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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10117

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (16:21): It is with great pride that I stand here today to tell of the small part Australian parliamentarians played in the Fijian elections, the first free elections in that country for eight years. I start by thanking Julie Bishop, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, for asking me to join the team. I often speak of the role that Townsville can play in this region. If you draw a right-angled triangle using Townsville as the axis point, with Papua New Guinea and Fiji at the other two points, in the 90-degree arc is the Melanesian world. That is a very, very important part of the world for our country, and Townsville will play an important role there. You do not get too many firsts in this life, so to witness the pride of the Fijian people as they lined up to vote was a truly great moment of my life.

I would like to pass on my thanks to the acting high commissioner, Glenn Miles, and to my personal shepherd from the high commission, Peter Lothian, for the time they took to ensure we were part of the process and did not get too lost. Special thanks must go to the band of highly skilled and dedicated Australian public servants who went over to Fiji and helped them develop a system of election which works for them. But the biggest thankyou must surely go to the people of Fiji, who worked so hard to ensure this election was free and fair. The hours worked by the presiding officers and booth workers last Wednesday were huge and the responsibility they shouldered was great. To be there as they stood as a group at 7.25 am on election day and sang the national anthem is a moment I will never forget. Thank you for allowing me to witness your first election and return to democracy. Sola tale nima taha. (Time expired)