1. The 21st Papua New Guinea - Australia Ministerial Forum (MINFOR) was held at the Gateway Hotel in Port Moresby on 6 December 2012.
2. The MINFOR was co-hosted by the Hon Rimbink Pato, PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, and Senator the Hon Bob Carr, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Ministers discussed a wide range of issues of interest, including bilateral, people-to-people links, and regional and international issues.
3. Ministers emphasised that Australia and PNG were at an important stage in their bilateral relationship and reaffirmed the importance of our collaboration, stressing that the partnership continues to grow and develop as our two countries’ relationship matures. The MINFOR highlighted the enduring importance and practical value of the relationship.
4. We welcomed our agreement on the text for an Economic Cooperation Treaty. The ECT reflects the maturing of our bilateral relations and the growth of bilateral trade and investment, and labour mobility.
5. Our discussion highlighted Australia and PNG’s shared experience in resource development and management and Australia’s support for PNG’s establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund to ensure that the economic gains of the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project are translated into tangible outcomes for PNG.
6. We discussed joint work on streamlining visa arrangements, including work being undertaken by the Joint PNG-Australia Traveller Facilitation Taskforce, led by Australia’s DIAC, noting the importance of visa streamlining to PNG nationals. PNG agreed to implement the Work and Holiday Maker Program which will allow up to 100 young people from each country to visit and work, to deepen their knowledge and strengthen people to people links.
7. We expressed our commitment to continued close engagement to address the major regional challenge that people smuggling presents. Australia expressed its appreciation of the work undertaken by PNG to establish a Regional Asylum processing centre on Manus Island.
8. Australia also recommitted to working with PNG to provide an additional package of support to Manus beyond current planned assistance including supporting PNG to upgrade roads and other transport infrastructure; health including improvements and renovations at Lorengau General Hospital; improving the quality of education including doubling Australia’s commitment to education infrastructure between now and 2015; and measures to promote economic development.
9. We reaffirmed commitments to agreed priorities and targets of the current schedules under our Partnership for Development – education, heath, transport and law and justice. Australia welcomed PNG’s financial commitments to key sectors’ focus on development in rural areas as demonstrated through the recent Budget.
10. Ministers acknowledged achievements under Australia’s aid program and endorsed the Partnership as the foundation for the development relationship. Ministers endorsed the targets and priorities of the Partnership for Development, as confirmed at the Partnership talks in October.
11. PNG Ministers highlighted the priorities of the new Government in the areas of infrastructure, tertiary education, upgrading of referral hospitals, support for local and provincial governments and assistance for small business. PNG Ministers outlined PNG’s desire for the aid program to be recalibrated to reflect the emerging priorities of the O’Neill Government, but emphasised that this should be done within the existing priorities of the Partnership for Development.
12. Ministers agreed to refer consideration of priorities for the Partnership for Development through the existing annual process of joint review of Partnership targets and priorities for 2013.
13. Ministers welcomed PNG’s transition to an Independent Health Procurement Authority by January 2015 with support from Australia through delegated procurement arrangement in the interim.
14. Australia welcomed the PNG Government’s commitment to tackling corruption and expressed its readiness to provide the legal cooperation necessary to ensure PNG can take concrete steps to implement this and agreed to a review of Australian support and PNG action in this area.
15. We agreed to work together over the next year for a new delivery mechanism of the Strongim Gavman Program to ensure that the program is responsive to PNG needs and well aligned to the PNG Government’s current priorities.
16. We committed to continuing to work together to improve law and justice systems and to enhance the rule of law in PNG, building on the longstanding history of cooperation and collaboration on a range of legal and security issues.
17. The MINFOR acknowledged the close defence partnership between PNG and Australia. The MINFOR noted that Australia will continue to work with the PNGDF and the PNG Department of Defence to deliver an enhanced program of Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) activities. Australia reiterated its desire to engage closely with PNG through the development of Australia’s next Defence White Paper, including briefing senior PNG officials early in 2013.
18. The MINFOR welcomed the effort by PNG in strengthening relationship with the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Both Governments agree that Bougainville is an integral part of PNG, further agreeing that all external donor assistance to Bougainville should be done in consultation with relevant agencies, noting the core role of the Secretary’s Committee on Bougainville.
19. The MINFOR also noted the special people to people links shared by the two countries. The MINFOR recognized that these links were important to re-enforcing the unique bonds that Papua New Guineans share with Australians.
20. We agreed that Australia would host an annual Australia-PNG Emerging Leaders Dialogue to enhance the already strong people-to-people links and to promote these links in a new generation of Australians and Papua New Guineans.
21. Ministers noted the importance of events such as the PNG Symposium hosted by Deakin University and the annual Independence Day PNG Oration which highlight the importance of PNG and the contemporary bilateral relationship.
22. Ministers acknowledged the positive contribution to development that sports initiatives can make and welcomed the new AusAID-funded Rugby League program ($4 million) which will be rolled out in 2013 under the Pacific Sports Partnership.
23. Minister also endorsed the Australia-PNG AFL Taskforce Report that makes recommendations on the development of AFL in PNG.
24. We tabled the 2011-12 Annual Report of the Second Joint Understanding of the Kokoda Initiative which highlights the collaborative achievements of all partners over the past 12 months and symbolises the lasting bond of friendship and mutual understanding, forged during a time of war.
25. We welcomed the outcomes of the recent Torres Strait Joint Advisory Council (JAC) meeting held in Cairns and joint work in support of health, including TB, and other initiatives in PNG’s Western Province, acknowledging the strategic importance of the Torres Strait region to both countries.
26. Australia welcomed the leadership role PNG is taking in the region. We reiterated our commitment to support Fiji’s return to democracy and welcomed progress to date. We discussed other developments in our region including PNG’s bid to host APEC in 2018.
27. Ministers agreed that the discussions were frank and constructive portraying the genuine intent of both countries to work together as partners to deepen and diversify the new partnership and move it forward.
28. Australia and PNG have a unique and enduring relationship and share a genuine commitment to working together as partners in concrete and practical ways to develop and strengthen their relationship. We look forward to close cooperation over the coming year as we take action to implement today’s commitments and look forward to our next Ministerial Forum to be hosted by Australia in 2013.
Hon Rimbink Pato OBE LLB MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration
Papua New Guinea
Senator the Hon Bob Carr
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministers in attendance
Papua New Guinea
Hon Rimbink Pato, OBE LLB MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs & Immigration
Hon Charles Abel, MP
Minister for National Planning
Hon. Don Polye, MP
Minister for Treasury
Hon Dr Puka Temu, MP
Minister for Public Service
Hon James Marape, MP
Minister for Finance
Hon Michael Malabag, MP
Minister for Health
Hon Ano Pala, MP
Minister for Transport
Hon Justin Thatchenko, MP
Minister for Sports
Hon Francis Awesa, MP
Minister for Works
Hon Gisuwat Siniwin, MP
Vice Minister for Education
Hon Steven Kamma, MP
Minister for Autonomous Bougainville
Senator Hon Bob Carr
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Hon Chris Bowen MP
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP
Minister for Trade
Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and Defence Material
Hon Richard Marles MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Foreign Affairs
08 December 2012