Thank you Rimbink and we are delighted to be here with fellow Ministers from PNG, Rimbink Pato and Charles Abel and the Australian delegation for the Ministerial Forum comprises me as Foreign Minister and Peter Dutton as the Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Keith Pitt as Assistant Trade Minister. We also have Dan Tehan who is our Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Cyber Security.
We are delighted to be here with our High Commissioner and representatives from the Australian High Commission to hear from you about progress in the private sector between the Australian business community here in PNG and the PNG business community. We are delighted to meet with representatives from the Australia-PNG Business Council and the Business Council of PNG.
As my friend and counterpart Rimbink noted, it is International Women's Day so I welcome the female participants but note that perhaps in 2018 we might see more business women and women from private sector involved in the executives, in the Councils of both Australia and PNG. As we all know, the economic empowerment of women adds to the economic empowerment of a nation. The reason we are running late this morning for which I apologise, is that Connie and I went down to the little market just down here and spoke to a number of the women stallholders who had the energy and spirit of enterprise that we want to see underpin the bilateral relationship with new Australian investment.
The Australian Government is particularly keen to continue the economic partnership with PNG. We could do that at the Government to Government level, but we deeply understand and are acutely aware of the vital role of the private sector. We cannot grow the economies of Australia and PNG through Government action alone. Indeed the less Government action, the more likely it is that the economies will flourish. We certainly want to encourage the business community here in PNG to continue to think of creating innovative ways where we can grow the PNG economy through trade and investment.
We have been working with the private sector in a number of ways to stimulate economic growth and job opportunities, to create greater prosperity and stability here in PNG. I know that the High Commissioner has some really good case studies of where the Australian Government has partnered with the private sector whether it's through Carnival Cruises and cruise tourism, which we think is so important. This is one of the most beautiful, unique environments in the world and I know there are tourists possibly weaving across the world and would love to have the opportunity to visit PNG. And as cruising seems to be one of the most popular forms of tourism these days, places such as Madang and beyond have extraordinary opportunities to showcase the environment but also provide work for young Papua New Guineans.
We are working with Carnival Cruises, I'm sure that there are more opportunities for skills and training, that's what I see as straight out tourism potential.
Likewise, I was delighted to learn of the Bougainville Chocolate Festival that was held. I grew up on Bougainville Cocoa. Today Bougainville Cocoa is a household name. The idea that Bougainville cocoa again could be a driver of economic growth in Bougainville and PNG more broadly is very heartenin. So this chocolate festival brought exporters, and importers, and producers together to look at best practice. One of my favourite chocolate companies in Australia, Haigh's Chocolate, I understand is now using Bougainville cocoa in their high quality product. These are just some of the examples where Government can support the growth of business here but we need to hear from you - what are the barriers, what are the obstacles? I've been having this conversation with a number of people across the table for a while now and I hope progress has been made. But it's through your association and your councils that we hear the concerns of the small, medium, large businesses and what more governments can do to assist, to create the right environment, that we'll continue to see economic growth here in PNG.
We have a particularly close relationship with PNG. I think few other countries could claim to be as close as Australia and PNG, through our history, through our geographic location and through the admiration and respect and deep affection that people have for each other. So it's in our interest to ensure that PNG can reach its full potential and Australia and the Australian Government believes it will do that through an economic partnership.
Now I understand about 5000 businesses operate in PNG, that is quite a number, but we need to hear how the Government can value-add to what you are seeking to do, to grow this economy for the betterment of the people of PNG.
So we're looking forward to hearing from you.
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