seen from the reports in the Solomon Star, Mr Ciobo held productive meetings with Prime Minister Sogavare and Foreign Minister Tozaka. He was also able to see first-hand some of the great work that Australia supports in Solomon Islands.
Mr Ciobo and Commerce Minister Marau jointly opened the new National Cocoa Quality Testing Laboratory, which will be a huge asset for cocoa producers and exporters.
Later, Mr Ciobo and Health Minister Kaitu’u jointly opened the refurbished post-natal ward at the National Referral Hospital. The ward – which had fallen into complete disrepair – will ensure that the thousands of babies who are born in the hospital each year, and their mothers, will have a safe and comfortable place to recuperate immediately after birth.
Mr Ciobo also visited and received briefings on the Australian-supported Customs operations at the Honiara wharf and the Australian-built explosive ordnance disposal facility at Hell’s Point. And of course he spent some time with RAMSI police and officials, who’ve come from their homes in Australia and elsewhere in the Pacific to help build a better Solomon Islands.
As Solomon Star readers may have seen, one of the issues Prime Minister Sogavare raised with Mr Ciobo was the application process for Australian visas. Although we in the High Commission aren’t directly involved in the process, we’re keenly aware that many applicants in recent times have reported longer than usual waiting times and other problems. We’re working with our colleagues in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) to get to the bottom of these issues. To that end – and as Mr Ciobo informed the Prime Minister – DIBP will be visiting Honiara next week to look into the visa application process here. We acknowledge that there have been issues with the process and we’re trying to improve it.
SIWIBA CEO Dalcy Tekulu, Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne and SIWIBA Coordinator Nina Tuhaika cutting SIWIBA’S 10th anniversary cake.
It was my great privilege this week to attend the10th anniversary celebrations for the Solomon Islands Women in Business Association (SIWIBA). As I’ve often said, including on these pages, I believe that the economic empowerment of women is one of the keys to unlocking the potential of Solomon Islands. So we’re proud to support SIWIBA in its mission of helping women start new businesses and make them a success.
*The High Commissioner's Column is published each fortnight in the Solomon Star Newspaper