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Transcript of doorstop interview: Noumea: 11 October 2010.

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The Hon Richard Marles MP Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Transcript of the doorstop interview recorded at the end of Mr Marles' call on President of New Caledonian Government Philippe Gomes


Transcript, E&OE

11 October 2010

Presentation by President of Government, Philippe Gomès: I am very pleased to welcome, on behalf of the Government of New Caledonia, the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs during his inaugural tour of the Pacific. Even more pleased as it is the first time New Caledonia is a stop, it had never been the case before, and this gesture is to be noted and highlighted and I thank the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government of Australia to have included New Caledonia in this inaugural tour.

I think this mark of attention and friendship towards New Caledonia from the Government of Australia is in line with the work undertaken with Australia to structure our relationship. I will just remind that during the past ten years we have welcomed, from time to time, a number of Ministers, we signed once an agreement (inaudible), but the relations were established as opportunities arose. It was decided during the multilevel visit to Australia in March I led with the French High Commissioner, along with the President of the Provinces and of the Congress, to structure from now on the relationship. Therefore each year, once in New Caledonia and once in Australia, officials' talks will be organised between the public servants of each country. These talks will be prepared in the months ahead on all issues of mutual interest between Australia and New Caledonia. The first officials' talks will be held this year in New Caledonia on 22-23 November.

All this is to say it is great news for our country and an honour for our country to have the Parliamentary Secretary spend one day with us to meet with institutional officials and take stock of the construction of our relationship.

Minister, if you wish to say a few words.

Richard Marles: Well, can I thank the President for his very kind words and yes coming here very much was intended to be a statement of friendship on the part of Australia towards New Caledonia. We are in some ways the closest of neighbours. The mission here that we have in New Caledonia, in Noumea, is the closest overseas mission that we have to Canberra. We really want to build upon that to become the closest of friends as well.

We see the region as very important to our foreign relations and we see New Caledonia as very important to our relations in the region. We want to build upon that to increase our economic relationship, our social relationship, our sporting relationship and to build upon our person-to-person links. So it is a real pleasure for me to be here in New Caledonia so soon

after the formation of the Gillard Government and my appointment in this role. And to that end I mentioned to the President earlier that he was the first leader of the region to send me a congratulatory note on becoming appointed to this position which is something that touched me greatly so it's good to be here as well.

We are very interested in the process of the Noumea Accord. It's an interesting process I think in global terms, it's almost unique and we want to do our part as close friends to stand by New Caledonia as it walks down that path no matter what the outcome of the Noumea Accord is. We also are aware of the desire on the part of New Caledonia to seek full membership of the Pacific Island Forum. That's an endeavour that we support, as we've indicated previously, and we are keen to show that support by our presence here.

It is a beautiful country New Caledonia. We Australians are very fond of it and it's a real joy for me to be able to follow in the footsteps of so many Australians to come here to Noumea, New Caledonia, so soon after the formation of the Gillard Government.

(Interpreter relates Mr Marles' remarks to the press in French).

Richard Marles to Interpreter: Well done. A bit concerned I might have given the interpreter a repetitive strain injury. You've done well.

Philippe Gomès: Thank you Minister. Do you have any questions?

Richard Marles: No I'm right, questions asked of me or?

Philippe Gomès: He must think we have strange practice in this country, we are the ones asking questions to the media. No it was to ask to the media if they had any question.

Richard Marles: I was going to say… it's the first time I've been in that position… I've lots of questions, actually.

Journalist: In March, during the multilevel visit there were approaches in the areas of environment, air services. I wanted to know if there were concrete outcomes after this visit.

Philippe Gomès: I may start answering this question or would you like to start?

Richard Marles: A number of issues were raised: air links, there were issues in relation to visas. I think that all of those are really important developments to work out the particulars of our relationship so we're continuing to work through each of those issues. I think there is a real open mind from both sides about how we can deal with them and that's really the point of the visit here on the 22nd of November to work through the agenda of all of those nitty gritty issues to see whether we can get a better flow of the people and relationships between Australia and New Caledonia.

(Interpreter relates Mr Marles' remarks to the press in French).

Philippe Gomès: To add to what was just said by the Minister, we set the framework of the process of the officials' talks during our visit in March. Since then constant exchanges have been carried out between our administrations in the areas of - you mentioned it - air services, of economic cooperation on which our country has a number of requests as well as

Australians' requests. In the area of education cooperation with some difficulties some New Caledonians encounter in terms of scholarships, enrolment, institutions, and the recognition of Australian degrees in New Caledonia which needs to be furthered. In the area of environmental cooperation under the framework of the Coral Sea Sustainable Management Arrangement which was signed. Also commitment to a cooperation in the agricultural area, that is to say the issues we may sometimes have during quarantine controls at Australian

borders. We have been working on all these issues for a number of months and we hope to have concrete outcomes in a number of them during the 22-23 November talks. It won't be possible to have concrete outcomes on all issues during the first meeting but we have initiated a pioneer process to discuss issues not with the flow but on a regular basis. It will be then that we will be in a position to say where we are at on each issue.

Richard Marles: That's exactly right.

Consul-General of Australia, Anita Butler: I am really sorry but we will need to stop otherwise…

Philippe Gomès: I was told there was a number of radio interviews programmed so we might need a bit of time to allow these to be taped. We all agree.

Journalist: Concretely in March, you had appointments with the Caledonian Government concerning environment, and airlines. What is the evolution since March?

Richard Marles: Well, look as I said all of these issues are being worked on and I think that the President's comments that he just made explain it well. The next meeting in relation to this is in November. There are a number of issues associated with freeing these areas of

engagement up and all of those issues are legitimate and need to be worked through. But I guess the point I'd like to make it that what we are bringing to all of these discussions is a desire to try and improve the links that exist between Australia and New Caledonia, in terms of air links, in terms of study and education. And we have a very open mind working through each of those projects. Hopefully we can get some of them bedded down in November but the

point is that it's a start and we will continue that dialogue to get to a point where we have a much closer relationship.

Thank you.

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