The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Media Release

FA177 - 15 December 2004

Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum

Australia and Papua New Guinea have today concluded a very productive 16th Ministerial Forum meeting in Lae, attended by seven Australian and nine Papua New Guinea Ministers.

The presence of so many Ministers, from both sides, reflects the strength and importance of the bilateral relationship. Our countries share close, multi-faceted and enduring relations.

The Ministerial Forum focused on the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP), with Ministers agreeing on next steps to achieve the program's objectives.

The ECP represents an historic shift towards a true partnership with PNG. It is twelve months since agreement was reached on the program. With Australian personnel now being placed, it was timely to review progress and consider future directions.

Australian and PNG ministers expressed their commitment to use the ECP to improve governance in Papua New Guinea, especially fiscal management and resource allocation, and to help reform the PNG police force and the public sector more generally.

We agreed on steps to ensure effective management of the ECP, and agreed to work openly and frankly to resolve problems or concerns should any arise.

Under the ECP, 64 of 210 Australian police and 32 of 64 officials have now been deployed, with the remainder to be in place by March 2005. The program has already achieved good outcomes. ECP officials played a major role in preparing the 2005 PNG Budget and are helping strengthen financial controls. Australian police have been working to improve operating conditions within the PNG police force so that it can do its job more effectively.

Ministers also discussed a range of bilateral issues including measures to strengthen the bilateral defence relationship, ensure growth and stability on Bougainville and in the Southern Highlands; and to promote an effective response to HIV/AIDS in PNG.

Despite recent economic growth, the PNG Government continues to face serious challenges in raising the incomes and living standards of the PNG people. Improved management of PNG's limited resources and the creation of a better investment environment, including through improved law and order, is critical. Australia will stand by Papua New Guinea as it addresses these challenges.

My ministerial colleagues attending the forum were: Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill; Minister for Finance and Administration, Nick Minchin; Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock; Minister for Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone; Minister for Customs and Justice, Senator Chris Ellison; and Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Mal Brough.

The Papua New Guinea delegation was led by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, and included: Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Sir Moi Avei KBE; Minister for Finance and Treasury, Bart Philemon; Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter; Minister for Internal Security, Bire Kimisopa; Minister for Defence, Matthew Gubag; Minister for Justice, Mark Maipakai; Minister for Health, Melchior Pep; and Minister for the Public Service, Sinai Brown.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555


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