Wong presses on forging ‘uniquely Australian’ ties with the Pacific

By Melissa Coade

June 2, 2022

Penny Wong, right, holds a joint press conference with Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in Apia, Samoa, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs via AP)

Australia’s foreign minister is on her second visit to the Pacific within nine days of stepping into the role, to the nations of Samoa and Tonga.

Penny Wong flew to Samoa on Wednesday, saying in a statement the visit would continue her plans to strengthen Australia’s ‘deep ties of friendship and family in the region. 

The minister said she would hear firsthand what the leaders of Samoa and Tonga regarded as the best use of the Albanese government’s new energy for the region. 

“We understand that we need to work together like never before, for our peoples and for generations to come,” Wong said.

“We want to make a uniquely Australian contribution to help build a stronger Pacific family — through social and economic opportunities including pandemic recovery, health, development and infrastructure support, as well as through our Pacific labour programs and permanent migration.”

Samoa will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence this week, and Wong has organised to meet prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa. The Australian foreign minister will also have a special meeting with Samoa’s head of state, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II.

In Tonga, Wong will discuss what more Australia can do to assist in the aftermath of a devastating volcanic eruption earlier this year. While there, the foreign minister will meet Tonga prime minister Hu’akavameiliku and foreign minister Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu.

On matters concerning climate change, cultural heritage and sport, Wong said Australia would stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Pacific family nations. Regional security was also a priority for Australia.

“We will increase our contribution to regional security: we understand that the security of the Pacific is the responsibility of the Pacific family, of which Australia is a part,” Wong said. 


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