FIJIAN Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama may be a once-feared coup leader but he warmly had Queenslanders eating out of his hand during a speech in Brisbane.

Professing his love for the victorious Queensland State of Origin rugby league team, Mr Bainimarama counted himself among the biggest Maroons fans.

In charge of a country that counts rugby sevens as its national religion, the former military leader regretted arriving in Australia a week too late to see the Maroons beat NSW in a one-sided series decider at Suncorp Stadium.

Speaking at a Brisbane trade symposium, Mr Bainimarama pointed to Fiji-born Queensland Origin great Petero Civoniceva as an inspiration to many in his Pacific Island nation.

His address was a balance of humour and enthusiasm for his country’s potential as he discussed how the shared personality characteristics of each country could bolster their trade agreements.

The room erupted in laughter as he complimented Australians for their “no bullshit” attitude, as shared with Fijians.

“Brisbane is the only place I can be Frank by name and frank by nature,” Mr Bainimarama said at Stamford Plaza.

Issues concerning citizenship, investment opportunities, Fiji’s socio economic development and the latest initiatives implemented by the Government dominated a ‘talanoa’ session held in Brisbane this evening.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama led the ‘talanoa’ session this evening with the Fijian community living in Brisbane. He is in Brisbane leading a Fijian delegation to the Fiji-Queensland Trade and Investment symposium – an event designed to develop and strengthen investment and trade opportunities between Fiji and the State of Queensland.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Bainimarama discussed key areas that would boost socioeconomic growth in Fiji – including agriculture and rural development, industry and trade, lands and mineral resources, iTaukei affairs as well as Fiji’s regional and international obligations. In discussing these different sectors, the PM also highlighted key initiatives that are being implemented in the 2017-2018 National Budget.

These initiatives include welfare support, education support, investment support, as well as funds allocated to boost the utilities and ICT sector. “We are doing everything we can to grow our economy, raise living standards and provide our people with interesting, sustainable livelihoods. And we are having a tremendous amount of success in doing so. We’ve had eight (8) straight years of economic growth – the longest in Fijian history”, PM Bainimarama said. In delivering his remarks, Prime Minister Bainimarama also invited Fijians who have made Brisbane their home, to work with Government in building the “new Fiji”.

“I again urge those who haven’t already done so to reconnect, to visit Fiji and for those who have the means, to perhaps build a house or start a business in our new and modern Fiji. There are some great opportunities for you to do so and I urge you to get all the information you need from our people at Investment Fiji.” This evening’s event also saw the PM and his delegation receive feedback and questions from these former Fijians on the work carried out by government.

They include ICT capacity for investment, the future of Fiji’s sugar industry, dual citizenship, land leases, tourism, importing food crops from Fiji etc. Also accompanying the Prime Minister are Government Ministers and senior officials representing government ministries and agencies. Also present is the Fijian Elections Office.

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