Address to the National Congress, Palikir, Federation States of Micronesia

14 December 2022

Simon Birmingham:
Thank you so very much for the opportunity to be here at the People’s House. Mr. Speaker, a parliamentary guy, as you said in your remarks. I thank you, the Deputy Speaker, Chairman, for your welcome to this esteemed place that represents your great democracy. Mr. President, Vice President, Members of your Cabinet as Ministers of State. Thank you all for the deeply engaging discussions that we have had and enjoyed so far today.

It is a great pleasure to be able to be here with you and to celebrate the 35 years of official diplomatic relations between our two nations. Of course, our history is more than one of 35 years of official relations. Our history is one that touches on indeed the earliest aspects of trade and cultural exchange between our first nations peoples from Australia, between the peoples of your islands, who, through a range of different ways centuries ago were able to engage, to trade and to further their communities through such progress and activity.

Our history is one that is documented in trade activities around the trade of copra that occurred as early as the 1870s from recorded incidents. So we go back a long way, and in celebrating 35 years of official diplomatic relations, we do so recognising that we are celebrating more than just the official presence and relations between two nation states. We indeed are celebrating, yes, our bilateral relationship, a critical one for us in our engagement with the region that we share, the Pacific region.

It’s a bilateral relationship built, as Minister Wong has indicated, on some crucial initiatives such as the Maritime Security Partnership, our work in terms of advancing education through the provision of scholarships and quality teacher training and support. Our initiatives in terms of providing for critical infrastructure that helps to underpin the economic development of the Federated States of Micronesia. These are all crucially important programs to provide for an effective bilateral relationship and one that helps to further each of our nations in terms of our own advancement and that of our peoples. But it is also a time to celebrate the regional leadership and cooperation that we bring. The regional leadership that you have long provided in Micronesia, the regional leadership that you provide across the Pacific. These are crucial to us.

We are partners, partners in the family of the Pacific. Indeed, as you, Mr. President, have said, a family first approach, whereas equal partners working together in the Pacific, we are best placed with all of our other friends and partners in the Pacific to face and confront the challenges of our time.

We do so underpinning and working to secure the sovereignty of the nation states and the island states across the Pacific. We do so working to ensure that we support Pacific led problems to the challenges that we face. And this is crucial in terms of the cooperation and the facilitation that we can provide to one another. But to all of our other friends and partners within the Pacific.

We also celebrate the multilateral relationship and partnership that we have, the leadership and the work that you and the Federated States of Micronesia have undertaken in relation to climate change, as has been acknowledged. You provide a powerful voice with a compelling message that needs to be heard and understood across our region, in our country and across the world.

Your work and your efforts are important and they have achieved change and that should give you heart and encouragement in terms of the way in which you continue to engage, including in relation to the potential for a conference of the parties to be held within our region.

Equally, your work and cooperation, for example, on the negotiations around fisheries subsidies at the World Trade Organisation was a crucial piece of collaboration between our nations, working with a number of others who understood that that breakthrough at the ministerial conference last year was one which could achieve many things. It was able to demonstrate that the multilateral system could still reach agreement and achieve outcomes, which is no small feat in the current environment.

Critically, it did so in an area that sought to achieve economic advancement through the elimination of unfair subsidies, but also greater environmental sustainability and through the elimination of subsidies that promote overfishing and the types of challenges that particularly plague a nation like yours, which Australia is so proud and pleased to be able to support you to respond to.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, these are challenging and contested times that we face and that we work in at present. But it is not the first time that our region and our nations have faced challenge and contest in the environment around us. We can indeed see the consequences of global and regional conflict here in the Federated States of Micronesia. It’s evidenced in the projects that Australia and other partner nations work with you on, to try to minimise the environmental damage and the consequences of some of the World War Two conflicts that occurred right here within your region and right here within your country.

And in Australia, we continue to honour all of those who served. Be they from Australia, be they from other nations, or indeed those innocent souls who lost their lives in a conflict, but lost their lives in defence of the values of freedom, of liberty and of the sovereignty of individual nations during that conflict. Since that time, broadly, in the decades that have followed, we have enjoyed a period of peace, a period of steadiness and stability, and a period of relatively increasing prosperity.

Together through our bilateral relationship, through our partnership in the Pacific Islands Forum and other regional architecture that is so critical through our engagement in multilateral fora and cooperation. We are able to make sure that the future is one equally underpinned by peace, by stability, and by the progress towards increasing stability.

We will do that by making sure that we continue to stand up for the sovereignty of nations, be they small island states, mid-size island states, or indeed more powerful states, so long as they respect the sovereignty of others.

We will do so through underpinning your efforts in areas from regional security and maritime security, through education, health and the other initiatives that have been so very, very important. So we thank you for the warm welcome that we have received, but more importantly, for the embracing partnership that exists between our nations.

We thank you, most importantly, for what we will achieve together in the future, because that is what will deliver what is most important for the children of both our nations and our region in terms of a cooperation that can underpin that type of peace, stability and prosperity that we all wish to see. Thank you very much.