Joint press conference with PNG Foreign and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato

  • Transcript, E&OE

PNG FOREIGN AND IMMIGRATION MINISTER RIMBINK PATO I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome the Australian Foreign Minister, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Minister for Defence and the Australian Minister for Justice, who because of the situation in Sydney had to leave quickly, but as is a reflection of the dynamic relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia we've had a very constructive and fruitful discussion running through a whole range of issues which reflects on the relationship between our two countries which is special, important and is long lasting.

Papua New Guinea has this relationship with Australia which is one of the most important bilateral relationships that this country has with any other bilateral partner anywhere at any time, so I'm very, very grateful that we are able to understand those issues with mutual cooperation to the benefit of both of our governments and our people.

In terms of the specific issues that we've discussed, the Foreign Minister of Australia will have the opportunity to explain in greater detail some of the areas that she's so passionate about particularly the Colombo Plan. We are very excited about what it's going to do for capacity building in PNG with an agreement that's just been signed with the Minister for Higher Education and the Minister for Public Service, with the Foreign Minister of Australia, witnessed by me, I think that's going to bring a great advantage, a great empowerment to our people.

In relation to the Australian Federal Police, the deployment of police, the original intent of the Australian and PNG governments has not worked but there have been ongoing discussions over the deployment of police and it is now clear that we can refine the approach to make it better, and there's clear understanding of how we're going to proceed, in terms of capacity building there'll be more training for PNG policemen in Australia and there'll be ongoing work at the Bomana Police College which will be supported by the Australian Government.

In relation to APEC we are very grateful for the support of the Australian Government, they will address Papua New Guinea's concerns and the challenges that we will face because that is the single biggest economic event our country will ever be faced with and Australia has of course committed to helping us to address some of the issues particularly in the areas of security, how the Australian security forces can partner with us to address the challenges of running an APEC come 2018 because Australia just had the opportunity to host the G20 and Julie invited me there and it was a real practical experience of what the challenges can be for a small country like Papua New Guinea.

In relation to visa and people to people contacts, there is some delay on our part but we're going to finalise all the paperwork so that there is speeding of Papua New Guinean seasonal workers and holiday workers in different parts of Australia, which we've not been able to do quick enough. Now we realise that we've got to address them.

On the issue of aid generally, we're looking to, there's clearly the understanding that between Papua New Guinea and Australia there needs to be an understanding that in the long term aid needs to be aligned to address the concerns and focus and the priorities of the PNG Government in health and HIV AIDs, education, infrastructure, development, law and order. There are priorities the PNG Government has and since 40 years of independence the focus has not been, the intensity if I can put it that way, of the focus has not been there and so now we're working to ensure there is greater focus in the way in which Australian aid has to be delivered to Papua New Guinea and the long term thinking is as some of you will recall from previous Ministerial Forum and the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to PNG, we're slowly trying to move away from aid into aid for trade and investment so that we are, because PNG is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and certainly the fastest in the Pacific Islands, we want to make sure that there is greater leveraging, greater connectivity so that we can take advantage of that, and we had the opportunity to meet with the Australia-PNG Business Council today where we can assist, both Governments can assist, to enable connectivity so that the investments that we make in the public sector we can partner effectively with private enterprise so the flow on advantages for businesses in PNG and Australia are taken to levels that we haven't seen before.

I might just stop there, Julie why don't you have a bit so I can recuperate.

AUSTRALIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER JULIE BISHOP Thank you Rimbink, I thank you and your ministerial colleagues for hosting this Ministerial Dialogue today, The Australian delegation comprised me as Foreign Minister, Senator David Johnston, the Defence Minister of Australia, and Scott Morrison, Australia's Immigration and Border Protection Minister. We were also joined by the Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, but he returned to Sydney early this morning with the Police Commissioner due to the siege. Our thoughts today have been with the hostages involved in this incident in Martin Place, and the three Australian Cabinet Ministers have remained in communication with our Prime Minister as the Australian Government provides support to the NSW authorities who are handling this matter. I thank Foreign Minister Pato for his words of support throughout the day.

This Ministerial Forum is very important because it is an opportunity for Papua New Guinea and Australia to assess the current state of our relationship and to work on new projects and new opportunities for the future. Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour and our dearest friend and this is a relationship that which will endure. But it also evolves as circumstances change.

