The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Joint Media Release

11 December 2003

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison

Australian Police for Bougainville

We are pleased to announce that Australia has offered to send a police team of up to 20 personnel to Bougainville as part of our enhanced cooperation package with Papua New Guinea.

These personnel are intended to work alongside members of the Royal PNG Constabulary to help restore confidence in the police force on Bougainville, enhance its policing capacity and assist with the future training and development of new local recruits. We will also be providing some basic policing equipment to ensure compatibility between Australian police officers and local officers.

Maintaining law and justice and an effective police force will be critical to Bougainville's stability and future prospects. We welcome the recent delegation of police powers to Bougainville authorities by the PNG National Executive Council.

The Australian police are available to start work on Bougainville within weeks. Australia will also work with New Zealand to improve police training, facilities and community policing and to ensure that courts are operating smoothly.

In consultation with our regional partners and with the support of the parties to the peace process, we will now withdraw the small civilian Bougainville Transition Team at the end of this year. The Transition Team has succeeded in building confidence and facilitating the peace process over the past six months since the withdrawal of the Peace Monitoring Group mid-year.

Over the next four years, Australia's development assistance to Bougainville will also shift towards providing support for governance, essential services and economic growth. Other international partners will be invited to contribute.

We urge all parties to conclude outstanding issues as soon as possible by moving swiftly to implement the decision to destroy the weapons, finalising Bougainville's constitution and by preparing for free and fair elections.

The decision to offer Australian police to Bougainville reflects recent progress in the peace process including through the Kuri Resolution on Implementation of Autonomy between PNG Government and Bougainville representatives and the outcomes of an Australian-funded meeting on Nissan Island last month promoting weapons disposal options.

This initiative was endorsed with the PNG government at the 15th Australia Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum held in Adelaide on 11 December. The Papua New Guinea Government will consult further with the Bougainville parties to advance the issue.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's office) 02 6277 7500, Simon Troeth (Senator Ellison's office) 6277 7260

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