Gillard leaves Pacific Forum over news of five soldier deaths in Afghanistan


Pacific Scoop PIF Coverage
Gillard leaves Pacific Forum over news of five soldier deaths in Afghanistan

Puna and Gillard

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna greets Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Forum opening ceremony – but she flew home tonight. Image: Cook Islands News

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Rachel Reeves on Rarotonga and the Pacific Media Centre news desk

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an emergency exit from Rarotonga tonight, amid news that five Australian soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan.

Gillard gave a speech in the afternoon at the National Auditorium, announcing her government’s commitment to provide $320 million over the next decade to Pacific women, aimed at achieving gender equality in the region.

Shortly thereafter, she was on board her RAAF Boeing 737 returning to Canberra, describing the deaths of the three soldiers as “the most awful news”.

2012 PIF logoThe Australian Defence Force confirmed today that three Australians were killed by a colleague in the Afghan security forces in the southern Uruzgan province.

Hours later, reported the Associated Press news agency, two Australian soldiers died and a crew member was wounded when their helicopter rolled over while landing in Helmand province.

Gillard’s announcement about the “unprecedented investment” in Pacific women met enthusiastic applause and praise from Prime Minister Henry Puna, Forum Secretariat Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, and UN Women’s Director Michelle Bachelet.

Women reportedly hold just five percent of the Pacific’s parliamentary seats, and more than 60 percent of women in some countries have experienced sexual or physical abuse, according to figures released from AusAID.

However, three women were elected to Parliament in the recent elections in Papua New Guinea – two of them now in cabinet. Previously there was one.

Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs Richard Marles will represent Australia for the rest of the Forum.

Rachel Reeves is political reporter of the Cook Islands News.

Cook Islands News

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