24th Australia - Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum - Joint Communique

3 March 2016

Parliament House, Canberra, Australia

1. The 24th Papua New Guinea - Australia Ministerial Forum was held at Parliament House, Canberra, on 3 March 2016.

2. The Forum was co-chaired by the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Hon Rimbink Pato LLB OBE MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

3. Ministers' discussions reflected the maturity of our relations and the comprehensive strategic and economic partnership shared by Australia and Papua New Guinea, which is supported by key treaties and arrangements, including the Joint Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia 1987, the Joint Declaration of Partnership 2013 and the Economic Cooperation Treaty 2014.

4. Ministers agreed to continue the close partnership on security and strategic issues, trade and investment, strengthening regionalism in the Pacific and signed a new Aid Partnership. Ministers reaffirmed that the bilateral relationship is based upon mutual respect, equality and a commitment to meeting shared objectives.

5. Ministers emphasised the importance of building people-to-people ties, raising awareness among young people of Australia and Papua New Guinea’s shared history, and streamlining travel arrangements. Ministers welcomed the outcomes of the 30th Anniversary Torres Strait Joint Advisory Council (JAC) and the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM).

Defence and Security Cooperation

6. Ministers acknowledged the close defence and security partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia and noted the ongoing collaboration in capacity building, enhancing maritime capabilities, bilateral and multilateral naval exercises and training. Ministers welcomed the second Bilateral Security Dialogue which highlighted the value of the joint approach of Australia and Papua New Guinea to bilateral and regional security matters in the Indo-Pacific.

7. In recognition of shared maritime challenges, Ministers committed to increased whole-of-government cooperation on practical initiatives and sharing of experiences on border and maritime security to combat people smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing and transnational crime. They also noted the ongoing cooperation in the area of aerial and marine surveillance to combat such illegal activities and transnational crime.

8. Ministers agreed to undertake a Base-Line Study of whole-of-government coordination in Papua New Guinea in relation to government border and maritime security processes, with a view to identifying areas for further possible assistance.

9. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s decision to participate in the Pacific Maritime Security Program and the release of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. They also noted Australia’s support to Papua New Guinea with four naval boats as part of the Pacific Maritime Security Program. Ministers announced their support for Australia providing two helicopters to the PNGDF Air Transport Wing under the Defence Cooperation Program for a further three years.

10. Ministers noted Australia and Papua New Guinea’s plans to review defence cooperation to reflect both countries priorities as outlined in their Defence White Papers and national security policies.
11. Ministers acknowledged that the Papua New Guinea – Australia Police Partnership is enhancing the capacity of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC).

12. Ministers noted that in view of the Papua New Guinea’s new Development Cooperation Policy, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) and the Australia Federal Police (AFP) will now be reviewed.

Trade, Investment and Economic Cooperation

13. Ministers noted that the ECT signed in 2014 reflects the maturity in the Papua New Guinea-Australia relationship and is based on equality and strategic partnership and it further reflects a shift in the focus from aid dependency to sustainable trade and economic relations.

14. Ministers noted the strong trade and investment relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Ministers acknowledged the importance of taking forward specific proposals to promote economic growth in both countries and giving effect to the aims of the Economic Cooperation Treaty signed by the two countries in 2014.

15. Papua New Guinean Ministers welcomed a proposal by Australia to establish an Australian Consulate-General in Lae. Ministers agreed that the establishment of a Consulate-General in Papua New Guinea’s commercial hub would provide opportunities to enhance economic ties between the two countries.

16. Australia noted Papua New Guinea’s interest in negotiating a new arrangement on economic cooperation. Ministers noted that the PACER Plus is still being negotiated.

17. Ministers discussed mechanisms for strengthening two way trade and undertook to maintain collaboration to address market access and other related issues. Ministers agreed on the importance of ongoing Australian assistance to support boosting Papua New Guinean exports. They also undertook to maintain collaboration on plant and animal biosecurity activities, and to mutually apply a scientific approach to sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

18. Ministers noted the importance of the Pacific Seasonal Workers Program in Australia in terms of short term employment, remittances, and building capacity and skills for Seasonal Workers. They noted Australia’s decision to expand the Seasonal Workers Program from primary horticulture to the broader agriculture sector including cattle, sheep, grain and mixed enterprises.

19. Ministers noted that relatively few Papua New Guinea nationals had participated in Australia’s Seasonal Workers Program and that officials from both countries were investigating ways to boost Papua New Guinea participation.

20. Ministers also noted Papua New Guinea’s request to expand the Seasonal Workers Program to include skilled and semi-skilled workers who are trained by Australian accredited specialized training institutions such as the Australia-Pacific Technical College where opportunities exists for employment in specialized care of the elderly, child, disability and community care.

21. Ministers welcomed continuing dialogue with businesses about how the Papua New Guinea - Australia trade and investment relationship could be strengthened.

22. Ministers welcomed the close cooperation between Papua New Guinea and Australia on combatting money laundering and financing of terrorism and the recent gazettal of anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing and proceeds of crime legislation by Papua New Guinea.

Development Cooperation

23. Ministers highlighted the importance of all development assistance being implemented in line with the priorities of the Papua New Guinea Government, and noted Papua New Guinea’s new Development Cooperation Policy.

24. Ministers signed a new Aid Partnership which reflected the countries' ongoing commitment to mutual respect for sovereignty and mutual benefit from development cooperation. Ministers welcomed the Aid Partnership’s continued focus on Papua New Guinea's development priorities on Health and HIV/AIDS, Governance, Education, Law and Justice and Transport Infrastructure.

