6 April 2018
- The 26th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum was held in Brisbane on 6 April 2018 and was co-chaired by the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Hon Rimbink Pato OBE MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
- Participating Australian Ministers included Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Craig Laundy MP, Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, and the Hon Alex Hawke MP, Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. Participating Papua New Guinean Ministers included the Hon Solan Mirisim MP, Minister for Defence, the Hon Justin Tkatchenko MP, Minister for Lands, Physical Planning and APEC, the Hon Petrus Thomas MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Security, and the Hon Jelta Wong MP, Minister for Police.
- Ministers expressed their condolences to those Papua New Guineans affected by the recent series of earthquakes that struck Papua New Guinea's Highlands region and affirmed their commitment to work together on the long term recovery effort. Ministers agreed to cooperate in areas that will maximise bilateral and regional stability and prosperity, including pursuing close defence cooperation, building capacity in policing and law and justice, and tackling illegal fishing, transnational crime and people smuggling.
- Noting the bilateral relationship's transition to a mature economic, security and strategic partnership, Ministers welcomed the new framework of bilateral meetings featuring the Secretary-level Economic Cooperation Dialogue and Bilateral Security Dialogue.
- Welcoming the importance conferred to the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship in Australia's 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Ministers discussed cooperation on the development of Papua New Guinea's Foreign Policy White Paper.
Defence and security cooperation
- Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the fourth Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD), and reaffirmed the Dialogue's importance as a platform to pursue strong and enduring cooperation on defence and security issues, noting that bilateral defence and security cooperation form a critical pillar of the bilateral relationship. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in the areas of maritime security, border control, people smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing, transnational crime, and law and justice capacity building.
- Ministers welcomed the longstanding and close cooperation through the Defence Cooperation Program, and noted that Papua New Guinea would receive its first Guardian-class Patrol Boat in late 2018. Ministers looked forward to continued growth in our defence engagement, including through Department of Defence exchanges and our ongoing program of exercises and operations.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's plans for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to be engaged in national infrastructure development programs and further agreed to share experiences, including through the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's appreciation for Australian's ongoing support to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) in the areas of capacity building, training, institutional strengthening and infrastructure development such as the Bomana Centre of Excellence, and welcomed cooperation on the review of the RPNGC currently underway.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's strong support for the continuation of PNG-Australia Policing Partnership activities and its call for a program of RPNGC work placements and training opportunities in Australia for young and mid-level officers.
- Ministers expressed a desire to elevate the policing partnership and noted Papua New Guinea's calls for an annual Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Strategic Dialogue.
- Australia provided an update on the Pacific Maritime Security Program, including aerial support in regional surveillance, to be funded by Australia and managed through the Forum Fisheries Agency.
- Recognising that cyber security poses a growing challenge to Papua New Guinea, Australia and the region, Ministers agreed to expand cyber cooperation. Ministers signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding to formalise Australia's cyber security assistance for APEC 2018. Ministers agreed that this cooperation should continue after APEC 2018.
- Ministers noted the report of the independent baseline study of whole-of-government cooperation on maritime security in Papua New Guinea, and asked officials to prepare a strategic plan for the bilateral security partnership to be discussed at the next Ministerial Forum.
- Ministers acknowledged the importance of regional health security and agreed to cooperate further to contain and avoid infectious disease threats, including through Australia's Health Security Initiative in the Indo-Pacific.
- Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea's policy, security and logistics preparations for APEC, and Papua New Guinea's hosting of early APEC Senior Officials and Ministerial meetings.
- Ministers welcomed Australian support for Papua New Guinea's security preparations for APEC meetings in 2018, and the opportunity to build on the APEC experience to deepen security cooperation into the future.
- Ministers noted the importance of ongoing close cooperation and frank discussions, including on necessary amendments to Papua New Guinea's APEC Safety and Security Act, and the integration of security partners into Papua New Guinea's planning efforts, to ensure effective and coordinated security support for Papua New Guinea's hosting of APEC Economic Leaders' Week.
- Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Secretary-level Economic Cooperation Dialogue (ECD) to sit alongside the Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD), reflecting the two main pillars of the relationship. Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the inaugural ECD, including the commitment to pursue greater cooperation on trade, investment, economic growth and development matters.
