Marise Payne’s is on her first official visit, intended to strengthen bilateral co-operation between the two countries. Her visit is also billed as promoting security and prosperity in the Cook Islands, Australia and the wider Pacific.
She met with Prime Minister Henry Puna yesterday. Ahead of the meeting, she said she was looking forward to discussing the opening of an Australian High Commission.
In November last year, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced their commitment to expand their diplomatic presence to all Pacific Islands Forum members.
After the meeting, Prime Minister Puna said they had stepped up engagement with Australia over the past 10 years, and this visit was an invaluable opportunity to continue that.
Foreign Affairs secretary Tepaeru Herrmann said the next step would be at an officials level: elevated effort and co-ordination over coming months. “We are greatly encouraged by the prospects of greater bilateral and regional cooperation with Australia,” she said, “to ultimately improve the security and well-being of our Cook Islands people.”
Minister Payne also inspected the Cook Islands Patrol Boat, Te Kukupa, which is to be replaced by the Australian government with a new Guardian-Class Patrol Boat in 2022.
Payne, who is also Australia’s Minister for Women, later met with the Cook Islands National Council of Women and members of the Pacific Parliamentary Women’s Caucus to discuss women’s leadership, including Cook Islands initiatives to support women and girls.
She is expected to fly back to Australia tonight.