Minister Smith has left Australia for a visit to the Solomon Islands beginning Wednesday 13 July.

"In Honiara I will meet national leaders and visit Australian soldiers serving as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

This will be my third visit to the Solomon Islands but my first as Minister for Defence.

I will be accompanied by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, David Feeney and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison.

I will meet Prime Minister Danny Philip and other senior Ministers. I look forward to discussing with them RAMSI's success and Australia's future cooperation with Solomon Islands.

Since 2003, the Australian-led RAMSI 2003 has assisted the Solomon Islands Government in the maintenance of security, law and justice, economic governance and improving the machinery of government.

Fifteen regional countries contribute to RAMSI, which comprises approximately 550 civilian, police and military personnel. RAMSI includes around 350 Australians, some 160 of whom are police and 110 are civilian advisers.

I will meet some of the 80 Australian soldiers currently serving on Operation ANODE, the Australian Defence Force Contribution to RAMSI. The Australian soldiers currently on deployment are drawn primarily from 13th Brigade, headquartered in Perth.

Australian soldiers join with personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force, the Tongan Defence Services and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to form the Combined RAMSI Task Force.

The Combined Task Force supports the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and RAMSI's Participating Police Force to maintain security in Solomon Islands. The Combined Task Force has progressively drawn down to its current size of around 160 personnel from a peak of around 1800 in 2003, consistent with the improved security situation in the Solomon Islands.

I will also meet with police and civilian personnel serving with RAMSI, including Australian Federal Police members of the Participating Police Force.

During my visit, I will reinforce Australia's commitment to the security and prosperity of the Solomon Islands."

Source: Press Release, Australian Government, Office of Hon Stephen Smith, Australia's Defence Minister