The outgoing Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, H.E Peter Hooton, says that Australia's relationship with the Solomon Islands is now stronger than ever.

Mr. Hooton made those remarks at his farewell function yesterday. "A couple of years ago, it seemed to me - and not only to me, of course - that we had lost our way somewhat. The relationship is now firmly back on track and indeed, I think, as strong or stronger than ever," said Mr. Hooton.

"However, I like nonetheless to believe that we have all emerged from that earlier turbulent period a little wiser for the experience."

Mr. Hooton said that at times Australia's sheer size and wealth and range of interests makes it appear as being "the elephant in the room." "But we can, and generally do, choose not to be the bull in the china shop."

Mr. Hooton said that the Solomon Islands and Australia will not always see the world in quite the same way and this will, on occasion, create friction and misunderstanding. "We just have to manage this and good friends will always find a way of doing so."

Mr. Hooton said that right now, there seems to be a real appetite for change in Solomon Islands. He said that it appears that people want more certainty and stability in their country's political arrangements.

"The Solomon Islands Government is responding to a broad desire for change with energy and imagination. This is an exciting time for Solomon Islands and I will continue to watch, from a distance of course but with great interest, the process as it unfolds," said Mr. Hooton.

Mr Hooton will depart Solomon Islands on 26 April at the end of his posting here. His successor, Mr Frank Ingruber, will arrive in country on 7 May 2009.