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Remarks by new Forum Chair PM Kevin Rudd at opening of 40th PIF
 Remarks at the opening of the 40th Pacific Islands Forum Cairns, Australia 5th August 2009 by the Australian Prime Minister, Hon. Kevin Rudd and new Forum Chair.


If I could just echo those remarks about the wonderful young people from Cairns State High. Thank you for your song and your celebration with us today.

And also, earlier, of course, that remarkable performance from Seaman Dan. Anyone who could begin his singing career at 70 and be rolling on the way in which he is, I presume, nearing 80, as my colleague said to me quietly over my shoulder as he was singing, “there is hope yet for us all.”

Post-politics, new career options present themselves to us all.

Forum Leaders; other delegation leaders; ministerial colleagues; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Welcome to Australia. Welcome to Queensland. Welcome to the great city of Cairns and welcome to this, the 40th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting.



I begin by acknowledging the first Australians on whose land we meet and whose cultures we celebrate as the oldest continuing cultures in human history. For us in Australia, that is a matter of great pride - the fact that we now share this wonderful continent with our Indigenous Australians, our Indigenous brothers and sisters, who take us back to the dreamtime.

I also acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji People – and thank you for that Welcome to Country from Seith Fourmile.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is 15 years since Australia last hosted the Pacific Islands Forum.

So it is with great personal pleasure, that on behalf of the Australian Government, that I am here this morning as the incoming chair of this year’s Forum.

It is entirely appropriate that we have this meeting here in Cairns – a great Australian city, a city that has very close links with the Pacific island nations; personal ties, business ties, cultural ties.

This is a great city, it is a city with a great civic culture, and I am sure that the people of Cairns will continue to make you feel welcome you here during your time with us in Australia. They are renowned as people of great hospitality and friendship, and I know already that has been extended to my Forum colleagues so far.

I would also like to thank the outgoing Chair of the Forum, Premier Toke Talagi of Niue, for his outstanding work as Chair of the Forum over the last and challenging 12 months.

I would acknowledge my friendship with him, and the strong leadership he has shown for the people of Niue, but most critically at this difficult time, leadership also for the Pacific Island Forum. Toke – congratulations for your leadership on behalf of us all.

I would also like to thank the Secretary-General, Neroni Slade for his comments, and for the excellent work he has done in preparation for this Forum, and for the excellent work of the Secretariat which he leads.

And I would also most particularly like to thank you, the leaders of the Pacific, in advancing the work that we have done so far, and the work which still lies ahead of us in the days ahead, and in the years ahead.

In 2008, not long after the Government which I lead was elected, I paid a visit to the Grand Chief in Port Moresby and to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands in Honiara. It was one of my first visits abroad as Prime Minister.

And through those visits I wished to underline one core fact – that we, the Australian Government, wished to reinvigorate our engagement with our Pacific Island neighbours.

At that time I issued the Port Moresby Declaration that set out our principles, Australian principles, that would guide our partnerships with the Pacific Island Nations – principles of mutual respect, principles of mutual responsibility.

And we have sought to put those principles into action by setting up our Pacific Partnerships for Development – with the Millennium Development Goals at their core.

We have also put those principles into action through a renewed focus on our engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum.

This Forum has a long and successful history of bringing the nations and leaders of our region together to chart a shared course through our common challenges.

It embodies the values and principles to which we all hold true – values of democracy, of mutual respect, and a desire to build a better future for all our nations and all our peoples, whether those nations be large or small.

It embodies, as the Secretary-General said before, the ‘Pacific Way’.

One of the wonderful things about our region is that we bring together so many countries, large and small. It is a great thing that in fact we have just been led as a Forum by the Premier of Niue, whose population is barely a thousand or two, and across our family of nations within this Forum, countries such as Niue, Nauru, Tuvalu, Palau, the Cook Islands, all countries, all peoples, with populations less than 20,000 people, but for us as friends and partners within the region, their aspirations and needs are as important as any other nation and any other country within our region.



It does, I believe, reflect the nature of the Pacific Way that we as brothers and sisters within this region take deeply and take personally and take collectively the needs of us all.



This year our Forum is being held at a time of major global economic crisis.



Governments in the region and around the world, face an enormous challenge in responding to this crisis. Like all nations, the countries of the Pacific are feeling the impact of a crisis not of their own making.



And until global economic confidence is fully restored, and until credit flows and financial markets return to normal, our countries will continue to face great economic challenges.



I believe, however, that there are focused, practical actions that countries can take to reduce the impacts of this crisis.



And I believe that this meeting of our Forum can set the course that we can take.



