Prime Minister James Marape and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held the fourth Papua New Guinea-Australia Annual Leaders' Dialogue on 12 January 2023 in Port Moresby.
Following elections in both countries in 2022, the Prime Ministers reaffirmed the vital partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia and their shared interests in the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific and an environment conducive to our mutual economic prosperity. They underlined the two governments' continued commitment to the Papua New Guinea-Australia Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP) and agreed the importance of continued close cooperation and dialogue.
The Prime Ministers recognised the deep cultural and historical bonds between Papua New Guinea and Australia as special sovereign partners, as they looked towards the 50th anniversary of Papua New Guinea's independence in 2025. In recognition of the contribution to bilateral ties made by past leaders on both sides, leaders looked forward to travelling together to Wewak, the home of Papua New Guinea's first Prime Minister, Great Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare. In the 81st anniversary year of the Kokoda campaign, they reflected on the friendship and kinship that was formed between Papua New Guineans and Australians during World War II, which has continued ever since.
The Prime Ministers reaffirmed both countries' commitment to democracy. Prime Minister Marape thanked Prime Minister Albanese for Australia's support to Papua New Guinea's delivery of its 2022 National Election. The leaders welcomed the establishment of Papua New Guinea's Parliamentary Election Committee to review the Election and make recommendations to enhance delivery of free, fair and safe elections in the future in Papua New Guinea. They welcomed Australia's commitment to support the Papua New Guinea Government's implementation of recommendations made by the Committee.
The Prime Ministers recognised the critical importance of gender equality to sustainable development outcomes. Leaders welcomed the recent election of two women to the Papua New Guinea National Parliament but agreed there was a need to accelerate progress, especially in the areas of increasing women's leadership, expanding women's economic empowerment and combatting gender-based violence as priorities. Prime Minister Albanese announced Australia would continue to support gender equality and women's empowerment efforts in Papua New Guinea with a new five-year investment, PNG Women Lead, to support the expansion of women's leadership in PNG and combat gender-based violence.
The Prime Ministers agreed a joint statement of commitment for a Bilateral Security Treaty between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and looked forward to the early conclusion of negotiations, guided by respective Ministers for Foreign Affairs. They noted the Treaty would be a natural progression in the existing security partnership, reflecting the two countries' shared history, geographic proximity, and common regional strategic outlook, and would fulfil a commitment made in the CSEP.
In this context, the leaders recognised the importance of effective law and order and a strong justice and police system in underpinning Papua New Guinea's security and economic development and undertook to intensify cooperation in these areas, including to address PNG's priority needs. They noted the value of the current policing partnership, and the significance of working together in supporting policing operations in the Pacific region.
The Prime Ministers undertook to continue working together on shared opportunities and challenges facing the Pacific family. They reaffirmed the critical role of the Pacific Islands Forum in supporting a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific, and reflected on the importance of the landmark 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent in guiding the regional agenda. They committed to strengthen the unity of the Pacific Islands Forum and to support the Review of the Regional Architecture.
The Prime Ministers discussed Australia's financial assistance to support Papua New Guinea's priorities around budget repair and fiscal sustainability following the pandemic. Prime Minister Marape welcomed Australia's budget support loan to help Papua New Guinea return its budget to a sustainable path. Leaders noted the loan was provided in support of Papua New Guinea undertaking an IMF program in 2023.
Both leaders welcomed the significant achievements under Australia and Papua New Guinea's infrastructure investments, including the recent redevelopment of ANGAU Memorial Provincial Hospital in Lae. The leaders also welcomed Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP) support to major capital projects in ports, roads and electrification across Papua New Guinea that would improve the competitiveness of Papua New Guinea's goods and services and increase the ability of Papua New Guinean businesses to export.
The Prime Ministers underlined their shared objective of boosting business ties, trade and investment, and welcomed the increase in Australian private sector investment in Papua New Guinea, which had reached close to $25 billion. They welcomed a joint feasibility study to examine potential new trade arrangements, which would report to the two governments in the near future.
The Prime Ministers also discussed Papua New Guinea's significant agricultural potential. They agreed the Australian and Papua New Guinean ministers responsible for agriculture would discuss, including through the 2023 Ministerial Forum, support for PNG's plans to expand its agricultural production and consider ways to build further on Australia's significant investments across infrastructure, development of key commodities, and biosecurity.
The Prime Ministers declared their intention to significantly boost Papua New Guinea's participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. Acknowledging Prime Minister Marape's ambition to deploy 8,000 PALM workers to Australia, the Prime Ministers asked responsible Ministers to identify ways to strengthen Papua New Guinea's worker mobilisation system and to consider at the 2023 Ministerial Forum specific actions for each side to take.
The Prime Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea's inclusion in the Pacific Engagement Visa. Prime Minister Marape welcomed Australia's commitment to provide in-country support for Pacific Engagement Visa applicants to connect with employers in Australia.
The Prime Ministers agreed to implement the reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangement from 1 July 2023, allowing young adults to have an extended holiday in each other's country, during which they could work and undertake short-term study. Both programs would encourage cultural exchange and closer ties between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and strengthen economic links.
Leaders reflected on both countries' passion for sport, especially rugby league. Prime Minister Marape welcomed a new commitment by Prime Minister Albanese to establish a program of schoolboys and schoolgirls rugby league tours helping cultivate high performance player pathways to support Papua New Guinea's ambition for an NRL team.
Prime Minister Marape thanked Prime Minister Albanese for strengthening the education partnership and noted Australia's contribution to the tuition fee subsidy in 2021-2022 for early grades. He noted Australia's recent investment to lift the quality of education with a focus on early grades, ensuring more children enrol and stay in school. Prime Minister Albanese was pleased to announce Australia would provide support for Papua New Guinea's new 'Improved Technical, Vocation and Training for Employment Project'. The Australian contribution would support the upgrade of ten colleges so PNG students can access quality courses, particularly for curriculum priorities identified by PNG. Prime Minister Albanese also announced funding for a new partnership between the World Bank and Papua New Guinea aimed at improving early grades education.
Noting the contribution that the 12,000 Papua New Guinean alumni supported by Australia make to Papua New Guinea's political, development, civil society and private sectors, Prime Minister Albanese announced a new phase of Australia Awards that will deliver scholarships for study in Australia and Papua New Guinea for up to 300 Papua New Guinean students per year.
The Prime Ministers recognised the importance of bilateral cooperation on climate change, including through UNFCCC negotiations. Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's participation in Australia's Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme, as well as joint work to preserve Papua New Guinea's forests and promote a sustainable forestry sector. Leaders agreed that Ministers responsible for forestry would report to governments in early 2023 on ways to deepen cooperation on forestry. Prime Minister Marape welcomed Australia's increased ambition to drive the transition to net zero and renewed commitment to Pacific climate change priorities. Prime Minister Albanese thanked Prime Minister Marape for Papua New Guinea's support to Australia's bid to host COP31 in 2026 in partnership with the Pacific, which would allow us to join forces to secure ambitious climate change outcomes and help place Pacific voices at the centre of international climate discussions.
The Prime Ministers looked forward to reviewing progress at their next Annual Leaders' Dialogue, to be hosted in Australia.