16 Dec 2004

Alexander Downer makes a surprise visit to Vanuatu

8:11 pm on 16 December 2004

The Australian Foreign Minister has made an unscheduled visit to Vanuatu to make early contact with the new Ham Lini led government.

Mr Lini assumed power last Saturday after a vote of no confidence in the Vohor administration.

Alexander Downer is touring the Pacific, visiting Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and New Zealand at the weekend, but Vanuatu was not added to the list until after the overthrow of Mr Vohor.

Mr Downer is expected to reconfirm Australia's commitment to Vanuatu's Comprehensive Reform Programme, which Mr Vohor had wanted to dismantle.

This had prompted the Australian Government to threaten to withdraw aid if Vanuatu did not continue to seek good governance and the elimination of corruption.

Mr Downer's visit follows Vanuatu's re-engagement with China after the previous government opened a rift by allowing diplomatic links with Taiwan.

China has already released some of the aid funds it had held back - two million US dollars is to go towards assisting Vanuatu's education sector.