Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 15 November 2002
The 14th Papua New Guinea-Australia
Ministerial Forum was held at Parliament House, Port Moresby on 15 November
2002 and was attended by Ministers from both Papua New Guinea and Australia.
The Hon. Sir Moi Avei, Minister for Petroleum and Energy chaired the
Ministerial Forum and led the Papua New Guinea delegation which included
Hon. Bart Philemon, Minister for Finance and Treasury, Hon. Sinai Brown,
Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Hon. Dr Puka Temu, Minister
for Public Service, Hon. Kappa Yarka, Minister for Defence, Hon. Sir Peter
Barter, Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Hon. Sasa Zibe, Minister
for Environment and Conservation, Hon. Mark Maipakai, Minister for Justice,
Hon. Andrew Baing, Minister for Fisheries, Hon. Yawa Silupa, Minister for
Internal Security and Hon. Patrick Pruaitch, Minister for Forestry.
The Australian delegation was led by The Hon. Alexander Downer, Minister
for Foreign Affairs and included Senator The Hon. Robert Hill, Minister for
Defence, The Hon. Philip Ruddock, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural
and Indigenous Affairs, Senator The Hon. Nick Minchin, Minister for Finance
and Administration, The Hon. Dr David Kemp, Minister for Environment and
Heritage, and Senator The Hon. Christopher Ellison, Minister for Justice
The Papua New Guinea delegation welcomed the Australian delegation
to the 14th Ministerial Forum on behalf of the Government and people of Papua New Guinea.
The Australian delegation thanked the Papua New Guinea Government for hosting
the 14th Ministerial Forum and acknowledged the warm welcome and hospitality extended
to all delegates.
The Forum acknowledged the importance of the annual Ministerial meeting
in providing both Governments the opportunity to review developments relative
to the conduct of their bilateral relations in the past twelve months since
the last Forum, and to identify new challenges and opportunities before them.
The Forum further acknowledged the importance of building on existing Ministerial
and Government-to-Government contacts as a means of strengthening and expanding
relations between the two countries.
Ministers emphasized mutual support and cooperation in the management
of key areas of the bilateral relationship, especially the political, economic
and financial reform programs currently pursued by the Papua New Guinea Government.
Ministers also welcomed the opportunity to review progress in other key areas
of the bilateral relationship, including Economic and Development Cooperation,
Defence Partnership, Immigration and Border Management Cooperation, Trade
and Investment issues, Environmental Cooperation and Bougainville.
The Ministers acknowledged that despite the difficulties being faced,
Papua New Guinea is making good progress in implementing the finance and
public sector reform program. The Australian Government will continue to
provide technical assistance to support the reform process.
The Australian Government also acknowledged efforts taken by the PNG
Government to engage with the IMF and the World Bank.
Ministers acknowledged the important role Australia’s aid program
is playing in supporting PNG’s development. Australia is ready to consider
on a tranched basis, the reprioritization of up to K100 million from the
development assistance program to meet the priority needs of the government
of Papua New Guinea in the context of the 2003 budget.
The Ministers noted that the PNG Incentive Fund is being successfully
implemented and that a joint Australia/PNG review of the fund will soon be
Ministers noted that the PNG Government’s reform program had been
extended to include the reform of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Ministers
underlined the importance of this reform and welcomed the recommitment of
the new PNG Government to downsize the Defence Force. Ministers noted that
this was a priority area for Papua New Guinea and that Australia will continue
to assist in this area. The Australian Government urged PNG to double its
efforts. It would need to meet targets before Australia would release the
second tranche of financial assistance (AUD 20 million).
Ministers acknowledged the high level of consultation and discussion
between officials from both countries which has taken place recently on the
PNG-Queensland Gas Pipeline. Ministers noted that these consultations were
continuing. Ministers agreed that the gas pipeline was an important project
which had the potential to provide considerable economic benefit to both
countries. Ministers noted the role of Governments in facilitating the project
and that the project should proceed on its commercial merits.
On the broader question of the trade and business relationship between
the two countries, Ministers welcomed the participation of representatives
from the respective business councils. The business representatives advised
the Forum that key issues for them at this stage include governance, education,
improved visas and work permit policy and administration, infrastructure
development, implementation of major projects, structure and delivery of
development assistance programs and the future business/government consultative
The Ministers were informed that the government and business must
not be seen by the other as some sort of opponent of competitor. Rather,
there is a symbiotic relationship in which each relies on the other. The
relationship must have institutional strength. It must not, nor should it
be, influenced by changes in leadership or personalities in either group.
Without effective government, the environment in which business is conducted
is unpredictable and uncertain, and crucial investment streams become thin.
Without effective business, there is no national economic development to
create employment and to feed the revenue streams needed by government to
provide services to the people.
On other key issues in the relationship, Ministers acknowledged the
importance of the consultations undertaken during the visit in March by the
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Hon. Philip
Ruddock and Prime Minister Howard’s visit to Papua New Guinea in August this
year. Issues of importance were discussed during each of these visits including
the Asylum Seekers processing centre in Manus and PNG’s Structural and Reform
Programs. Australia expressed its appreciation to the Government of Papua
New Guinea for its support in establishing the processing centre for asylum
seekers in Manus.
Ministers noted that substantial progress had been made on the development
of a program of cooperative activities which would support Papua New Guinea
in conserving its significant biological diversity values and help it meet
its international environmental obligations. Australia has worked with Papua
New Guinea to create conservation management tools. The Ministers were briefed
on the progress made since the WSSD Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa
in October this year. The importance of sustainable development and bio-diversity
related issues were discussed.
Ministers also acknowledged the important work done in maintaining
an effective program of security cooperation in the Torres Strait to prevent
the illegal movement of people across the Strait. The Australian delegation
advised the PNG government on a number of collaborative and cooperative measures
being undertaken by the Australian Government on the PNG Torres Strait Border
including in dealing with illegal arms and weapons trafficking, people smuggling,
illegal people movement and drug trafficking. The PNG delegation acknowledged
the Australian Government’s assistance in implementing the border and security
arrangements and expressed the government’s preparedness to assist in this
Ministers discussed the extension of the Moratorium on Mining and
Drilling of the Seabed in the Torres Strait before it expires on 14th of February 2003. They agreed in principle to extend the Moratorium subject
to the formulation of a Management Plan.
Ministers acknowledged the progress that has occurred over the last
twelve months, particularly the passage in Parliament in March 2002 to advance
the peace process on Bougainville. The Australian government was requested
to further extend the term of the Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville.
Ministers urged the speedy conclusion of the weapons disposal program.
Australia is prepared to consider further assistance to Bougainville
through the aid program. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s reaffirmation
of its desire to achieve peace in Bougainville by peaceful means.
The Forum accepted the invitation from Australia to host the 15th Ministerial
Forum in Australia in 2003.
Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Moi Avei, Minister for Petroleum and Energy and Acting Minister for
Foreign Affairs and Immigration