25. The Ministers noted the Papua New Guinea Government’s policy directives and decisions, including the adoption of the Development Cooperation Policy that, inter alia, provides the policy framework and directions for engagement of foreign advisors in the public service; the implementation of development assistance programs, and the institutional and oversight mechanisms for the overall coordination and implementation of development assistance programs in the country.

26. Ministers noted the Papua New Guinea Government’s proposal to enter into a Joint Understanding with Australia to guide cooperation on technical assistance in Papua New Guinea. They agreed to setting up a Working Group, comprising Officials of both Governments to discuss the draft proposal.

27. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s request for increased cooperation on twinning and secondment arrangements.
28. Ministers noted the importance of activities under the agreed Papua New Guinea – Australia Private Sector Development Framework (PSDF) aligning with the Papua New Guinea Government’s SME policy.

Health

29. Ministers agreed on the importance of Papua New Guinea executing its tuberculosis control plan, ensuring it is funded adequately in future years.

Joint Understanding

30. Ministers welcomed Australia and Papua New Guinea's collaboration to redevelop the Lae ANGAU Memorial Hospital and agreed to explore options for staged funding, consistent with the existing mutual commitment to co-funding of the project.

Gender and Women’s Empowerment

31.  Ministers acknowledged the importance of promoting gender equality and greater economic opportunities for women. Ministers noted the importance of continuing to improve the physical and economic security of women, and increasing opportunities for women to take up leadership positions.

32. Ministers noted the positive progress of the Papua New Guinea Public Service Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) project that has been supported by the Australian Government, which is specifically aimed at not only building skills and capacity of women to be leaders in the Public Service and wider community but also protect them from gender based violence and exploitation.

Bougainville

33. Ministers reaffirmed their acceptance of the sovereignty of Papua New Guinea. Ministers agreed on the importance of development cooperation assistance in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville focussing on implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement, strengthening the public sector and supporting economic growth. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of ongoing coordination between Papua New Guinea and Australia on development assistance in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Drought, Natural Disasters and Relief Assistance

34. Ministers noted the recent El Nino and prolonged drought that affected various parts of Papua New Guinea and the assistance provided by the Australian Government to the people at the provincial and ward levels. Ministers further noted the request by Papua New Guinea to build capacity of the Papua New Guinea National Disaster and Emergency Services Office (NDESO) to effectively manage drought and natural disasters.

Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct

35. Ministers welcomed the ongoing progresses made to achieve the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct initiative and noted its importance in promoting value-based leadership and boosting human resource development and capacity of public servants. Ministers further agreed that Papua New Guinea and Australia would build on the substantial work already achieved under the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct.

Science and Technology

36. Ministers supported the establishment of the Papua New Guinea Science and Technology Council and agreed on the importance of a close partnership in areas of mutual interest between our peak research bodies and institutions. Ministers noted the importance of its ongoing discussion for possible cooperation with Australian Universities and Research Institution for collaborative research in areas of mutual interests and benefit to both countries, including equality and status of women in research.

APEC

37. Ministers welcomed the progress being made by Papua New Guinea in its preparations for hosting APEC 2018, and the ongoing discussions between Papua New Guinea and Australia concerning support by Australia on policy, security and logistics.

Immigration and People-to-People Links

38. Ministers agreed on the importance of continuing to build people-to-people links between young Australians and Papua New Guineans, including through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Network, the Emerging Leaders’ Dialogue and the New Colombo Plan. Ministers resolved to continue joint work on preserving the Kokoda Track region and expanding development opportunities for communities along the Track.

39. Ministers noted the work being undertaken by the Joint Technical Working Group to examine steps both governments would take to make it easier for Papua New Guineans to travel to Australia. Ministers acknowledged Australia’s commitment under the Joint Technical Working Group to build awareness within the Papua New Guinea business community of streamlined visa products through outreach workshops.

40. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s concerns about the current online visa application system and agreed that the Joint Technical Working Group would explore ways to address these.

41. Ministers agreed to finalise the necessary arrangements to bring a Work and Holiday visa into effect in 2016. The new visa will allow up to 100 Australian and 100 Papua New Guinean young adults per year, aged 18 to 30, to enjoy a working holiday in the other country for up to 12 months. Ministers agreed to expedite implementation of the work and holiday visa.

Combatting People Smuggling and the Regional Resettlement Arrangement

42. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s passage of its first National Refugee Policy. Ministers noted that seven refugees had been settled under the Papua New Guinea National Refugee Policy and 61 people had left the Regional Processing Centre in preparation for life in Papua New Guinea. Ministers noted that 515 final refugee status determinations had been made by Papua New Guinea, consisting of 480 persons found to be refugees. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s intention to complete all refugee status determinations before the end of March 2016. Both governments reiterated their commitments under the Regional Resettlement Arrangement.

43. Ministers noted and acknowledged the ongoing importance of development assistance that promotes economic growth and generating employment opportunities in Manus.

44. Ministers noted the ongoing discussions between Australia and Papua New Guinea regarding the extension of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement until 2017 that will enable the two countries to address all related concerns.

Regional and Global Issues

45. Australian Ministers congratulated Papua New Guinea on its chairing of the Pacific Islands Leaders’ Meeting in September 2015. Ministers agreed that Papua New Guinea and Australia would work together on strengthening regionalism in the Pacific and the role of the Pacific Islands Forum. Ministers noted the importance of Australia and Papua New Guinea working together to address the climate change issues and encouraged officials to maintain a policy exchange on climate change.

Declaration

46. This Joint Communique reflects discussions at the 24th Papua New Guinea - Australia Ministerial Forum held at Parliament House, Canberra, on 3 March 2016.

Signed at:                                                    on:

For the Government of Australia                

_________________________                 

Minister for Foreign Affairs    

For the Government of Papua New Guinea           

________________________

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration

Last Updated: 3 March 2016