The 22nd Papua New Guinea–Australia Ministerial Forum

Parliament House Canberra, Australia

Communiqué

11 December 2013

1. The 22nd Papua New Guinea – Australia Ministerial Forum (the Forum) was held at Parliament House in Canberra on 11 December 2013.

2. The Forum was co-hosted by the Hon Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Hon Rimbink Pato, PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

3. The Forum emphasised the importance of the Australia-Papua New Guinea bilateral relationship. Ministers agreed to expand the relationship to one of economic and strategic partnership. Ministers agreed to focus on expanding trade and investment ties, security cooperation and strengthening people-to-people links to reflect the close relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea based on mutual respect and understanding.

Economic cooperation

4. Ministers highlighted the increasing importance of trade and investment in the bilateral relationship. The Forum noted Papua New Guinea was Australia's 15th largest merchandise trading partner and 13th largest merchandise export market in 2012-13; and that Australia is Papua New Guinea's largest trading partner. Ministers committed to reviewing, strengthening and diversifying our bilateral trade and investment ties.

5. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea's progress in establishing a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) in-line with international best practice. The Forum noted a SWF will assist in sharing the economic gains of Papua New Guinea's resource sector with the people of Papua New Guinea.

6. Ministers committed to early finalisation of an Economic Cooperation Treaty. The Treaty will recognise the growing relations between Australia and Papua New Guinea in trade, investment, business and development cooperation and will set out a framework for bilateral cooperation in these areas.

Development cooperation

7. Ministers welcomed the ongoing commitment to the PNG-Australia Partnership for Development.

8. Ministers confirmed a commitment to the ongoing closer alignment of the aid program with Papua New Guinea's development priorities, including with a particular focus on infrastructure. Emphasis was also given to improving procurement processes and modalities, and sub-national capacity building.

9. Ministers welcomed progress under the Joint Understanding on further bilateral cooperation on health, education and law and order.

10. Australia reconfirmed its support for Papua New Guinea to improve the quality of its universities in-line with the Garnaut-Namaliu PNG Universities Review. The Forum noted that this support would remain on a kina for kina basis underpinned by the principle of mutual accountability for performance and results.

11. Ministers acknowledged that aid investments need to target areas where Australian expertise can have an impact on sustainable economic growth, which is critical to raising living standards in Papua New Guinea over the long term.

12. Australia committed to undertake an assessment of its aid investment in Papua New Guinea in close consultation with the PNG Government to reflect both Governments' priorities.

13. The assessment will position the Australian aid program to address the key constraints to sustainable economic growth and equality in Papua New Guinea; focus on private sector led growth; be subject to clear performance benchmarks and mutual accountability for both investments and results.

14. Australia confirmed its support for Papua New Guinea's reforms of its government procurement systems, including the establishment of the Independent Health Procurement Authority and the Infrastructure Development Authority, reforms which will be essential in generating better value for money and accountability for public finances in compliance with PNG laws.

15. Both governments looked forward to the result of the Australian-funded Pacific Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) financing study, which will provide advice on how the private sector can also engage in this area.

Cooperation against people smuggling and the Regional Resettlement Arrangement

16. The Australian Government reiterated its commitment to the Regional Resettlement Arrangement. Ministers noted that funding under the Joint Understanding is in addition to other elements of Australia's development cooperation assistance to Papua New Guinea. The Forum welcomed Papua New Guinea's strong leadership in combating people smuggling in the region, particularly in implementing the Regional Resettlement Arrangement.

People-to-people links

17. Ministers discussed opportunities to further enhance people-to-people links, including through the New Colombo Plan. Both governments noted that Papua New Guinea's efforts to improve the quality of PNG universities would facilitate the operation of the New Colombo Plan in Papua New Guinea in years to come. There will also be opportunities for Australian University students to gain work experience in PNG businesses and with the PNG Government.

