ABC Port Moresby - interview with Eric Tlozek

  • Transcript, E&OE
06 November 2015

JULIE BISHOP: Today I am launching a new partnership between Australia and Papua New Guinea. This is the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct at the University of Papua New Guinea and the Institute of Public Administration.

We are proposing to build some new facilities here that will house a school of government and also provide opportunities for many public servants here in PNG to attend courses to improve their skills, to ensure that there is an accountable, competent, skilled public service in PNG for years to come.

This is important for the ongoing development and economic growth of this wonderful nation and as a friend and neighbour and partner of PNG, Australia is delighted to be able to provide this kind of learning experience and education assistance for the PNG public service.

ERIC TLOZEK: Essentially we are repackaged a whole bunch of measures haven't we to one being led by one agency now, that's how this Precinct ever work, isn't it?

JULIE BISHOP: This Precinct will bring together the University of Papua New Guinea. It will bring together the Institute of Public Administration here in PNG. The partnerships in Australia include the Australian National University, the University of Queensland, the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Australia New Zealand School of Government. So it's a significant boost to the education opportunities here for the PNG public service and the idea is to establish a school of government that would be utilised throughout the Pacific.

ERIC TLOZEK: Ok, have you in your meetings today had any discussion about the resettlement of refugees from Manus Island in Port Moresby particularly?

JULIE BISHOP: Yes I had a very long and constructive discussion with Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato who is also responsible for immigration policy. He confirmed that the Resettlement Refugee Policy has passed through the Cabinet and we discussed the next steps. Of course, our Minister Peter Dutton has met with Foreign Minister Pato recently and they discussed it in much more detail.

ERIC TLOZEK: What would you say to the criticisms that have been levelled at PNG, just in terms of its capacity to adequately care for refugees, provide services, there's a lot of housing issues and personal safety issues in Port Moresby. What do you think about its capacity to actually deliver resettlement that is safe for refugees in PNG?

JULIE BISHOP: Resettlement could take place across PNG, not necessarily only in Port Moresby. People may be resettled on Manus Island or in other provinces across PNG. But we are working closely with the Government of PNG, they are well aware of their obligations, they are well aware of the responsibility that they are taking on. Australia is providing support, advice and funding to ensure that those who are resettled are able to have a happy, secure future here.

ERIC TLOZEK: So what sort of support and how much funding?

JULIE BISHOP: Australia has a significant package of funding for PNG. That's been announced years ago. It was part of the original Rudd government's arrangements with PNG when they first decided to open a detention facility in Manus because the Australian Labor government's policies on border protection had been such a catastrophic failure that they decided to build offshore processing centres including this one on Manus. So, hundreds of millions of dollars are involved in supporting the detention facility on Manus and we have worked very hard to ensure that resettlement can take place. But our message to the people smugglers is that if people pay a people smuggler to come to Australia they will not be resettled in Australia. And we are thankful to our friends in Papua New Guinea and in Nauru for offering to resettle these people who are seeking to find refuge elsewhere in the world.

ERIC TLOZEK: Ok, but no extra money for resettlement specifically, it is a part of the existing package?

JULIE BISHOP: The existing package covers this and any further details are matters for Minister Dutton. But Australian job providers are working with partners in PNG to ensure that there are job opportunities for those being resettled here, so our private sector and our public sector is working very closely with PNG.

ERIC TLOZEK: Have you received any advice regarding the Islamic state's capability in terms of putting a bomb on a plane? Have you received any word about that?

JULIE BISHOP: I think it would be best for us to wait for the investigation to be concluded into the cause of the crash of this Russian airliner. I am aware that speculation is increasing that there was some kind of explosive device involved. The capability of a terrorist organisation like ISIS is yet to be determined, but if there were an explosive device aboard this plane that was placed there by a terrorist organisation then that would send shockwaves through the civil aviation community around the world. It would also highlight yet again how dangerous these terrorist organisations can be to international security.

ERIC TLOZEK: Tomorrow you and I are heading to Enga Province to have a look at the impact of the drought. What are you expecting to find and what sort of help can Australia offer?

JULIE BISHOP: Already within our aid program we support the development of regions including in the Highlands. I am visiting Enga for the very purpose of seeing the impact of the drought. I know there has been some rain recently but obviously there will be longer term impacts and I want to see for myself the effects of the drought and make an assessment as to what Australia can do. Obviously we can provide technical assistance from Geoscience Australia as to the mapping of the drought areas. Obviously we can support NGOs and church groups. But I want to hear from those on the ground, the NGOs, the local communities, about the impact and then assess what Australia would be able to do to help.

ERIC TLOZEK: So this would be your first look, you haven't got any idea about how effective the PNG response has been so far?

JULIE BISHOP: I have certainly been briefed on the matter but that's why I want to be there and see it for myself – meet with local community members. I am going with Foreign Minister Pato - it's his electorate, his constituency. I'll be meeting with local people, local communities, and being able to make an assessment is probably the best way to do this - get advice from our advisors from the High Commission here in Port Moresby and then make an assessment as to how Australia can contribute.

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