A new chapter in Australia-PNG relations
WED 12 OCTOBER 2011
Prime Minister Julia Gillard was pleased today to welcome the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, The Hon. Peter O‘Neill, to Canberra for an official visit, his first since becoming Prime Minister.
Papua New Guinea is Australia’s nearest neighbour, a friend and a genuine partner.
The largest Pacific Island nation, Papua New Guinea today stands on the threshold of an historic opportunity to develop its significant natural resources wealth in a way that delivers lasting benefit for its people.
A new chapter in Australia-PNG relations is beginning.
In discussions with Prime Minister O’Neill today, the Prime Minister committed Australia to a strong and close partnership geared towards supporting Papua New Guinea through the period of change ahead.
Managing Resource Revenues
PNG’s $15 billion ExxonMobil-led Liquefied Natural Gas project is scheduled to commence in 2014.
Australia is providing technical assistance to support the establishment of a PNG Sovereign Wealth Fund through which to invest resource revenue for the long-term benefit of all Papua New Guineans.
Australia will continue this support. As part of Australia’s assistance, officials from Papua New Guinea’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Secretariat will undertake placements in our Future Fund and relevant Government departments. The first placements are expected to occur in the second half of 2012.
Australia will provide additional assistance, including in economic modelling and policy advice, under the Joint Understanding on Further Cooperation on the PNG LNG Project.
Delivering Results through our Aid Program
The Prime Minister and Prime Minister O’Neill welcomed the considerable work that has been done to re-shape Australia’s development cooperation program for PNG to focus strongly on education and health.
The Prime Ministers welcomed today’s endorsement by the PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum of Partnership for Development schedules covering education, health and HIV/AIDS, transport and law and justice.
The Prime Minister shared Prime Minister O’Neill’s strong focus on increasing access to education and improving its quality.
Under the Partnership for Development, we have agreed to work towards a higher net enrolment rate in basic education by 2015 and 52,000 graduates from higher education institutions between 2011 and 2015. We are working together on stronger quality assessment processes for PNG schools and higher education institutions.
The Prime Ministers welcomed the release by our Foreign Ministers of the Universities Review and its endorsement as a blueprint for future cooperation in the tertiary sector.
The Prime Minister was pleased to advise Prime Minister O’Neill of 20 Australia-Papua New Guinea Prime Ministers’ Awards for rural students in Papua New Guinea to gain teaching qualifications.
Support to PNG’s female leadership
Participation by Pacific women in regional parliaments is very low. The Prime Minister commended Prime Minister O’Neill on the introduction to the Papua New Guinea Parliament of ground-breaking legislation which will ensure 22 reserved seats for women. In partnership with the Australian National University, the PNG Office for the Development of Women and the United Nations Development Program, Australia will support efforts through a new $1 million project to help women in PNG gain skills in democratic politics.
A New Economic Chapter
Our trade and economic relationship is vibrant and growing. Australia is PNG’s largest export market and two-way merchandise trade is worth around $5.7 billion. Australian firms are an active presence in PNG’s growing economy. Reflecting a maturing bilateral relationship in which economic ties and cooperation take on a greater role, the Prime Ministers tasked officials to move quickly to commence negotiations on a proposed Economic Cooperation Treaty.
Our Policing Partnership
Stable and secure societies promote economic opportunity. Australia will therefore provide ongoing support for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC).
We have been working with Papua New Guinea to develop the next phase of the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership.
Australia will provide a range of training and support services to improve the capabilities of the PNG police.
The Prime Minister also agreed with Prime Minister O’Neill that Australia will place Australian Federal Police officers into in-line positions in the RPNGC.
These positions will be subject to PNG needs and officers will work in senior, strategic roles. They will not undertake front-line policing. Final details will be determined in discussions with Papua New Guinea.
The Prime Minister also agreed that Australia will provide support for the conduct of the 2012 Parliamentary elections in Papua New Guinea. This support will include assistance with planning, police communications, command and control mechanisms and training of RPNGC officers.
WWII commemorative events
The 70th anniversary of the critical WWII campaigns in Papua New Guinea will be commemorated next year – an historical milestone for our two countries.
Australia will send two commemorative missions in 2012: one in September to commemorate the Battle of Milne Bay and another in November to commemorate the Kokoda campaign and the Battle for the Beachheads at Buna, Gona and Sanananda.
Defence cooperation and peacekeeping
The Prime Minister congratulated Prime Minister O’Neill on the impending first ever deployments by the PNG Defence Force to a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Australia has provided pre-deployment and force preparation training to ready PNGDF members for deployment to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Australia is supportive of both missions. We look forward to working with our PNGDF partners through UN peacekeeping missions.
Working together in the region and beyond
The Prime Minister agreed with Prime Minister O’Neill that we should work closely together on regional issues, in support of shared democratic values and to promote security and economic development.
The Prime Minister noted with concern recent developments in Fiji and the continuing impact of the Bainimarama regime on the Fijian people.
The Prime Ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining firm pressure on Fiji to restore democracy and address human rights concerns, and the important role that Australia and Papua New Guinea – as leaders in the region – could play.
The Prime Ministers also discussed the need for regional cooperation to combat people smuggling. The Prime Minister thanked Prime Minister O’Neill for PNG’s ongoing preparedness to work with Australia and the region to deal with irregular people movement.
The Prime Minister looked forward to welcoming Mr O’Neill to Australia for the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth and to working with him to strengthen and reform the Commonwealth.