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

Media Release

FA158 - 16 December 2005

17th Australia - Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum

Australia and Papua New Guinea have today held a very productive Ministerial Forum in Queensland, attended by nine Australian ministers and ten Papua New Guinean Ministers.

The Forum is an annual event which provides an opportunity to review the relationship between the two countries and agree on areas of cooperation.

The Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP), under which Australian officials work within PNG government agencies, was a key focus of discussions. Ministers reconfirmed their commitment to ECP's objectives of addressing key development challenges in PNG.

It was agreed that 39 Australian ECP deployees currently in PNG were making a valuable contribution to a range of priority areas, including economic policy and financial management, reform of the law and justice system, border control and transport security. They are helping to build the capacities of PNG government systems, strengthen governance and reduce corruption.

While a PNG Supreme Court Ruling in May necessitated withdrawal of Australian police deployed to PNG under ECP, it was agreed in the Forum that discussions should continue on the contents of a revised package of assistance to support reform and improve the effectiveness of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Ministers also discussed Australia's $300 million aid program with PNG. They agreed on a broad framework for a new strategy for the future aid program. It will focus on improved governance and nation building; sustainable economic growth and productivity; improved stability and service delivery; and combating HIV/AIDS.

Australia and PNG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Organisation for Migration on the voluntary return of irregular migrants from PNG. Under the MOU, Australia will fund the IOM to assist with the accommodation, care and subsequent voluntary removal of irregular immigrants with no legal right to remain in PNG.

The economic relationship was a key area of discussion. Ministers discussed progress in planning for the PNG gas project and the proposed pipeline to Australia. It was agreed that the project would add a very positive and substantial new dimension to the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Representatives of the Australia-PNG Business Council participated in the Forum and contributed significantly to ministerial consideration of ways to increase trade and investment between the two countries.

Media inquiries : Ministerial 02 6277 7500, DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555

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