Australia's Minister for Defence, Hon Stephen Smith MP, visited Solomon Islands from 12-13 July and met with national leaders and Australian soldiers serving as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

This was his first visit to the Solomon Islands as Minister for Defence.

He was accompanied by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator the Hon David Feeney and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison.

He met with the Prime Minister, Hon Danny Philip MP, and discussed the continuing process towards greater security responsibility for Solomon Islands authorities and Australia's future cooperation with Solomon Islands. He reinforced Australia's commitment to the security and prosperity of Solomon Islands.

He met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Peter Shanel Agovaka MP; Minister for Finance and Treasury, Hon Gordon Darcy Lilo MP; Minister for Police and National Security, Hon Clay Forau MP and the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Derek Sikua MP.

He visited the HMAS Canberra memorial to lay a wreath in honour of the crew of HMAS Canberra I, which on 9 August 1942, was struck by the opening shots of the Battle of Savo Island and was damaged beyond repair. The Cruiser was evacuated and sunk in Iron Bottom Sound by two American destroyers.

He also laid a wreath at the US Memorial.

He met members of the Combined Task Force, the Australian Federal Police and Participating Police Force, including 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.

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 Solomon Islands.

Since 2003, the Australian-led RAMSI 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.

Source: Press Release, Australian High Commission, Solomon Islands