A bond between equals

12 Jan 2023
National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby
Prime Minister
Check against delivery

Mr Speaker

Honourable Prime Minister, Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Honourable Members, Friends.

Gudpela monin olgeta
[Good morning to you all]

Thank you for your warm and generous welcome.

I am delighted to be the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Papua New Guinea since 2018.

And I am deeply, deeply honoured to be the first foreign Head of Government to address your Parliament.

And what a magnificent Parliament this is.

A building rich with the art and culture and tradition of Papua New Guinea's proud history and identity.

And a chamber alive with optimism for the future of this nation and the progress of your people.

Australia and Papua New Guinea are the closest of neighbours, we are the greatest of friends.

For thousands of years, Torres Strait Islanders and the Indigenous traders of PNG shared culture and kinship, exchanging goods and ideas.

That thread runs unbroken through to today: to our modern trade links, our evolving business and investment ties, our migrants and expats, our expanding fields of cultural and educational exchange - even our shared passion for Rugby League.

We are friends. We are mates.

We are partners. We are equals.

We are neighbours who stand with each other and help each other in times of need.

Australians will never forget the heroism and humanity of the brave souls who – eight decades ago - came from all over this country to serve and fight alongside our soldiers in defence of this land and in defence of Australia's freedom too.

Or in recent times, the 100 members of Kumul Force deployed in Operation Bushfire Assist, to help Australia in the devastating Black Summer of 2019-20.

PNG was one of the very first countries to offer Australia assistance – and Kumul Force was the biggest international contingent deployed.

And on behalf of all Australians, I simply say: thank you. Tenk yu tru.

Honourable Members

Over there on the table, I can see the ceremonial mace.

A gift from the Parliament and the people of Australia, to the first Papua New Guinea House of Assembly in 1964.

A crowned symbol of authority that dates back centuries, to the mother of parliaments in Westminster.

And yet – entwined with the gold leaf and silver plate – at the core of your mace, is something unique.

A polished stone ball, representing the head of a traditional club.

There is a profound truth bound up in that.

Australia gave your first Assembly a symbol of our support and respect and affection.

A demonstration of the precious value we place on our countries' deep and lasting friendship.

And a token of gratitude for the extraordinary service your people gave to ours, in the darkest days of the Second World War.

But the true weight, the real power and the great strength at the heart of that democratic symbol – comes from Papua New Guinea.

It comes from you: your people, your culture, your courage, your talent and intellect and ambition.

That was the truth at the core of the movement to independence, now nearly half a century ago.

Because independence was not Australia's gift to give, it was the people of Papua New Guinea's right to assert, it was your opportunity to seize.

In this land of extraordinary contrasts and variety in landscapes and traditions and languages, people united around a deep faith in democracy and a powerful commitment to family and community and care for their neighbours.

Independence was – as my great predecessor Gough Whitlam said on that day of celebration in 1975 – 'an idea whose time had come'.

And it arrived not as a contested act of revolution but rather as a considered statement of national maturity, of national unity - and also a national ambition for PNG to serve as a leader in this region.

As Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare said, at the first South Pacific Forum that PNG attended as a member state:

"We are not here to rock the boat, but to add another – in order that our voyage to that glorious destination may be reached"

Nearly half a century later, we are still on that voyage, together.

And yes, there have been rough seas and tough times.

But our friendship has held true.

And, now, on the horizon, a world of opportunity awaits us.

Because Australia and Papua New Guinea are bound not just by a shared past and a shared border but by a common determination to shape our own futures.

To seize the opportunities of this moment, in this region.

This can be a decisive decade for peace, prosperity, unity and security in the Indo-Pacific.

As two big Pacific Ocean states, Australia and PNG must work as equals with our fellow Pacific states to build a stronger, safer, more secure region.

All of us have a part to play in realising that vision.

And tied in with that, all of us who serve as parliamentarians have a unique opportunity and a particular responsibility to defend the democracy in which we serve.

And we fulfil that duty best by demonstrating the value of this place and the ideals it is built on.

By proving that the system we belong to has the power to change people's lives for the better.

This begins with ensuring that every girl and boy has the right to grow up happy and safe and with the opportunity to get a great education.

The government I lead is committed to strengthening Australia's education partnership with PNG.

Working with you on the important priorities you've identified: including the early years and vocational education and training.

And making sure that equality for women and girls goes far beyond the opportunity to attend school.

We know every nation can do better and do more to achieve this – from greater economic empowerment, to preventing domestic and family violence, to achieving equality in representation.

I am proud to lead the first Australian government in 122 years where the majority of members are women.

And I want to congratulate the two new women members elected to this place – you are representatives and you are trail blazers and I hope you inspire a new generation of women and girls to serve their country and their democracy.

Equality for women is fair, it is right and it is powerful economic reform.

It boosts productivity, participation and drives growth, because it means drawing on the talent and initiative and enterprise of the whole population, not just half of it.


Education is a mighty weapon against disadvantage and equality is a powerful lever for economic growth.

But recent years have provided the world with a vivid reminder that healthy economies depend – above all - on healthy people.

Australia will continue to provide support to PNG's health priorities, including in infectious diseases, such as TB, HIV, child and maternal health and malaria.

And we are proud that the Australian-funded Angau Hospital was completed last year in Lae.

