17 Dec 2003

Australian foreign minister visits Tonga and Fiji

8:12 am on 17 December 2003

Security and the economy are the focus of a four-day trip to Tonga and Fiji for an Australian parliamentary delegation led by the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

The Tongan and Fiji governments are to be thanked by Mr Downer for their assistance in helping restore law and order in Solomon Islands.

The Minister says he also plans to discuss the review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

He says he is confident of the support from Tonga and Fiji for the reforms to better equip the Forum to deal with governance and security challenges.

Mr Downer says Australia has a strong relationship with Tonga but the country is facing significant challenges.

He says resolving those challenges will be best managed by the people of Tonga, but he says his visit will provide an opportunity to emphasise Australia's willingness to support sensible reform.

Mr Downer also says Australia is helping Fiji develop market-oriented solutions to industry development and restructuring.