On 22 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister James Marape held the inaugural Papua New Guinea-Australia Leaders’ Dialogue.
Prime Minister Marape’s visit to Australia marks the beginning of a new chapter for Australia and Papua New Guinea, as equal sovereign partners with a shared history and an ambitious vision for the future. Our relationship has matured into a contemporary and broad-ranging partnership, reflecting our growing economic ties, common strategic interests and strong people-to-people links.
Today, as a sign of the ambition the Prime Ministers have for this partnership, they have agreed to start negotiations towards a new, enhanced Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP). This CSEP will drive cooperation between our countries, provide structure to our relationship and act as a mechanism to advance new initiatives. Commitments under a CSEP will boost our engagement across key areas – security cooperation, examining bilateral trade and investment arrangements, governance, people-to-people and institutional links, a visible development program and regional cooperation.
Australia and Papua New Guinea recognise the shared security challenges we face as close neighbours and maritime nations. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of our Defence Cooperation Program, Australia will provide a new package of initiatives, valued at $20 million, to continue to build the breadth and depth of our enduring Defence partnership. The initiatives will focus on building a minimum sustainable PNG capability, including on military aviation capability, expanding our maritime security partnership, building on our infrastructure investment program including continuing our joint work on the Lombrum Naval Base in Manus Province, and continuing to work with Papua New Guinea’s future leaders as they build a strong and resilient Defence Force. The Prime Ministers also agreed to explore opportunities for enhanced capability through infrastructure development and information sharing, including on border security.
Our proud history of security cooperation has entered a new era with Papua New Guinea’s first Guardian-class patrol boat making a valued contribution to support closer regional collaboration to tackle shared challenges, including illegal fishing and transnational crime. A second patrol boat is in its construction phase and will be completed in early 2021.
Cooperation between our Governments has significantly reduced the threat of people smuggling in our region. Australia gratefully acknowledges the critical role Papua New Guinea has played as a valuable regional processing partner. Australia supports Papua New Guinea’s intent to see services provided by local companies in Papua New Guinea selected through an open and transparent tender process and both countries are committed to ensuring that a successful transition arrangement is expeditiously in place. Together, we share a commitment to support the economic aspirations of Manusians through our development and vocational education cooperation.
Australia is committed to supporting Papua New Guinea’s priorities in building its capacity in policing, and will commit $135.9 million (over three and a half years) to the new long-term Policing Program. This funding will enhance and modernise RPNGC policing operations through improved community-level service delivery, prosecution services, enhanced training capabilities through increased support to the Bomana Police Training College, and improved corporate enabling services. This represents Australia’s largest bilateral policing partnership and will complement regional policing initiatives in the Pacific.
Building on Australia’s commitment to work with our regional partners to strengthen the ability of Pacific governments to enforce their laws and protect their sovereignty, Australia will welcome a secondee from Papua New Guinea to the interim Pacific Fusion Centre.
Our economic relationship is a critical driver of prosperity. Australia is Papua New Guinea’s largest investor, trading and commercial partner and we will continue to work together to grow the economy.
The strength of this economic partnership is underpinned by joint infrastructure initiatives such as the Coral Sea Cable, PNG Electrification Partnership and the Transport Sector Support Program. The Coral Sea Cable Project will deliver 800 times Papua New Guinea’s current internet capacity and have a transformational effect on economic and social development in Papua New Guinea.
Australia and Papua New Guinea will also jointly deliver a suite of new investments in the energy sector, valued at up to $250 million. This transformational portfolio of projects will be funded through a mix of grants and loans to bring on additional, low-cost electricity generation to the Ramu Grid. Projects that are currently being scoped include a new gas-fired power plant at Hides; a refurbishment of existing hydroelectricity plants; a new solar power plant (that will be the first of its kind in Papua New Guinea); and upgrades to transmission lines in the Ramu and Port Moresby grids. This will support reduced costs and increased access to energy, consistent with our commitment under the PNG Electrification Partnership. This builds on Australia’s collaboration with New Zealand to extend electricity transmission and distribution lines in Tsak Valley, Enga Province - providing 30,000 people with access to reliable power for the first time. In addition, we will provide up to $20 million from the Development Assistance Program to pilot off-grid electrification projects in remote areas, providing sustainable power and lighting to many communities for the first time.
The Prime Ministers acknowledged the mutual benefits offered by the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Workers Programme, and undertook to invigorate labour mobility opportunities for Australian and Papua New Guinean workers and businesses, including by enhancing technical and vocational learning opportunities to Australian standards. Australia was pleased to welcome Papua New Guinea into the Pacific Labour Scheme on 20 March 2019, and looks forward to working with Papua New Guinea to maximise PNG workers’ participation in the Scheme.
To strengthen our education ties, Australia will provide $9.5 million over three years (2019-2021) to a new PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools Initiative to strengthen our enduring education linkages. It will pair Papua New Guinean and Australian secondary schools to build education and leadership skills and deepen people-to-people and institutional links.
Building on Prime Minister Marape’s quality healthcare agenda, Australia will provide additional funding ($54 million over six years) to improve access to rural primary health services through improved infrastructure, governance, financing flows and medicine availability. Australia will also direct $10 million to Papua New Guinea’s accelerated routine immunisation program and leverage an additional $20 million in funding support (from GAVI and New Zealand) as part of a new innovative partnership to immunise up to 400,000 children collectively across 12 provinces in Papua New Guinea over three years. Up to $15 million per annum will be directed to the next phase of support to control drug-resistant tuberculosis, delivered through a partnership with the World Health Organization, Papua New Guinea National Department of Health and several newly established Provincial Health Authorities.
Our love of sport binds our countries. Two major rugby league matches will be played between Australia and Papua New Guinea on 31 August 2019. The Australian Broncos Legends will play the PNG Kumuls as the curtain raiser to the NRL Women’s trial match between the Australian Broncos NRL Women’s team and the PNG Oil Search Orchids in Port Moresby. Australia’s sport linkages program has helped secure the games, and will include a number of off-field activities including clinics and community outreach.
The Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea share a commitment to respecting and supporting the important role and contribution that faith has in our respective countries. Australia will extend the long-standing PNG-Australia Church Partnership Program to April 2022, in recognition of the key role PNG churches play in delivering basic services to the people of Papua New Guinea.
The 27th Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum will be hosted in Papua New Guinea later this year. The Ministerial Forum is the central element of the Australia-Papua New Guinea bilateral architecture and will provide the opportunity to progress these major undertakings.
The Prime Ministers will continue to work together as regional leaders to advance the common interests of the Pacific as a sovereign, independent and prosperous family. They look forward to meeting again at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August.