18. Ministers agreed to establish an Australia-PNG Network, to provide a platform to build stronger people-to-people links between Australia and Papua New Guinea, foster links between businesses and create an online space for collaboration. Using the annual Emerging Leaders' Dialogue as a key event, the network would bring together the multiple sister city, school, scholarships, and twinning arrangements, provide a point of contact for organisations wanting to create links and generate opportunities to develop a more comprehensive understanding of one another. Progress to streamline visa arrangements will also help to facilitate people-to-people links and travel between both countries.

Gender equality and social inclusion

19. Ministers acknowledged Australia's commitment to working with the PNG Government to confront gender inequality and violence against women as a critical barrier to the country's development.

20. Australia commended the PNG Parliament's passing of the Family Protection Bill, a landmark legal reform to combat the epidemic of family and sexual violence. Australia reaffirmed its commitment to continuing to work with the PNG government to improve access to justice for Papua New Guineans, especially vulnerable women and children.

21. The PNG Government recommitted to implementing commitments made under the 2012 Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, including increasing funding for services for women survivors of violence across the country, particularly women's refuges and Family Support Centres in all provinces.

22. Ministers noted the PNG Government's adoption of a gender equality and social inclusion policy and its continued institutionalisation throughout the public service.

Youth

23. Ministers acknowledged that young people make up the majority of Papua New Guinea's population and they must be provided with opportunities and the skills and abilities to act on them. Ministers noted the National Youth Commission is playing a central role in national policy and coordination.

Sport

24. Ministers welcomed the extension of the Rugby League in Schools Pilot Program to include Bougainville, and Australia's assistance in new sporting activities including AFL, cricket and soccer under the Australian Government's Pacific Sports Partnership Program.

Kokoda

25. Ministers reiterated their commitment to the Kokoda Initiative. The Kokoda Initiative and NGOs are bringing education, health and economic opportunities to the people and communities along the track. The Initiative is supporting Papua New Guinea to protect the rich cultural and military heritage of the iconic Kokoda Track and the Owen Stanley Ranges.

Defence cooperation

26. Ministers recognised the longstanding and mutually beneficial defence relationship, vital to our shared security interests in the region. Defence Ministers held the inaugural Defence Ministers' Meeting yesterday (10 December 2013).

27. Ministers agreed to establish an annual security dialogue including senior officials from the Prime Minister's, Defence and Foreign Affairs departments of both countries.

28. Ministers looked forward to strengthening practical defence and security cooperation including through mentoring and training, information sharing and maritime security cooperation. Ministers also welcomed an expansion of Australia's Defence Cooperation Program with Papua New Guinea – Australia's largest with any country.

29. Ministers welcomed the impending release of PNG's National Security Policy and Defence White Paper and agreed to consider implications for the PNG-Australia Defence Cooperation program.

Policing cooperation

30. Ministers noted the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership is delivering stronger PNG policing capabilities. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC) committed to continuing their close working relationship. The Forum welcomed the deployment of 50 AFP officers to Papua New Guinea which has already commenced and is anticipated to be completed by the end of December 2013. Ministers welcomed the PNG Government's commitment of greater resources towards RPNGC development and modernisation.

Anti-corruption and legal cooperation

31. Ministers renewed their commitment to fighting corruption. Ministers noted that improving law and order remains vital for the quality of life for the people of Papua New Guinea, including through strengthening PNG's economy and increasing PNG trade and investment links with the international economy. Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's commitment to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption. The Forum noted that Australia's law and justice support has helped Papua New Guinea on high priority issues of concern, including corruption and sexual and gender based violence. Ministers recognised that improving the transparency and accountability of public finances and procurement was important to reducing opportunities for corruption. Ministers welcomed both Governments' commitment to zero tolerance of fraud in the delivery of Australia's development cooperation program.

Strongim Gavman Program

32. Ministers welcomed the contribution of the whole-of-government Strongim Gavman Program, which deploys officials consistent with PNG government's needs, from Australian Government agencies to build specifically the capacity of selected counterpart PNG Government agencies and to support stronger governance outcomes, including at the sub-national level, to benefit the people of Papua New Guinea. Ministers supported regular dialogue between heads of department and agencies in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Ministers agreed to consult closely on the review of the Strongim Gavman Program in 2014.