- Ministers commended the agreement to lay a high speed telecommunication cable between Australia and Papua New Guinea as a tangible demonstration of the shared commitment to a deeper economic partnership and advancing Papua New Guinea's APEC 2018 priority of strengthening the digital economy. The Co-Chairs of the Forum signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding to guide this work. Ministers noted PNG's appreciation of Australia's support towards the implementation of this important project.
- Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the inaugural Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG), including the adoption of comprehensive Terms of Reference to guide the TIWG's work in removing impediments to bilateral trade and investment. Ministers agreed that agriculture and agricultural market access form part of discussions of the TIWG and be included in the agenda for the next Ministerial Forum.
- Ministers also endorsed the TIWG's agreement to undertake an independent assessment of trade agreement options to boost Papua New Guinea's economy, including the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, given the critical role of trade liberalisation in promoting regional prosperity.
- Ministers valued the views of private sector representatives, presented at the Australia-Papua New Guinea Business Dialogue held on 6 April 2018, and committed to proactively engage across government with business representatives to ensure predictable regulatory frameworks and improve the business enabling and investment environment through existing arrangements.
- Ministers appreciated the contribution of the private sector to promoting economic growth and stronger bilateral relations, including through the Business and Development Round Table and the Business and Officials Working Group.
- Ministers welcomed a recent increase in Papua New Guinea's participation in Australia's Seasonal Worker Programme from 42 workers in 2015-16 to 139 workers in 2016-17, and noted there remained significant potential to further increase uptake in the programme.
- Ministers noted that the cost of remittances remained high across the Pacific and Papua New Guinea and agreed to convene a roundtable to bring together banks, remittance companies and officials.
- Noting that development cooperation is a longstanding element of the bilateral relationship, Ministers welcomed the significant results achieved through bilateral development cooperation since the last Ministerial Forum, including in the five priority sectors under the Aid Partnership Arrangement of health, education, law and justice, governance, transport and infrastructure.
- Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the 2018 Papua New Guinea-Australia Aid Partnership Talks, including agreement to the extension of the current Aid Partnership Arrangement until the 2019 Ministerial Forum. Ministers agreed that the new partnership should reflect joint development priorities and alignment to Papua New Guinea's forthcoming Medium Term Development Plan 3 (2018-22), which outlines Papua New Guinea's development priorities. Ministers welcomed the establishment of a working group to transition and undertake consultations to determine the nature and content of new development partnership arrangements by reframing joint development priorities as a core part of the broader economic partnership.
- In the context of the transition to a mature economic partnership, Ministers agreed on the importance of continued cooperation to support sustainable and inclusive economic growth, while ensuring growth translates into effective service delivery at all levels of government.
- Ministers welcomed the launch of three new buildings at the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct on 22 March 2018, which have improved the learning environment for future leaders of Papua New Guinea. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's appreciation of the Australian Government's valuable support towards the construction of important buildings that are already contributing to human resource development in the country.
- Ministers recognised the significant potential of the Papua New Guinea-Australia Governance Partnership in addressing some of the key governance issues in Papua New Guinea. Ministers noted the need to deliver tangible outcomes in the three focal areas of economic governance and inclusive growth; decentralisation and citizen participation; and public sector leadership and reform.
- Ministers welcomed progress under the Joint Understanding on Further Bilateral Cooperation on Health, Education and Law and Order, with most projects now complete. Ministers noted the ANGAU Hospital redevelopment was proceeding well, and the importance of Papua New Guinea providing adequate recurrent funding for the hospital's operational costs. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's appreciation for the successful implementation of the important projects under the Joint Understanding and Australia's flexibility and understanding in the redevelopment phase of the ANGAU Hospital given Papua New Guinea's fiscal constraints.
- Ministers emphasised the value of strong partnerships between Australian and Papua New Guinean institutions, and committed to ensuring effective working arrangements between respective government agencies. Building on a broad range of institutional partnerships across government, including the arrangement between Papua New Guinea's Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council and Australia's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet established since the 25th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, Ministers signed a joint letter on building an institutional partnership between Papua New Guinea's Department of Foreign Affairs and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
- Recalling that gender equality is a pressing challenge for both Australia and Papua New Guinea, Ministers encouraged Papua New Guinea to take steps to ensure women participate in the Papua New Guinea Parliament.
- Ministers welcomed the constructive work of the Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Governments to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
- Ministers welcomed ongoing cooperation on ensuring the Kokoda Track is open, safe and well managed and protected for future generations. Ministers agreed Papua New Guinea and Australia would work together to implement the agreed recommendations of Papua New Guinea's independent review of the Kokoda Track Authority.
