Opening of Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum

  • Speech, check against delivery

Welcome to the 25th PNG - Australia Ministerial Forum.

We have, in addition to me as Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, the Minister for International Development in the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Defence Personnel & Cyber Security Dan Tehan, and the assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt. So as you can see we have a significant delegation here as befits the relationship between Australia and PNG.

May we at the outset offer our condolences for the passing of your Governor General Sir Michael Ogio, and we are pleased that our governor general Sir Peter Cosgrove could be here in Port Moresby at that time, and we wish all the best to Bob Dadae as his successor.

We are very pleased that this Ministerial Forum should fall on International Women's Day for as you all know Australia has focussed on the economic empowerment of women and leadership opportunities for women in PNG throughout the program and this morning we had an opportunity to visits the local markets in Madang and saw the enterprising spirit of the women in PNG who certainly encourage their full participation in the economic, social and political life of this country.

The Australia PNG relationship is close and is very important to Australia. Indeed closer engagement with Papua New Guinea is a foreign policy priority of the Australian Government. We have ensured that it will transition to a more contemporary relation in terms of economic, security and strategic considerations and it is based on our shared interests both bilaterally but also across the Pacific.

Australia is committed to ensuring that we are the partner of choice for PNG when it comes to the challenges and opportunities which exist between our countries but also regionally.

At the end of 2017 the current Aid partnership will come to an end and will need to be reviewed and we believe that the current arrangements are certainly adding great value to the programs which we implement here in PNG, not just because of the funding, but because of the expertise and experience and oversight that Australia can bring to assist PNG in development programs. These are matters which we can discuss today.

We are very pleased to meet with you at a time when almost every aspect of government is a matter where we work together and we certainly value the work that we do with our PNG friends. There has been a very high level of engagement between ministers and officials over the last 12 months and we hope that that will continue and I am pleased to note that our prime ministers are seeking to have a leaders meeting as soon as possible.

We emphasise the engagement on the economic front. Clearly trade and investment is at the fore of our relationship and I think that there can be no better demonstration of that then the Australian Government's decision to open a consulate general in Lae and Minister Pato and I will be officially opening the new consulate in Lae this evening.

We have always welcomed PNG's rise as a leader in the region in the Pacific and beyond and that is certainly born our by the support that have provided to PNG as it seeks to host APEC in 2018 which will be a very important milestone in the history of PNG. Australia wishes to ensure that we are there as a partner to help make it the success that it should be.

You will be aware that Australia is in the process of developing a Foreign Policy White Paper which we hope will set out the framework of our foreign policy and interests, our values, our priorities over the next decade and I think that it's indicative of the strength of our relationship that PNG was the first place that our officials travelled for consultation with countries in the region for input into our foreign policy white paper.

As you will see we have a delegation of Australian officials including from our Chief of Defence Force Mark Binskin here, our High Commissioner and officials from across the broad range of areas that PNG and Australia work together on, and so we look forward to a great and open discussion as we always have with our friends in PNG and most certainly we are here, responsible for ensuring that the deep affection that exists between our people remains and that this continues to be a most important and enduring relationship between our peoples.

So thank you for your hospitality last evening and we look forward to a very constructive discussion around a range of issues today.

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