Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and a team of parliamentarians from Australia wrapped up a whirlwind five-day visit to three north Pacific nations with a final stop in the Marshall Islands last Wednesday and Thursday.
The Marshall Islands visit included a meeting with President Hilda Heine, a reception with government, private sector and non-government representatives Wednesday evening, and a visit to a domestic violence prevention program prior to departing to Australia Thursday morning. Earlier last week, the Australian group visited Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Environment Minister David Paul and Minister Bishop toasted long-standing and close relations between the two nations during Wednesday’s reception at the Marshall Islands Resort. Paul noted that Australia was the second nation after the United States to extend diplomatic recognition to the Marshall Islands after it entered a Compact of Free Association with the US in 1986.
Bishop reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to and engagement in the Pacific region.
Although climate issues have come to dominate all government activities in the Marshall Islands, neither Bishop nor Paul mentioned the climate issue during their friendly remarks as this remains a point of contention. The Heine administration has been openly critical of Australia’s energy and climate policies over the past two years. But while this may have been addressed during closed door meetings between the Australian delegation and President Heine earlier Wednesday, both Bishop and Paul focused on other issues of mutual agreement in their remarks at the reception.
Prior to departure Thursday, Bishop’s team visited the offices of the national women’s organization, Women United Together Marshall Islands, to show support for the “Weto in Mour” (“safe haven”) program that provides counsel and services to victims of domestic violence. Bishop noted that the Australian government is providing funding in the Pacific region, including to WUTMI, for a variety of women’s empowerment programs.
Bishop was accompanied on her visit by Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Senator Penny Wong, Senator Claire Moore, Ambassador of Australia to the RMI George Fraser, Assistant Secretary Pacific Bilateral and New Zealand Branch Richard Session, and officials from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Read more about this in the June 15, 2018 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.