We can agree to take specific actions.



We can ensure that we deliver sustainable budgets.



We can ensure that we maintain and improve the delivery of the core services, including health, education and vital infrastructure.



We must seize the opportunity presented by this years’ Forum to build a consensus on how best to respond to the crisis within this, our region.



Donors and recipients must to commit to measurable actions to strengthen development coordination and build our regions’ economic resilience for the long term.



More effective coordination mechanisms between Pacific island countries on the one hand and development partners on the other will help the region achieve real outcomes, including progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.



We need to do this to make a real difference to the lives of the 2.7 million people living across the Pacific who still, today, live in poverty.



That is a collective challenge for us all. It is a collective challenge which should focus our every program of action.



Of course, alongside the global economic crisis, governments are responding to climate change – the great challenge of our time, the great challenge also for the island countries of the Pacific.



We must lift our efforts to deliver the outcome the world and our region needs in Copenhagen.



The nations of the Pacific are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and Pacific island nations are among the least responsible for the causes of climate change.



But they will bear the brunt of its impact the most. We must all act together to meet this challenge.



We need concerted action – domestically, internationally, locally, globally – to meet the challenge of climate change.



Australia is already working with partners in this room to find ways we can adapt to the changes climate change will bring.



We are working internationally and domestically to mitigate the effects of climate change.



And we are playing our part in international gatherings – including by representing the interests of the Pacific island nations – in other international fora where Australia participates, including the G20.



With only 123 days to go until Copenhagen, the world has a window of opportunity to deal with mitigation and adaptation and to deliver increased financial measures in order to act on climate change.



We must use every opportunity to recommit ourselves as a region and as an international community to deliver a strong outcome in Copenhagen, necessary for the planet, necessary for the Pacific, necessary for all our peoples.



I am particularly pleased today that, Mr Yvo de Boer, Executive Director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been able to join us for our discussions as our special guest.



Climate change is no respecter of persons. Climate change effects all countries, all peoples, from the strongest to the most vulnerable. We therefore, in Australia, take seriously our responsibility to argue forcefully in the forums of the world the interests of our region including some of the most vulnerable states in the world, dealing with the challenge of climate change.



Climate change – a challenge for Australia, a challenge for the Pacific, a challenge for the world, a challenge which requires strong political leadership to bring about real change for future generations.



Of course we also have other important policy questions ahead of us this week.



The Forum has made its view clear on the situation in Fiji, and our dismay and the difficulties now confronting the people of Fiji. The fact that in recent times that we have seen the arrest of ministers of religion in Fiji is not the Pacific Way. The people of Fiji deserve better, and we look forward to their return to the family of democracies across our region.



This week we will need to reflect on how we can urge Fiji to return promptly to democracy, particularly in the light of the deterioration which has occurred in recent months.



Our trade ministers have recommended we begin negotiations on a new trade and economic agreement – something Australia strongly supports as good for the future of the region.



This agreement will be a critical element of our work to drive closer economic integration and advance progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.



We also have to consider the challenge of protecting our fisheries.



Australia is committed to assisting Pacific island countries protect their fisheries – a vital resource for the region – combating transnational crime and strengthening their maritime security.



As part of Australia’s ongoing commitment, Australia will provide continued support for the Pacific Patrol Boat Program and in consultation with our Pacific partners work towards a new maritime security program to follow it.



We should also commend the achievements of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, RAMSI, and I strongly endorse the remarks earlier by the Premier of Niue. We should welcome RAMSI’s close partnership with the Solomon Islands Government, led by Prime Minister Sikua.



And I acknowledge also again publicly the contribution of all regional governments in ensuring that this mission in the Solomons has been a success, while recognising the challenges which continue to lie ahead.



My fellow leaders, other participants - you are indeed welcome guests in Australia.

You are welcome guests here in Cairns, and your wives and partners are welcome guests as well. And I’m sure Therese will be spending some time with you in the days ahead - and darling, it’s nice to have you back from Kilimanjaro – in one piece.



I look forward to working with my colleagues in the days ahead, as we work towards action on the critical challenges which confront us as a region. Action on economic cooperation, action on the better coordination of development assistance into the region, action on the critical challenge of climate change, and action on other practical areas of cooperation about which we spoke over dinner last night, particularly energy security and the future of renewable energy within our region as well.



These are the practical matters which actually bind us together as a region, together with the underpinning values which we continue to hold dear.



Distinguished guests, my fellow Forum leaders, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Cairns. It is great to be here with you in this great city of Australia’s north, and with those remarks let us get on with the business of this, the 40th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.



I thank you.



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