1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND GREETINGS
Senator, the Hon Brett Mason Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Australia and members of the Delegation from Canberra
Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council, Mr. Ikbal Jannif
Acting Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, H. E. Mr. Glenn Miles
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Minister Counsellor for Development at the Australian High Commission in Suva, Mr. John Davidson and other staff of DFAT Suva
Chair, Finance and Investments Committee, Ms Faye Yee
Chair, Audit and Risk Committee, Mr. Iowane Naiveli
Members of Council, Senate and their Committees
Members of Senior Management, Directors of regional campuses, Staff and Students of USP
Distinguished Guests and Friends of USP
Ladies and Gentlemen
May I also join DVC Williams in extending the University’s very warm welcome to you all and convey our very special greetings to you Senator Mason and members of your delegation.
I hope, Senator Mason, that this visit to the University and your launch of the Australia-USP Partnership Agreement, 2014-2018 will be both enjoyable and useful and show just how strong and close—and mutually beneficial—the partnership between Australia and the region’s premier University is.
2. Historically Close Relationship
We are very grateful to the Government and the people of Australia for all the assistance it has provided since the University’s inception 46 years ago. During this time, the University has come a long way: it now has an enrolment of over 24,000 students in 14 campuses in 12 countries, expected to rise to 33,000 by 2018 spread across 33 million km2 of the Pacific Ocean and one that produces just over 2,500 graduates annually, one third of who receive postgraduate awards. The University is one of the world’s leading universities in distance and flexible learning and the utilization of ICTs.
In this rapid development of the University, the Australian Government has worked side by side and fully supported USP; our partnership and friendship are therefore truly long-term, close and cordial.
Australia has contributed to the budget, infrastructure development and projects. Since 2010, Australia has generously provided assistance for the implementation of Strategic Plan 2010-2012 and now the current plan.
The Australian Awards Pacific Scholarships (AAPS) scheme is another example of Australia’s commitment to providing education to the youths of the region over many years now. This semester Australia is supporting a total 333 students at USP, some of whom I can see in the audience today.
Australia has also assisted USP in many infrastructural development projects over the years, some of which will be showcased this afternoon. Australia has also funded many projects in key areas such as climate change, teacher training, public administration, and in the law and justice sector.
Today, we officially celebrate the new Australia-USP Partnership for 2014-2018. The agreement itself was signed on March 20th, concluding a process that started last year.
As Senator Mason has indicated in his remarks the total value of the new Partnership is AUD 49 million, which is approximately FJD 84.7 million. The new annual level of funding is AUD 14 million, an increase of 75 percent from the previous USP-Australia Partnership.
I am sure that all of you will agree with me that the new partnership demonstrates great generosity on the part of the Australian Government and people. I assure you that USP will deliver outstanding results thanks to this investment.
This partnership is crucial to the implementation of the University’s bold and ambitious Strategic Plan, especially in the transformation of the University from a good university that it is widely acknowledged to be to an excellent University that gives pride to the leaders and the people of the Pacific as an outstanding example of far-sighted regional co-operation, relevant tertiary education, and impactful research that provides solutions to the major development problems of the Pacific. We should also strengthen USP as exemplar for tertiary educational institutions in the Pacific in good governance and management, excellence of its teaching, research and policy advice, in the innovative use of ICTs and new pedagogies, and in building a symbiotic and synergistic ecosystem of tertiary education and institutions in our region.
Senator Mason, this partnership that you have just launched is for the mutual benefit of Australia and the Pacific. I have already identified the benefits to USP and the region. The partnership also benefits Australia by increasing the impact of Australian assistance on Pacific countries and making such assistance more sustainable through the production of high quality graduates. High quality graduates contribute to the economic and social development of our member countries. USP educates the leaders of tomorrow and inculcates in them a strong sense of regionality, and a mind-set that values regional co-operation and integration. This is a now a value explicitly recognized in the Strategic Plan. All these support Australian government’s deep commitment to regional co-operation and integration. Finally, USP is a good partner for Australia as it seeks timely and nuanced understanding of the swift changes taking place in the Pacific, and of the aspirations of the countries and the people of the Pacific.
In summary, Senator Mason, we believe that USP represents very good investment for Australia. The Pacific Plan Review Report said that USP was the most successful example of regional co-operation and shared services; it also praised USP’s governance structure and processes and asked other regional organizations to use it as a model. It is an organization that is deeply embedded in the region; it is substantially funded by member countries giving it strong sense of ownership; and no government has defaulted in its payments in its 46-year history. It is an institution whose vision and mission and its Strategic Plan fully support Australia’s engagement with the Pacific.
The new partnership is an integral part of USP and through it the Pacific Islands’ future. We take this partnership as powerfully signalling Australia’s continued confidence in the value of its investment in USP, which is at the heart of Pacific Islands development. We deeply value this partnership and expression of confidence and we will ensure that the funds are spent well and that that the main objectives of the partnership are achieved.
I hope you will all now join me in warmly thanking Australia for its tremendous support.
Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyabad and Thank you.