8 March 2017
Madang, Papua New Guinea
- The 25th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum was held in Madang on 8 March 2017 and was co-chaired by the Hon Rimbink Pato LLB OBE MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration and the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
- Ministers' discussions focused on the maturing economic, strategic and security partnership shared by Papua New Guinea and Australia, and acknowledged the increased cooperation on regional security and economic resilience.
- Ministers agreed that the bilateral relationship should continue to transition to a more contemporary economic and strategic relationship rather than one based on aid.
- Ministers agreed to continue efforts to increase bilateral trade and investment, maintain open and competitive markets, and streamline travel arrangements. The Forum recognised the common interest in maximizing bilateral and regional growth and prosperity.
- Ministers welcomed the close cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea on issues of common interest including on maritime security, countering transnational crime and toward Papua New Guinea's 2018 APEC host year.
- Ministers agreed on the importance of expanding people-to-people links and reaffirmed the value of institutional ties between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Ministers also reiterated the value of raising public awareness about the vibrant contemporary relationship as well as the history shared by Papua New Guinea and Australia.
- Ministers acknowledged that relations between both countries have evolved and matured over the last four decades, underpinned by the Joint Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia 1987 and the Joint Declaration of Partnership 2013.
- Ministers recognized the importance of International Women's Day and highlighted expanding opportunities for women's leadership, economic and physical security.
- Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the third Australia-Papua New Guinea Bilateral Security Dialogue, the 2017 Aid Partnership Talks, the 2017 Senior Officials Meeting and the 31st Torres Strait Joint Advisory Council (JAC).
- Ministers agreed to seek greater engagement between PNG and Australian Ministers in their respective portfolios outside of the Ministerial Forum.
Strategic security cooperation
- Ministers reaffirmed and endorsed the importance of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Bilateral Security Dialogue and its outcomes, as an opportunity to share views on issues of common strategic interest and security, including the maritime border shared by both countries. Ministers reaffirmed that elements of cooperation and continued joint efforts in keeping both countries' borders safe was paramount.
- Ministers acknowledged the strong, long-standing defence and security partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and noted the ongoing support and collaboration in areas including capacity building, enhanced maritime capabilities, and joint maritime security exercises involving Australian and Papua New Guinea inter-agency counterparts.
- Recognising shared challenges, Ministers reaffirmed the importance of increased whole-of-government cooperation on practical initiatives, and sharing of experiences, on border and maritime security to combat people smuggling, human trafficking, including of children, illegal fishing and transnational crime. Ministers also noted the ongoing cooperation on law and justice issues, and on aerial and marine surveillance to combat illegal activities.
- Ministers recognized the on-going cooperation through the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership. Ministers noted the extension of the Papua New Guinea – Australia Police Partnership to December 2018, to support PNG's hosting of APEC in 2018, and agreed to further discussions on how best to support policing cooperation beyond December 2018 within the broader bilateral law and justice partnership.
- Ministers also noted the strong and deep defence relationship and the success of the expanded Defence Cooperation Program in areas of maritime capability, infrastructure and people-to-people links.
- Ministers noted that there were opportunities for Papua New Guinea and Australia to work toward countering malicious cyber activity, and strengthening cyber security in the region.
Border management, immigration and consular issues
- Ministers noted the productive partnership between Australia and Papua New Guinea to help counter people smuggling in the region.
- Ministers welcomed the continued collaboration between Australia and Papua New Guinea toward the closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre.
- Ministers noted that Australia continued to explore third-country resettlement options in addition to the US resettlement arrangement. Ministers also noted the ongoing efforts of Papua New Guinea to manage people determined to be refugees as well as return and remove those determined not to be refugees.
- Ministers reaffirmed the value of ongoing discussions on the management of asylum seekers under the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA).
- Ministers agreed that the licensing of the RPC medical facility was a critical issue for both Papua New Guinea and Australia.
- Ministers acknowledged the value of the joint cross-border patrols program, which strengthened cooperation to protect the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
- The Forum recognised efforts to strengthen cooperation among agencies responsible for defence, police, customs, immigration and fisheries. Ministers looked forward to the results of the baseline study of whole-of-government cooperation on maritime security in Papua New Guinea.
- Ministers welcomed the cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea on the effective implementation of the Torres Strait Treaty, and endorsed the outcomes of the 31st Torres Strait Treaty Joint Advisory Council (JAC). Ministers expressed ongoing commitment to addressing illegal foreign fishing in the Torres Strait Protected Zone and to resolving operational issues for Australian government vessels in Papua New Guinea's territorial waters to support this endeavor.
- Ministers committed to continued efforts to achieve improvements in travel facilitation for Papua New Guinea's citizens. The Forum welcomed the progress made by the Joint Technical Working Group including on business outreach, testing Australia's online visa application environment and supporting Papua New Guinea's hosting of APEC 2018.
Trade, investment and economic cooperation
- The Forum noted that the strong and growing economic partnership between Papua New Guinea and Australia was at the heart of the contemporary bilateral relationship.
- Ministers appreciated the progress made in the Business and Officials Working Group and the Business and Development Round Table, and encouraged business to continue to strengthen its engagement with government.
- Ministers highlighted the importance of strong, stable macroeconomic settings and open, competitive markets for growth and prosperity for all.
- The Forum agreed to continue discussions with business on mechanisms to support the growth of the private sector and remove barriers to trade, investment and economic cooperation.
- Ministers acknowledged the strong trade and investment relations between both countries and agreed on the establishment of a trade, investment and economic working group to deepen the bilateral economic partnership. The issue of market access was identified as an area of work to focus on.