Business Dialogue

33. The Forum welcomed the dialogue with representatives of the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council and the Business Council 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.

Visas and entry to Australia

34. Ministers discussed progress to streamline visa arrangements, including a number of new measures to make it easier for PNG citizens to travel to Australia. Consideration will continue to be given to steps to further streamline entry arrangements, including through continuing discussions between PNG and Australian officials at a technical level. The Forum noted that PNG nationals were the first in the Pacific region to be given access to electronic Visitor visa applications, reducing processing times.

Work and holiday visas

35. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to finalising administrative arrangements to bring into force the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2011for a reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangement. Once this arrangement is in effect, up to 100 young adults per year from each country will be eligible to enjoy a working holiday in the other country with the aim of encouraging cultural exchange and closer people-to-people links.

Seasonal Worker Program

36. Ministers committed to working together to maximise the take-up of places under the Seasonal Worker Program. The Forum noted that the program progressed well in its first year (to 30 June 2013). Ministers noted both sides would like to see Papua New Guinea increase its stake in the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and provide more opportunities to Papua New Guinea's substantial working age population.

Bougainville

37. The Australian government noted the PNG's government's ongoing commitment to the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Australia outlined its support for the implementation of the Peace Agreement, working closely with the PNG government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The Forum welcomed progress in planning for Operation Render Safe, led by Australia, in consultation with the PNG government, to remove unexploded remnants of World War II from Torokina, noting that the Operation would contribute to the goal of weapons disposal in Bougainville.

Torres Strait

38. The Forum noted the significance of the Torres Strait as an important link between Australia and Papua New Guinea, including important cultural ties and border protection matters. Ministers welcomed the outcomes from this year's Torres Strait Joint Advisory Committee meeting in October. This initiative will allow Australia and Papua New Guinea to better regulate the shared border including through enhanced joint border patrols and the establishment of an immigration office in Daru.

Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus

39. The meeting noted Papua New Guinea's intention to review its trade agreements and arrangements. The Forum noted the progress in the PACER Plus negotiations and the further work that is planned for 2014 and beyond. Furthermore, the Forum noted and appreciated the ongoing support of Australia to Papua New Guinea in the areas of trade facilitation.

40. Papua New Guinea welcomed Australia's continued development support to assist in training of trade negotiators and the offer to fund country-specific research on PACER Plus, and agreed it would take up this offer soon.

APEC

41. The Forum welcomed Australia's support of Papua New Guinea's hosting of APEC in 2018 and looked forward to close cooperation between the two countries in the course of Papua New Guinea's leadership of the APEC agenda. Ministers endorsed the reciprocal visits during 2014 of PNG and Australian delegations to assist with PNG's hosting of APEC.

Fiji

42. Ministers looked forward to continuing to work together, bilaterally and through the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG), to support Fiji's return to democracy.

Implementation of Forum decisions

43. Ministers agreed to establish meetings at senior officials level to ensure timely implementation of decisions reached at the Forum.

44. Ministers agreed that the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum is a valuable mechanism to progress key issues and agree actions for the year ahead and senior officials would be responsible for implementation of agreed commitments.

MINISTERS IN ATTENDANCE

AUSTRALIAN MINISTERS

  • The Hon Julie Bishop MP
  • Senator the Hon George Brandis QC
  • Senator the Hon David Johnston
  • The Hon Greg Hunt MP
  • The Hon Scott Morrison MP
  • Senator the Hon Brett Mason
  • The Hon Michael Keenan MP
  • The Hon Bruce Billson MP

PAPUA NEW GUINEA MINISTERS

  • The Hon Rimbink Pato OBE MP
  • The Hon Kerenga Kua MP
  • The Hon James Marape MP
  • The Hon Michael Malabag MP
  • The Hon Charles Abel MP
  • The Hon Fabian Pok MP
  • The Hon Richard Maru MP
  • The Hon Sir Puka Temu Kt MP
  • The Hon Steven Pirika MP

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555