As Foreign Minister Pato said, PNG is now one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing economy in the Asia Pacific. As a result of the PNG LNG project there are some very exciting economic times ahead for PNG. Australia of course stands ready to support PNG as we have in the past and will continue to do so in the future. But our relationship is very much based on economic ties and ensuring that PNG is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented through the coming online of the PNG LNG project.

Our relationship is also based on very strong people to people links. Today we had the opportunity to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for an exciting new concept of a university-led public sector initiative which will see education and training opportunities for the PNG public service through a new precinct that will involve the University of PNG, the Institute of Public Administration, Australian National University in Australia and other public and private sector organisations. We know that a strong, independent and competent and professional public service is important for a nation like PNG, and Australia is prepared to support that ambition with a practical initiative, the new School of Government. Next year, 2015, will mark the 40th anniversary of PNG's independence and the opening of a new School of Government is a fitting milestone to recognise this significant date in Australian PNG relations.

This morning we had a meeting with the Australia-PNG Business Council and we brought them up to date with advances that have been made in a number of areas to facilitate trade and investment and the ease of doing business in PNG and in Australia, which is an aim for both of us. We also discussed during our Ministerial Forum the Regional Resettlement Arrangement and that agreement, and had an update as to progress that has been made in that regard. We discussed PNG hosting APEC in 2018, and we appreciate having just hosted the G20 the complexities and challenges that lie ahead. But I believe that Australia and Papua New Guinea will again work in partnership to ensure that PNG is able to showcase its wonderful country to the wider world through the hosting of APEC in 2018.

Our Defence Ministers had a very positive meeting about defence cooperation and that will continue to be one of the most important aspects of our relationship, ensuring peace and security in our region. We discussed Bougainville, and I hope to travel to Bougainville tomorrow to meet with representatives of the Autonomous Bougainville Government tomorrow, and I'm delighted to see the level of engagement between the PNG Government and the ABG, particularly as a result of Prime Minister O'Neill and Minister Abel's recent visits.

So it's been a very busy day, a very full agenda as always when the PNG and Australian Ministers come together, and I'm looking forward to working closely with Foreign Minister Pato and Minister Abel in ensuring that the overseas development assistance that Australia provides to PNG each year aligns with the national interests of PNG and the interests of Australia. So, again, a very positive day, a lot of initiatives discussed, many opportunities, I look forward to continuing our very close and productive partnership. I've come to count on Foreign Minister Pato as a friend and supporter. We see each other often, not only in each other's country, but on the world stage and so often Australia and PNG see the world through similar eyes and as close friends and neighbours that's as it should be. So today, again, was an example of PNG and Australia working closely together for the benefit of our nations and our peoples.

MINISTER PATO Thank you Julie, and let me just expand on one or two parts.The resettlement of refugee arrangements is working very well - it's going full speed on every front. It's reviewable each year and the understanding is that our technical people will work through the issues to make sure that it is better, more refined, to achieve the outcomes that we want to achieve. I just announced today that I have approved up to fifty persons who have been determined as genuine refugees for settlement purposes. That means that fifty people will be moved away from the centre and they will be transited to the East Lorengau Centre which is a specially purposed built, facility for asylum seekers on their way to integration in society once we develop a policy framework for resettlement of refugees in PNG. That policy framework has not yet been finalised but the process has begun so as at today fifty people, asylum seekers, have been determined as genuine refugees for the process to be effected.

In relation to Bougainville, one of the issues that we've raised is the fact that on the side of the PNG Government and I think Australia is tuned in with us on that one, we want to focus more on service delivery. We want to build the health centres, we want to build the bridges, we want to build the hospital and we've just rebuilt the airport. Everything else comes based on developing prosperity, security and peace for the people of Bougainville. We will be working together in the spirit of partnership and Australia will be working with and through PNG Government processes and systems to ensure that, in terms of delivering what we want to deliver – a better quality of life for the people of Bougainville. We are doing that in the spirit of partnership. With the level of prosperity that PNG is enjoying, I think that will bring a lot of success to the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. With Australia's support I can say the partnership will be long enduring for the benefit of the people of Bougainville. Thank you.

MINISTER BISHOP Any questions?

MINISTER PATO Much of what we have spoken of is in a very comprehensive communique. This is a revision from the one that was signed last year and it reflects the buoyant and dynamic nature of the relationship. So when we see a new opportunity for advancement for each other's country, people and business, we ensure that this is reflected in a document like this one. You will soon have the benefit of the communique.

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