EMTV Papua New Guinea – interview with journalist Tokana Hasavi

  • Transcript, E&OE
06 November 2015

TOKANA HASAVI: In a country where child and maternal mortality is extremely poor, how is this Precinct going to help with that?

JULIE BISHOP: What this Precinct will do is train the current and next generation of leaders to make the right policy decisions that will assist people across Papua New Guinea. The public servants are dealing with a growing economy, with a booming natural resource industry, minerals and energy industry, and we have to ensure that the benefits of this economic growth are shared across the country. So that will take competent leadership, accountability, transparency, we want to ensure that ethics and values are embedded in the culture of the public service. And that will ensure the right leadership, that will ensure public policy, benefits all. And there will be a research component as well to carry out research into ensuring that the Precinct delivers on better institutions that deliver better public policy and better outcomes.

TOKANA HASAVI: What role will the Precinct play in making sure that women take more leadership roles?

JULIE BISHOP: The Precinct will have a focus on courses for women in leadership roles, encouraging more women to join the public service, not only to join but to take active leadership roles as well. So there will be specific courses for women on leadership, on values, on ethics, but also on finance, business administration and the like. So there will be a specific emphasis on encouraging more women to take leadership roles in the family, in communities, in business and in government.

TOKANA HASAVI: Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs recently condemned plans to have refugees resettled in PNG, saying that the country doesn't have the capacity to accommodate the needs of asylum seekers. What's your response to that?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't accept that. Papua New Guinea is aware of its obligations to resettle refugees and together with Australia we will ensure that those who are resettled here have the resources and the opportunities that they need. Already Australian job providers are working with organisations in PNG to ensure that there are job opportunities. This is a growing economy, there are many opportunities for people to work here. There is a booming private sector. So we believe that if these resettled refugees are able to have job opportunities, are able to study, go to university here, gain qualifications, then that would be a great outcome.

TOKANA HASAVI: What about gay refugees resettled in a country where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years?

JULIE BISHOP: Clearly the cultural sensitivities will be taken into account. There will be instances where the Papua New Guinea Government will be looking to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for assistance on resettling some people who are found to be refugees. But these applications are still being processed and these kinds of sensitivities and issues will be taken into account on a case by case basis.

TOKANA HASAVI: What role will your Ministry be playing in the resettlement process of asylum seekers on Manus in PNG?

JULIE BISHOP: The responsibility will lie with the Minister for Immigration working in partnership with your Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration - ours is a divided portfolio. Minister Dutton has met with Minister Pato recently and had a very constructive discussion I understand about how to implement this Refugee Resettlement Policy that was passed by the PNG Cabinet recently.

TOKANA HASAVI: From your perspective, do you think PNG is an ideal country for asylum seekers to be resettled given its poor indicators?

JULIE BISHOP: Well it is a country that is embracing its future. It has embarked upon an ambitious minerals and resource industry. The economic growth has been impressive. It is a country under transition. The economy is transforming the country. And like all young and growing countries, immigrants can make a significant difference. So I hope that this will be an opportunity for PNG to harness the talents and skills of those who resettle here. But of course it is done on a very careful case by case basis, with the international office for migration, UNHCR and the two governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

TOKANA HASAVI: Minister, the Australian Government has spent 1.2 billion Australian dollars in the last year to run its offshore detention centre. Obviously the Government is willing to spend more given the fact that it negotiated with the Philippines but that failed. How much more is the Australian Government willing to spend on offshore refugee detention centres.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, we want to see the resettlements take place. Clearly, the previous Australian Government under Kevin Rudd entered into an agreement with the Papua New Guinea Government to open the detention facility on Manus island and that came with it some significant funding. So we now need to see the refugees resettled and then obviously we will want to ensure that everyone who is currently in detention is either resettled in PNG or elsewhere or they return home. Already there have been a number of people who have volunteered to go back home and I expect that this would be the case. The message to the people smuggling trade is that people who pay people smugglers will not be resettled in Australia.

TOKANA HASAVI: A key witness to the murder of Reza Barati on Manus has been enduring a lot of intimidation and threats on the island. What are your remarks on that?

JULIE BISHOP: Well this is a matter for the law enforcement authorities in PNG and I assume that they have the matter well in hand. I can't comment on an individual case while investigations are underway. This is a matter that lies within the responsibility of the law enforcement authorities here in PNG.

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