An Australian Parliamentary Delegation recently visited Solomon Islands from 31 July to 5 August.

The visit was to enhance the Australian Parliament's cultural, political and economic awareness of Solomon Islands and to improve its understanding of the challenges and opportunities faced by the country.

The delegation was led by the Hon Kelvin Thomson MP, Federal Member for Wills, Victoria; and included the Hon Peter Slipper MP, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Federal Member for Fisher, Queensland; Senator Claire Moore, Queensland; Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald, Queensland; and Ms Deborah O'Neill MP, Federal Member for Robertson, New South Wales.

During their week-long visit, the delegation met Prime Minister the Hon Danny Philip MP; Speaker of Parliament, Sir Allan Kemakeza; Opposition Leader, Hon Dr Derek Sikua MP; and a number of other Ministers and MPs.

The delegation also met representatives of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and Forum Fisheries Agency; Australian volunteers; representatives of the Australian business community; alumni of Australian universities; members of the RAMSI Participating Police Force and Combined Taskforce; and women leaders of Solomon Islands.

The delegation visited Gold Ridge mine, and toured the National Referral Hospital.

To improve their understanding of the challenges and opportunities in provincial Solomon Islands, the delegation travelled to Western Province, where they visited Gizo Primary School, Naru Island and two forestry and resources projects on Kolombangara (Kolombangara Forest Products Limited and the AusAID-funded South Pacific Regional Initiative Genetic Resources project).

Delegation leader, Kelvin Thomson, said the delegation had been impressed by the depth and breadth of the bilateral relationship.

"It was clear during our visit that the bilateral relationship draws great strength from the warm people to people links that range from the current crop of young Australian volunteers through to members of the Participating Police Force serving with RAMSI. This would not be possible without the generous hospitality of the Government and people of Solomon Islands."

On return to Canberra, the delegation will table a detailed report on its visit to Solomon Islands to the Australian Parliament.

Source: Press Release, Australian High Commission, Solomon Islands