Humanitarian and climate change cooperation
- Ministers welcomed Australia's rapid and comprehensive response to the series of earthquakes that hit Papua New Guinea's Highlands Region in early 2018, including Australian Defence Force aircraft and helicopter support to move vital supplies, as well as humanitarian and logistical support and coordination among responders.
- Ministers resolved to cooperate closely on the long term rebuilding and recovery efforts, and strengthening of Papua New Guinea's disaster management planning and National Disaster Office, including in cooperation with Emergency Management Australia and the State of Queensland. Ministers noted an existing Memorandum of Understanding between Papua New Guinea and the State of Queensland is currently being reviewed.
- Ministers noted the growing importance of climate change effects and the need for increased efforts and cooperation in climate change resilient programs and awareness.
- Ministers committed to work together on climate change, to contribute to improving Papua New Guinea's capacity to meet its climate change goals, especially on forests, and to access climate finance.
- Ministers supported Papua New Guinea's applications for Green Climate Fund projects, including those relating to climate information and deforestation issues.
- Ministers recognised that the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the pre-eminent political organisation in the region, plays an important role in promoting regional development and cooperation, including on oceans, climate change and security.
Border management, immigration and people-to-people links
- Ministers welcomed the continued close cooperation between Australia and Papua New Guinea on border management and people smuggling issues, including the closure of the Manus Regional Processing Centre in 2017, stand-up of alternative accommodation and service arrangements in Manus Province and construction of the Bomana Immigration Centre.
- Ministers noted continuing discussions about management of the regional processing cohort, and ongoing efforts to review the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA).
- Ministers agreed Australia would continue to support Papua New Guinea to reduce the regional processing cohort, through resettlement, return and removal, under the RRA.
- Ministers noted the value of continuing to develop maritime security capabilities, including through the gifting of three coastal Port-class vessels from Australia to Papua New Guinea.
- Ministers welcomed continuing close cooperation to implement the Torres Strait Treaty, and progress addressing tuberculosis prevalence in Western Province. Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the 26th Torres Strait Treaty Joint Advisory Council (JAC) meeting, including a bilateral commitment to participate in joint Treaty Awareness Visits in 2018 and to continue efforts to deter illegal fishing in the Torres Strait Protected Zone. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea's commitment to retain its border liaison officer position in Daru, and the shared commitment to increase the number of joint cross border patrols annually from three to six.
- Ministers noted ongoing efforts to facilitate travel for Papua New Guinean citizens, and welcomed progress made through the Joint Technical Working Group on Travel Facilitation, especially in the area of streamlining online visa application processes, and the forthcoming Australia-Papua New Guinea Immigration Forum later in 2018. Ministers agreed that officials would commence discussions to consider cooperation to develop Papua New Guinea's biometrics capability.
- Ministers noted Papua New Guinea's desire to improve processes to obtain Australian visas in order for Papua New Guinean citizens to take full advantage of the opportunities in Australia in terms of education and training, business, exports, employment, sports development, cultural exchanges, and people to people links.
- Ministers agreed that officials discuss a proposal by Papua New Guinea for the two countries to consider possible visa on arrival arrangements for diplomatic and official passport holders in the Joint Technical Working Group on Travel Facilitation and other forums.
- Ministers noted the importance of sister city arrangements in strengthening people-to-people links and agreed to consult on opportunities to promote these arrangements, including through the Australian Local Government Association.
- Ministers noted a range of programs designed to strengthen relations between Australia and rural Papua New Guinea communities, including through the Partnership Arrangement for Improved Decentralisation and Service Delivery and the Churches Partnership Program.
- Ministers welcomed ongoing initiatives to further grow people-to-people links, including the New Colombo Plan, the Australia Awards Program, the Papua New Guinea-Australia Network and the Emerging Leaders' Dialogue. Ministers encouraged greater cooperation in all sports, including in support of women in sports, skills development and maintenance of sporting facilities.
- Ministers recognised the momentous discovery of the HMAS AE1 submarine in December 2017, and committed to work together to preserve the legacy of the submarine and crew, including through a detailed survey to be conducted in 2018.
- This Joint Communiqué reflects discussions at the 26th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum held in Brisbane, Australia, on 6 April 2018.
Signed at Brisbane on the 6th day of April 2018
For the Government of Australia
The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
For the Government of Papua New Guinea
The Hon Rimbink Pato OBE MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade