The 20th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum

Joint Statement

Parliament House, Canberra

12 October 2011

1. The 20th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum was held at Parliament House in Canberra on 12 October 2011.

2. The Hon Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, led the Australian delegation which included: the Hon Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Defence; Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation; the Hon Dr Craig Emerson MP, Minister for Trade; the Hon Martin Ferguson MP, Minister for Resources and Energy; the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship; the Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, Minister for Home Affairs and Justice; Senator the Hon Nick Sherry, Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation; the Hon Richard Marles MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs; the Hon David Bradbury MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, and Senator the Hon David Feeney, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.

3. The Hon Ano Pala MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, led the Papua New Guinean delegation which included: the Hon Sir Mekere Morauta KT MP, Minister for Public Enterprise; the Hon Bart Philemon MP, Minister for Public Services; the Hon Sam Basil MP, Minister for National Planning; the Hon Jamie Maxton Graham MP, Minister for Health and HIV Aids; the Hon Guma Wau MP, Minister for Defence; the Hon Theo Zurenuoc MP, Minister for Education; the Hon John Boito MP, Minister for Internal Security; and the Hon Moses Maladina, Minister for Implementation and Rural Development.

4. In his opening remarks, Mr Rudd welcomed Mr Pala and members of the Papua New Guinean delegation to the Forum on behalf of the government of Australia. Mr Rudd congratulated the members of the Papuan New Guinean delegation on their recent appointments and said he looked forward to working closely with the new government. Mr Rudd emphasised that Australia and Papua New Guinea were at an important stage in their bilateral relationship. He highlighted that the historically strong relationship was evolving into a broader and more diverse partnership based on shared interests, and greater economic and development cooperation. Mr Rudd noted the growing trade and investment links between the two countries, including in mining, transport and service industries. He said Australia and Papua New Guinea were working cooperatively on a number of regional issues, including combating people smuggling, advancing PACER Plus negotiations and restoring democracy in Fiji.

5. Mr Pala thanked the Australian Government for hosting the 20th Ministerial Forum and for the warm welcome and hospitality the Papua New Guinean delegation had received. Mr Pala agreed that the Forum provided a timely opportunity to strengthen and deepen bilateral cooperation, particularly in line with the key areas that both governments had identified. Mr Pala emphasised that Papua New Guinea, as one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, was experiencing a period of substantial change and development. Mr Pala welcomed that Papua New Guinea's growth and development was increasingly reflected in the bilateral relationship, through initiatives such as the proposed economic cooperation treaty. Mr Pala also reiterated that Papua New Guinea appreciated Australia's long-standing and continuing support to help Papua New Guinea meet its social and economic development goals.

Bilateral cooperation

Economic Cooperation Treaty

6. The Forum recognised the commitment of both governments to sign an Economic Cooperation Treaty, as an important step that would reflect the maturing bilateral relationship in which economic cooperation took on a greater role. Ministers noted that officials have commenced consideration of a broad outline of the proposed treaty and agreed that officials would hold the first formal round of negotiations before the end of the year

Australia-Papua New Guinea Partnership for Development

Repositioning of Australia's aid program

7. Ministers formally endorsed the Partnership for Development schedules, welcoming the repositioning of Australia's aid program in line with the recommendations of the Joint Review of the Development Cooperation Treaty and Papua New Guinea's own development priorities as set out in Papua New Guinea's Vision 2050, Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030 and Medium Term Development Plan 2011-2015. The repositioned program will focus on the flagship sectors of education, from basic through to higher education, and health, including HIV/AIDS, with continuing support to transport infrastructure and law and justice. It will deliver measurable results across Papua New Guinea and achieve better value for money in key areas of need.

Education

8. The Forum agreed to the development of an overarching joint education plan taking into account basic education, through to university, technical education and vocational training, with a commitment from both countries to increase resources to education as a whole. The plan reflects and extends the education schedule agreed by both countries under the Australia-Papua New Guinea Partnership for Development and will inform future revisions to the education schedule.

9. Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's commitment to increase by up to 20 per cent of its budget the amount allocated to education and the commitment to fee-free education for all Papua New Guineans up to year 10 by 2012 and to year 12 by 2014.

10. Ministers noted that Australia is supporting the rehabilitation of national high schools to improve the quality of university entrants with over Kina 6.5 million ($3.1 million) being spent in 2011. Papua New Guinea acknowledged Australia's work to date on the rehabilitation of the Papua New Guinean national high schools and noted the importance of these schools in providing quality graduates for the tertiary sector.

11. The Forum welcomed the release of the Universities Review and endorsed this in principle as a blueprint for future action in Papua New Guinea's tertiary education sector, building on the commitments made by both countries to improving educational outcomes as articulated and agreed under the Partnership for Development. The Forum noted that the Universities Review had already informed the reorientation of Australia's education program in Papua New Guinea and was reflected in the education schedule with indicative funding. The Forum also acknowledged Papua New Guinea's prime responsibility for reform of tertiary education sector.

Health and HIV/AIDS

12. The Forum acknowledged that the National Health Plan 2011-2020 and the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan 2011-2015 formed the basis of this Partnership Schedule. Ministers reaffirmed that health, including HIV/AIDS, was a key priority for the Papua New Guinean government and for the Partnership for Development. In endorsing the Health schedule, Ministers committed to: improving vaccination rates; increasing the percentage of supervised deliveries; ensuring health centres had essential medical supplies, drugs and testing equipment for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; increasing condom procurement, distribution and usage; and more effective and widespread testing of HIV/AIDS and increasing the rates of people on appropriate medications.

Transport

13. In endorsing the Transport Schedule, Australia reiterated its commitment to continue support for the maintenance and rehabilitation of priority national roads to improve access to service and encourage economic growth.  

Policing

14. The PNG and Australian Governments recognised the fundamental importance of rule of law to sustainable development and the importance of effective and accountable policing in achieving and maintaining rule of law.

15. Ministers noted the Australian Federal Police and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary have been working cooperatively since 2008 to lay the foundations for improved service delivery and to encourage positive behaviour change within the RPNGC. Activity was currently focussed on the development of Bomana Training College as a Centre of Excellence as well as developing organisational governance and reform.

16. Minsters noted the RPNGC and the AFP were currently working in partnership to develop proposals for an enhanced program of support which would build on the progress already made. This would include support to the RPNGC during the 2012 elections in the key areas of communications, command and control, and training.

Elections

17. The Forum noted that the 2012 Papua New Guinea National Elections presented significant logistical challenges for the Papua New Guinean government. Papua New Guinean Ministers confirmed the necessary resources would be made available to meet the requirements of the PNGEC in delivering free and fair elections in 2012. Ministers agreed that Australian support in critical areas would assist the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission (PNGEC) to administer elections.

18. The Forum noted the work of Australia in supporting Papua New Guinea through AusAID's existing Electoral Support Program including a twinning agreement between the Australian and Papua New Guinean Electoral Commissions. This Program of support was designed to support the PNGEC to deliver on its mandate of free and fair elections.

Reduction in advisor positions

19. The Forum acknowledged the work Australia and Papua New Guinea had done to reduce advisor numbers in response to the findings of the 2010 review of all long-term advisor positions in Papua New Guinea. The Forum noted the recommendations of the review report, which found that Australia's aid program was over-reliant on the use of advisors. In 2010, Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed that approximately one-third of 487 positions would be phased out within two years. To date, 131 positions had been ceased and plans were in place to meet the target (181 positions to be phased out by February 2013). Participants noted that the reduction in advisor expenditure reflected a move to increase funding available towards direct service delivery, including provision of textbooks, school infrastructure, teacher training, medical supplies and drugs.

Fraud and corruption

20. The Forum agreed that fraud and corruption presented a significant impediment to development.

21. Ministers welcomed the Papua New Guinean Government's strong public commitment to fight corruption, acknowledging efforts in areas such as the procurement and distribution of medical supplies, and within the Department of National Planning and Monitoring.

22. Papua New Guinea and Australia noted that measures were in place to minimise the likelihood that fraud could occur in the aid program and agreed they would take action to prosecute fraud where it is uncovered. The Government of PNG undertook to investigate any allegation of fraud in the aid program vigorously and in a timely manner, to ensure the accountability and effectiveness of Australian development assistance.

Sport

23. The Forum agreed to explore the development of junior-level sport competition for young women and men in Papua New Guinea, reflecting the important role sport can play at the community level. The Forum acknowledged the role sport can play, including a junior rugby league competition in the future establishment of a Papua New Guinea team in Australia's National Rugby League competition.

Women in leadership

24. Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's commitment to advancing the place of women in Papua New Guinea specifically through Papua New Guinea's Equality and Participation Bill, to ensure 22 reserved seats in Parliament for women. The Forum noted that the Bill has passed its second reading and is scheduled for the third reading in November 2011, due to the strong leadership of Prime Minister O'Neill.

25. Papua New Guinea acknowledged Australia's support to Papua New Guinean women through training programs to encourage the take-up leadership positions across all aspects of life including government, business, education, and within communities.

Defence Cooperation and Peacekeeping

26. The Forum welcomed Australia's and Papua New Guinea's longstanding commitment to the bilateral defence relationship. The strength of the relationship was most apparent in the close cooperation between the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) and the Australia Defence Force (ADF). The Forum agreed that Papua New Guinea and Australia would continue to work together to address the PNGDF's emerging personnel, infrastructure and capability challenges, and to enhance the mutual benefit of our bilateral training. This cooperation would enable the PNGDF and ADF to operate in true partnership on peacekeeping, disaster relief and other regional operations.

27. The Forum congratulated Papua New Guinea on becoming a United Nations (UN) Troop Contributing Country, noting the first PNGDF personnel to deploy as UN peacekeepers would arrive in Darfur and South Sudan in late October 2011. Papua New Guinea expressed appreciation to Australia for the assistance provided to enable the officers to deploy, including force-preparation training, mission-specific personnel equipment and a reconnaissance for senior PNGDF personnel. The Forum further noted Australia's commitment to continue to assist the PNGDF to develop its peacekeeping capability.

PNG LNG Project

28. PNG Ministers acknowledged Australia's assistance to Papua New Guinea to manage its resource projects, for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans.

29. The Forum welcomed the work being done by Australia and Papua New Guinea to avoid the potential detrimental effects that might be associated with the LNG project and address key capacity gaps in Papua New Guinean Government departments. Papua New Guinea welcomed Australia's support for its plans to establish a sovereign wealth fund and to assist in building Papua New Guinea capacity to undertake economic modelling.  The Forum agreed that while Australia could provide technical assistance and advice, only Papua New Guinea could ensure that the project succeeded and that revenues were managed responsibly for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans.

30. Ministers noted the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments were committed to developing a proposal to facilitate capacity building opportunities for Papua New Guinea officials in relation to the operation of the Papua New Guinea sovereign wealth fund (SWF). The capacity building would focus on those working within the SWF secretariat and in providing SWF policy advice to the Papua New Guinea government. This would be achieved though placement of PNG staff within the Future Fund, potentially other international SWFs, and relevant Australian government departments, as well as twinning staff from these agencies to the SWF Secretariat during its establishment phase. Subject to acceptable operational and financial arrangements being in place, the first placements would be expected to occur in the second half of 2012.

Manus Island and Border Security Issues

31. Australia thanked Papua New Guinea for its willingness to work with Australia on the proposed asylum seeker assessment processing centre on Manus Island. Australia noted that the Government was still determining its legislative response to the recent decision by the High Court of Australia and that Ministers would consult with their Papua New Guinean counterparts when the way ahead was clearer. Papua New Guinea reaffirmed its commitment to helping Australia as part of a regional approach to the international problem of people smuggling. 

Work and Holiday visas

32. Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed to introduce a reciprocal Work and Holiday (Subclass 462) visa arrangement, with Mr Bowen and Mr Pala signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Under the agreement, Australian and PNG travellers who are aged between 18 and 30 will now be able to work and holiday in the other country for up to 12 months. The visa requires an applicant to have the support of their government, hold or be studying towards tertiary qualifications and to speak functional English. Ministers agreed there would be an annual limit of 100 Work and Holiday visas for both countries.

Kokoda Track

33. Ministers agreed that the Kokoda Track symbolised the lasting bond of friendship and mutual understanding between the people of Papua New Guinea and Australia.

34. Papua New Guinea and Australia agreed to work closely to preserve and promote the track, and to enhance the quality of life for landowners and local communities.

35. Ministers agreed that the Second Joint Understanding (2010-2015) on the Owen Stanley Ranges, Brown River Catchment and Kokoda Track Region, signed at the Papua New Guinea -Australia Bilateral Meeting in Alotau, Papua New Guinea, in 2010, would provide the basis for the continuing development and management of the Kokoda Track, including improved service delivery and economic opportunities to communities along the track, further support to the Kokoda Track Authority's management of the track, and the promotion of the track as a world class tourist destination.