This new facility will serve an area that is home to over one million people and make a major contribution to boosting access to health care in PNG.

Prime Minister Marape

As you know, it was a Pangu Government and an Australian Labor Government that worked together to usher-in a new era for Papua New Guinea, half a century ago.

In 2023 I want our two governments to work together to unlock a new generation of prosperity for your nation.

To boost our two-way trade in everything from coffee and cocoa to fisheries and tourism.

And to bolster the significant direct investment made by the Australian private sector in PNG, which already stands at $24 billion.

More than we invest in India, Indonesia or Malaysia.

I understand PNG is eager to expand your exports of more processed goods and varied agricultural products and I see these as areas where the Australian business community can play a key role.

Our government also stands ready to assist PNG to improve your bio-security regime to enable your farmers and producers to access international markets.

And as the world looks to a more sustainable model for growth, PNG has a tremendous opportunity to expand your Green Economy.

I know a number of Australian companies are keen to explore what can be done in this area, including in hydro and hydrogen production, for example.

Together, I am confident we can ensure that the rich natural resources of Papua New Guinea are made to deliver good jobs, lasting investment and sustainable development for your nation.

But our friendship is deeper than trade – and our partnership and co-operation and engagement should reach beyond it.

Infrastructure is a longstanding policy passion of mine and I am proud that Australia is working with PNG to deliver an ambitious program of nation-building projects.

Upgrading ports, to create jobs and clear-away bottlenecks, as well as opening the door for developing export industries.

Building and maintaining a better road network, to make it easier for farmers to get their product to market and to ensure communities have more reliable access to good services.

And here, on the threshold of the biggest markets and the fastest-growing economies in the world, digital and communications infrastructure is every bit as vital as roads and ports.

This is why Australia built the Coral Sea Cable and is helping to build a productive and competitive telecommunications market for PNG.

It's important and right that the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific has a strong pipeline of projects here in PNG – and I look forward to following their progress and celebrating their completion.


In the years ahead, Australia and Papua New Guinea have a chance to honour our shared history of service in the cause of peace – by adding to it.

Deepening our defence ties and enhancing our national security co-operation and achieving a swift conclusion to negotiations on a Bilateral Security Treaty.

A treaty that will underpin our work together to address PNG's priority needs including law and order challenges, strengthening the justice system and rule of law.

A treaty based on deep trust.

And a treaty that builds on the family-first approach to regional security.

An example to others and an investment in the future of our partnership.

In this same spirit of regionalism, we are expanding opportunities for PNG citizens to travel and work in Australia through the Working Holiday Visa, the Pacific Engagement Visa and - in particular - the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme.

Australian farmers and producers benefit from the expertise and industry of your people.

Just as importantly, the people of PNG earn good wages and develop new skills that they can use to support their families, educate their children and invest in opportunities that will deliver further prosperity for themselves and PNG.

And – Prime Minister Marape – my government backs your ambition to significantly increase the number of PNG workers who take part in this program in Australia and contribute to the future prosperity of both our nations.

Honourable Members

All of you appreciate that our region is on the frontline of the global fight against climate change.

Our Pacific neighbours are counting on PNG and Australia to support international co-operation, to show leadership and to take action.

There is not a moment to waste.

It is up to our generation to protect the precious and unique natural environment of our rainforests, reefs and coasts.

To build – and plan – our infrastructure so our communities are more resilient and better prepared for natural disasters.

It is the responsibility of our generation to ensure our farmers and producers do not suffer irreversible damage to their land and livelihoods.

And it is the great opportunity of our generation to grasp the transformative economic benefits of clean energy technology.

All of which is why I'm very pleased PNG will be joining the Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme.


When Prime Minister Marape and I watched the State of Origin together in Suva last year, he said there are only three days your country stops.

Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3.

That's something I think a lot of Australians can relate to.

And it was great to see so many people getting off the Air Niugini flights in Brisbane to support the talent of the Kumuls and the Orchids in the Prime Minister's XIII matches.

And today I affirm my view that I want to see a PNG-based, Pacific Islander team compete in the National Rugby League competition.

Whether it is rugby league, or cricket with the Barras and the Lewas, or the work being done here by the AFL, sport is such a genuine and powerful way of building strong and lasting ties between our peoples, at a code and club and community and family level.

And the same is true for education and art and cultural exchange.

My government will continue to support programs that deepen understanding and strengthen connections between Australians and the people of Papua New Guinea.

Because at the heart of our two nations' friendship is that sense of respect and connection between equals.

Honourable Members

Tomorrow, I will travel to Wewak to pay my respects at the resting place of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.

Before I left for this visit I was shown a photo taken in 1974 at an event in Sydney.

The Grand Chief holding onto part of a two-pronged spear which he's just broken across his knee, into two pieces.

One was given to Gough Whitlam, the other to the great Motuan leader, Oala Oala Rarua of Pari village.

This gesture was a symbol of peace – but also the signifier of a pact, a promise.

A new path of friendship, mateship and common accord.

A bond between equals.

I am proud to say today that Australia is determined to continue to honour that promise.

We stand with you.

We hold true.

Our two nations are bound together – now let us build together.

A future of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all.

Tenk yu tru olgeta, lukim yu bihain.
[Thank you very much, everyone, see you again]