- Ministers welcomed the 2017 opening of the Australian Consulate-General in Lae. Ministers agreed that the Consulate-General in Papua New Guinea's commercial hub demonstrated Australia's commitment to enhance economic ties between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
- Ministers agreed to continue efforts to increase Papua New Guinea's participation in Australia's Seasonal Worker Program to provide remittances and skills development. Ministers encouraged Papua New Guinea to access support though the Labour Mobility Assistance Program to improve the process.
Development cooperation and public sector engagement
- Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the 2017 Papua New Guinea-Australia Aid Partnership Talks and agreed to the establishment of a working group to develop the next Papua New Guinea-Australia Partnership Arrangements in advance of the 2018 Ministerial Forum.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's work to update its Medium Term Development Plan (2018-2022). The Forum also noted Australia's compliance with the new Non-Citizen Technical Advisor regulations and Papua New Guinea's Institutional Partnership Principles, which will enable increased cooperation, including twinning, between Papua New Guinea's public service agencies and their Australian counterparts.
- Ministers noted Australia's readiness to assist Papua New Guinea to leverage greater financing to deliver on its economic, security, infrastructure and social priorities, and to continue to explore opportunities to work in cooperation with other partners to achieve these objectives.
- Ministers agreed that health security is an important element of regional stability. Ministers noted Australia's commitment to supporting Papua New Guinea to achieve an equitable and sustainable health system. Ministers also noted Australia's support to Papua New Guinea to address drug-resistant Tuberculosis (TB) in Daru. The Forum noted the importance of Papua New Guinea executing its TB control plan and ensuring ongoing funding in future years.
- Ministers welcomed the recent progress on Australia's commitments under the Joint Understanding, including completion of the scoping and design of the magisterial services complex and the Ramu Highway scoping study. Ministers looked forward to completion of first phase of the ANGAU Hospital redevelopment, major construction at the Univeristy of Papua New Guinea and design study for the Ramu Highway in 2017. The Forum noted the importance of Papua New Guinea to continuing to allocate recurrent funding for ANGAU Hospital's operational costs.
- Ministers noted that over 1,600 people have benefited from education and training through the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct since its commencement in 2015. The Forum acknowledged the important role of the Precinct in promoting strong leadership, management and core public service skills. Ministers also noted the progress toward construction of three new buildings at the Institute of Public Administration and the University of Papua New Guinea which are due to be completed in 2017 and 2018.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's finalisation of its National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender Based Violence 2016-2025, which outlines the Papua New Guinea Government's lead role in coordinating activities and responsibility for providing support to survivors of violence.
- The Forum looked forward to Papua New Guinea's hosting of the Women in the Economy Forum for APEC. Ministers also acknowledged the importance of both Australia and Papua New Guinea promoting women's leadership, economic and physical security across all development investments.
- Ministers welcomed the agreement between the Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Governments to establish an independent Referendum Commission. The Forum also noted the ongoing coordination on implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of development cooperation in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, aimed at supporting economic development and diversification, peace and stability.
Global and regional issues
- Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's strategic and policy progress in preparing to host APEC 2018 and congratulated Papua New Guinea on the passage of its APEC Safety and Security Act 2017. Ministers also welcomed the establishment of Papua New Guinea's APEC Studies Centre and cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea in the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).
- The Forum acknowledged Australia's package of support for Papua New Guinea's APEC host year including an extension of the Australian Federal Police deployment, continued Defence Cooperation Program engagement, support for APEC policy agencies and capacity building for border and security agencies, as well as support for APEC Leaders' week.
- Ministers agreed on the importance of timely and appropriate staffing of Papua New Guinea's APEC Authority and the APEC Joint Security Task Force to ensure the success of preparations for 2018.
- Ministers noted the shared strategic interests of Australia and Papua New Guinea in the region, and the opportunities to forge new modes of engagement, as partners. The Forum acknowledged the existing cooperation between Papua New Guinea and Australia on regional issues, and looked forward to further work to promote job creation, stimulate economic growth, tackle security threats and respond to natural disasters.
- Ministers affirmed that the Pacific Islands Forum is the pre-eminent political organisation in the region. Ministers noted the opportunities presented by the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) for multilateral security dialogue and practical cooperation on security issues.
- The Forum noted the commitment of both Australia and Papua New Guinea to continue working to address climate change impacts.
- Ministers recognised that 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of World War II battles in Papua New Guinea. Ministers underlined the close and historic people-to-people links between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Ministers also noted the value in promoting the vibrant, contemporary bilateral relationship.
- Ministers agreed on the importance of continuing to build people-to-people links between young Australians and Papua New Guineans, including through the New Colombo Plan, the Papua New Guinea-Australia Network, the Emerging Leaders' Dialogue and the Australia Awards program. Ministers also recognised the close ties developed through the Church Partnership Program and through innovative young business leaders.
- Ministers welcomed the continued strengthening of educational links between the two countries and acknowledged the potential for universities and research institutions to engage in collaborative research in areas of mutual interest and benefit.
- Ministers resolved to continue the ongoing partnership under the Kokoda Initiative, with a focus on protecting the region's unique environmental, cultural and military heritage, ensuring the Kokoda Track is well managed, and expanding opportunities for communities along the Track.
PNG 2017 election
- Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea's preparations in advance of the 2017 National Election, and noted Australia's support to assist the Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commission to deliver the election. Australia welcomed Papua New Guinea's invitation for Australia to observe the election, and undertook to work closely with the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission on arrangements.
- This Joint Communique reflects discussions at the 25th Papua New Guinea - Australia Ministerial Forum held in Madang, on 8 March 2017.
Signed at: Madang, Papua New Guinea on: 8 March 2017
For the Government of Papua New Guinea
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration
For the Government of Australia
Minister for Foreign Affairs