36. The Forum welcomed the Kokoda Initiative Annual Report for 2010-11 detailing the excellent progress made over the past 12 months in implementing the Second Joint Understanding for the sustainable development of the Owen Stanley Ranges, Brown River Catchment and Kokoda Track Region and protection of its natural, cultural and historic values.

37. The Forum agreed that the good progress to date should continue through further cooperative work to ensure a safe and well-managed Kokoda Track, enhanced quality of life for landowners and communities through basic services, income generation and community development, wise use and conservation of the catchment protection area and its natural and cultural resources and values, and building the national and international tourism potential of the region supported by a possible future World Heritage nomination.

Torres Strait Cooperation

38. The Forum reaffirmed the Torres Strait Treaty as the basis for both countries to cooperate and manage issues along the common border.

39. Ministers acknowledged the collaborative efforts and commitment by the governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia in implementing the Joint Australia-Papua New Guinea Package of Measures to address cross border health concerns. In particular, the Forum noted the focus of activities under the Package has been the work of both Governments to move towards effectively treating people with tuberculosis and other public health concerns in the South Fly District of Papua New Guinea, rather than only treating those patients that can cross the Torres Strait. The Forum welcomed the Papua New Guinean Government's commitment of 5 million Kina and the Australian Government commitment of $1.1 million to implement the Package of Measures and to collaboratively build tuberculosis healthcare capacity in Western Province.

Bougainville

40. The Forum noted Australia's continued support and assistance for reconstruction and development in Bougainville. This supported the implementation efforts of parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Regional cooperation

Fiji

41. The Forum reaffirmed the commitment of both countries to work together to help Fiji return to democracy and the rule of law, acknowledging the importance of maintaining dialogue with Fiji on its return to democracy.

42. Ministers expressed concern about the human rights situation in Fiji, and called on Fiji to ease restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of association, the freedom of trade unions to organise and freedom of religion. Ministers reaffirmed their support for the decisions of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth to suspend Fiji. They said Australia and Papua New Guinea stood ready to assist the Fiji interim government to take concrete measures to return to democracy and the rule of law.

PACER Plus

43. The Forum affirmed the shared interest in pursuing PACER Plus as a means of promoting greater regional trade and economic growth in Pacific Island Forum countries. The Forum welcomed progress to date in the PACER Plus negotiations and the September 2011 Pacific Island Forum Leaders' decision that PACER Plus be advanced as a matter of priority.

44. The Forum warmly welcomed plans for the next PACER Plus officials' negotiating meeting early next year, to be hosted by Australia.

Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme

45. Both countries welcomed Papua New Guinea's continued participation in Australia's Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme and noted the Australian Government's recent announcement expanding the scheme.

Climate Change

46. The Forum recognised climate change as a global challenge requiring concerted and comprehensive global action. In this regard, the Forum welcomed the substantial domestic climate action that is increasingly taking place across the world. In particular, Papua New Guinea welcomed Australia's Clean Energy Future Plan.

47. The Forum noted Papua New Guinea and Australia's joint activities to help Papua New Guinea adapt to the effects of climate change. The Forum agreed that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, known as REDD, can and should make a significant contribution to the global mitigation of climate change. To this end, the Forum noted Papua New Guinea and Australia's international leadership on REDD, exemplified by the Forest Carbon Partnership, and agreed to continue cooperation under the Partnership.

United Nations

48. The Forum confirmed its strong support for Australia's candidacy to the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term, in line with the endorsement of Australia's candidacy by the Pacific Islands Forum.

Business Participation

49. The Forum welcomed the participation of representatives from the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council and the Business Council of Papua New Guinea. In discussions with Ministers, the Business Councils noted the resources boom and arrangements being put in place to manage growing resources revenue, such as sovereign wealth funds. There was a shared optimism that, properly managed, PNG resources would assist sustained economic growth and direct development dividends for the people of Papua New Guinea. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to creating opportunities for private sector-led growth, including through continued dialogue with business and creating a conducive environment for trade and investment.

50. Ministers agreed to establish a committee consisting of senior officials from each government and senior business representatives. The committee would develop advice to ministers on action required to enhance economic development and Australian investment in PNG. The committee would meet at least once every six months.

Date and venue of next Ministerial Forum

51. Papua New Guinea invited Australia to attend next year's Ministerial Forum at a date and venue to be advised. Australia thanked Papua New Guinea and agreed to accept this invitation.

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