Australia and Samoa "not just neighbours"
Australia remains committed to help Samoa, that country's Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Anne Ruston says.
Ms. Ruston is in Samoa not only to attend the opening of Parliament but also to meet officials, visit Australian funded sites and agencies, and to convey the messages of the Pacific Step Up initiative of the Australian Government.
Speaking before ceremoniously gifting the Parliament Mace to the Government of Samoa, Ms. Ruston said the building, and Australia’s part in building it, reflects the long and enduring links between the two nations.
“It is truly a building for all Samoans. But it also symbolises the extraordinary long and enduring links between Samoa and Australia,” she said.
“The support we have been able to give you has been something that I think demonstrates the long-held collaboration that I think has always existed between our two countries.”
Samoa and Australia do not merely share space in the region, Ms. Ruston continued.
“We are not just neighbours, we are not just people that live in the same region, we share so much more than that. We certainly share a love of sport; we share a love and belief in faith.
“We do though share absolutely, totally, a belief in our own region and the importance of the solidarity and the sovereignty that exists within our region and the importance of us staying together into the future.”
Speaking with the Samoa Observer later, it is clear Ms Ruston and the Australian government are serious about the Pacific Step Up, the renewed commitments to the Pacific.
On whether it was competing with other nations to be more present in the region, the Assistant Minister said Australia’s perspective is unique.
“There is certainly no doubt that there is an increasing level of interest from the rest of the world in our region,” she said.
“However, we take probably a slightly different view about our role here because we live here and we see this as our region.
“I mean the fact is that we live here, this is our region.”
She said that in her travels meeting Pacific leaders, the response to the Step Up has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“I must say that overwhelmingly all the leaders in the Pacific and the people that I have been speaking to as I have been travelling around have welcomed the initiative because it is such a wide range of initiatives,” said Ms Ruston.
And when it comes to infrastructure projects, paying close attention to how resilient they will be to climate change is top of Australia's priorities.
At the ground-breaking for a new bridge at Loto o Samasoni, Ms Ruston said natural disasters are no strangers to Australia, just as they are in Samoa.
"Australia is certainly no stranger to the impact of cyclones and we’ve had some quite devastating floods in the north of Queensland, and at the same time we’ve had bushfires raging in Victoria and Tasmania.
"So we clearly understand, like you understand, the importance of infrastructure that can withstand the kind of natural disasters that we have to take in our daily stride."