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Australia and New Zealand prepare for leadershop forum.

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13 December 2003


Australia and New Zealand have appointed co-chairs for next year’s inaugural Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum.

The announcement of Margaret Jackson (Chair of Qantas) and Kerry McDonald (Chair of the BNZ) as co-chairs was made today by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer and the New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff at their regular six-monthly consultations held this year in Blenheim, New Zealand.

The first annual Leadership Forum is planned for May next year in Auckland. Senior political, business and opinion leaders from Australia and New Zealand will gather to discuss issues of mutual concern in a rapidly changing world.

The forum aims to ensure that the already close and dynamic relationship between the two countries continues to flourish. It will enable robust discussion of new approaches to the many challenges faced by both nations.

Mr Downer and Mr Goff discussed a range of issues in their Blenheim consultations, including the successful commemoration this year of the 20th Anniversary of CER. They agreed to examine further opportunities to extend this economic co-operation and joint effort within the region.

Mr Downer briefed Mr Goff on progress in Australia’s negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States and on Australia’s enhanced cooperation package with Papua New Guinea. The Ministers also discussed the good progress made so far by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, to which Australia and New Zealand are the biggest contributors. They agreed that with the success of immediate security stabilisation, RAMSI’s focus would shift to the difficult, long-term tasks of economic and governance reform. They reaffirmed their commitment to restoring the integrity of government institutions and strengthening the Royal

Solomon Islands Police.

The two Ministers also underlined their commitment to work with other members of the Pacific Islands Forum to review and strengthen the organisation to meet the needs of the Pacific in the 21st Century. They expressed confidence that the report being drafted by the Eminent Persons Group would help meet that goal.

The two Ministers had a broad ranging discussion on regional and global issues including the Campaign against Terrorism and the situation in Iraq.

They expressed concern about moves in Taiwan that threatened to upset the basis on which relations between Taipei and Beijing had proceeded in recent years. The Ministers confirmed that both Australia and New Zealand continued to adhere to a One China policy and urged both sides to avoid any actions or statements that would further increase tensions in cross-straits relations.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 / 0419 206 890