PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
SPEECH By Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Tuvalu
Bikenibeu Paeniu Welcoming the Visit of Australia's Foreign Minister, Hon.
December 15, 1998
His Excellency Governor General, Right Honorable Sir Dr. Tomasi Puapua and Lady
Puapua, Honorable Speaker of Parliament, Toomu Sione and wife, Honorable Cabinet
Ministers and their spouses, The Australian High Commissioner to Tuvalu, His
Excellency Greg Urwin. Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the government and the people of Tuvalu I would like to warmly
welcome you, Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, Mr. Alexander
When we last met in Canberra you promised to visit us and I pleased that you
have fulfilled that promise, which reflects that you are a man of principle and
also your commitment to small island countries as Tuvalu. We are indeed honored
to meet with you personally in Tuvalu.
May I take this opportunity to also congratulate you on your re-election as
Minister of Foreign Affairs in your new government. Your re-appointment as
Minister of Foreign Affairs confirms your government’s confidence in the
services that you have provided to your country and we in Tuvalu also share that
The Pacific Island countries, including Tuvalu, consider Australia as a very
important partner, and throughout the years we have enjoyed very warm and
cordial relations. Although Australia has developed closer relationship with
Asia, we hope the Pacific Island countries would not be considered as
peripherals under Australia’s Foreign Policy.
Your termination of your portfolio of Minister for Pacific Islands under your
Ministry is an indication of your commitment to Pacific Island countries. As I
see it, . . . (it) seems like putting a second priority tag on Pacific Islands
As you are aware, Australia is one of the countries that has assisted Tuvalu in
its development and in times of disasters since our independence, and we are
very grateful to see that Australia’s development assistance has continued to
increase instead of decreasing.
Education is a very important part of our development. With a very narrow
natural resource base, we see education as an avenue to better our economic and
social development. We also see that the training of our students in Australia
would allow them to learn and benefit from the skills and technology available
or offered in the Australian training institutions.
Australia’s new policy of reducing the number of our students that can be
considered to study in Australia under the Australian Training Aid Program was
rather unexpected. Nevertheless, I am pleased that Australia continues to
welcome our students on a cost-sharing basis. Those funded under a cost-sharing
basis, unfortunately, pay higher fees for their children’s education while in
Australia than those funded under the Australian Training Aid Program. I wonder
if you would look at this with a view to allow them to pay the same fees for
their children’s education?
As mentioned in our meeting earlier today, Climate Change is also an issue that
is very important to Tuvalu and we hope that you understand our concern and the
stand that we continue to take in international forums on this particular issue.
Global warming -- and hence sea level rise -- has been strongly supported by
recent scientific evidence and, if it continues, it is life and death to the
people of Tuvalu. We understand how binding targets on gas emissions will affect
Australian economy. However, we would like to again plead for your understanding
and cooperation on this particular issue.
I am sure we could discuss these matters and other issues further while you are
in Tuvalu and I hope you find your visit a most enjoyable and fruitful one.
Again, welcome to Tuvalu.