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15th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum Joint Statement

Mt. Lofty House, South Australia

11 December 2003

1. The 15th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum was held at Mount Lofty House, in the Adelaide foothills, on 11 December 2003.

2. The Hon. Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs chaired the Ministerial Forum and led the Australian delegation which included the Hon. Philip Ruddock, Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon. Chris Ellison, Minister for Customs and Justice, and the Hon. Malcolm Brough, Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. The Papua New Guinea delegation was led by the Rt. Hon. Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, and included the Hon. Sir Moi Avei, Minister for Petroleum and Energy, the Hon. Bart Philemon, Minister for Finance and Treasury, the Hon. Bire Kimisopa, Minister for Internal Security, the Hon. Sir Peter Barter, Minister for Inter Government Relations, the Hon. Kappa Yarka, Minister for Defence, the Hon. Sinai Brown, Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, the Hon. Peter O’Neill, Minister for Public Service and the Hon. Mark Maipakai, Minister for Justice.

3. In his opening remarks Mr Downer welcomed Sir Rabbie Namaliu and the Papua New Guinea delegation to the Forum on behalf of the Government and people of Australia. Mr Downer noted the enduring strength, vitality and importance of Australia’s bilateral relationship with Papua New Guinea. In response, Sir Rabbie thanked the Australian Government for facilitating the 15th annual Forum and acknowledged the warm welcome and hospitality extended to all delegates.

A Strengthened Partnership: the Enhanced Cooperation Package

4. The Forum reaffirmed the joint statement issued on 18th September in Port Moresby by Mr Downer and Sir Rabbie, which had set out a framework agreement committing Australia and Papua New Guinea to work as close partners in addressing core challenges in Papua New Guinea. The Forum endorsed Australia’s offer of enhanced cooperation and agreed this would assist Papua New Guinea to deal with those challenges.

Policing, and Law and Justice Sectors

5. The Forum agreed that Papua New Guinea’s law and order situation, required immediate action so that all other potential gains would not be jeopardized as improving law and order is essential to laying the foundations of Papua New Guinea, including the re-establishment of investor confidence. The Forum strongly endorsed the need for adequate budgetary allocations to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) and to the broader law and justice in Papua New Guinea.

6. In recognition of this, the enhanced Australian cooperation package would include the placement of up to 230 Australian police personnel in Papua New Guinea to be located in Port Moresby initially and extended to Lae, Mt. Hagen and on the Highlands Highway, including Enga and the Southern Highlands Provinces, and an offer to extend to Bougainville. Australia also agreed to provide a significant package of assistance for the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary to help ensure that counterpart Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary officers were effectively equipped and skilled. In addition, Australia agreed to assist appropriately in the Administrative and Operational Review of the RPNGC.

7. The Forum also agreed that the broader law and justice sector required appropriate support and enhancement to ensure that other sectoral gains were not jeopardised. The practical assistance to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary would therefore be complemented through the placement of up to 18 specialists in non-policing law and justice agencies, including the position of Solicitor General and three litigation lawyers in the Solicitor General’s office, five prosecutors in the Prosecutor’s Office, two correctional service managers, four expatriate judges appointed to the National and Supreme Court, and one lawyer for the Department of Justice and one lawyer for law reform with other specialist officials placed in other relevant agencies.

Economic Management and Public Sector Reform

8. The Forum endorsed the placement of up to 36 Australian officials in key economic, finance and planning agencies. The Forum agreed that key priorities in this area were: the establishment of fiscal sustainability and transparency; the restoration of the integrity of budget institutions and systems; the elimination of weaknesses in the civil service payroll; provision of economic policy advice; improvements in provincial budget management and stronger public sector performance and outcomes. The Forum agreed that this new partnership in economic management and governance would enhance Papua New Guinea’s capacity to promote development and economic growth.

Border and Transport Security

9. The Forum agreed that effective border management and security were vitally important to the national security of Papua New Guinea and Australia. To meet the objectives of both countries, Australia would provide four immigration officials to advance Papua New Guinea’s capacity for effective border and migration management. A study would also be conducted into Papua New Guinea’s migration management requirements. Two Australian transport security officials would be placed within the Papua New Guinea Department of Transport and Civil Aviation to help Papua New Guinea guarantee the security and safety of its aviation and maritime transport system and to meet its international transport security obligations. Australia will provide a deputy CEO in the Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Authority to assist Papua New Guinea maintain its air safety management and governance at a high level. Australian Customs would place an official in Papua New Guinea Customs to help improve revenue collection, and three officials to strengthen international trade security and achieve border integrity. Skills transfer and capacity building would be key features of this assistance.

Legal Arrangements for the Enhanced Cooperation Package

10. The Forum agreed that a treaty level agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea covering the enhanced cooperation package should be concluded as soon as possible. This would involve the passage of enabling legislation and other legislative amendments at the next suitable sitting of the Papua New Guinea parliament. It was agreed that this process should be concluded in the early months of 2004, to enable the package to be fully implemented shortly thereafter. Consultations would be held with a view to the early conclusion of a separate Memorandum of Understanding relating to the proposed deployment of Australian police to Bougainville. This would enable the proposed Australian police team to commence work on Bougainville at the earliest practicable opportunity.

International Financial Institutions

11. The Forum noted the need for Papua New Guinea to engage closely with the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), namely the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Papua New Guinea agreed it would move to resolve outstanding governance issues with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in respect of the forestry and fisheries sectors respectively, which would otherwise place in jeopardy the considerable resources on offer for key Papua New Guinea developmental objectives. The Forum agreed that no other source could replace the help the International Financial Institutions gave, nor create the confidence in Papua New Guinea that is crucial for investment.

Public Sector Reforms

12. The Forum noted that appropriate and sustainable downsizing of Papua New Guinea’s public service was an integral part of overall public sector reform objectives. The Forum agreed that an important objective of the enhanced cooperation package would be to ensure that essential reforms, including an overhaul of the human resources payroll system, were implemented as a priority. The Forum welcomed the commitment by Australia, once such reforms were implemented, to assist Papua New Guinea to seek the additional resources necessary to provide for an effective redundancy program, including with assistance from other donor sources including the International Financial Institutions.

Bougainville

13. The Forum noted recent developments in the Bougainville Peace Process, including the agreement in-principle by former combatants to destroy their weapons, the forthcoming Peace Process Consultative Committee meeting to make the final decision, and plans to progress the transition to the establishment of the autonomous Bougainville Government. Reconstruction of infrastructure, restoration of services, and economic recovery with opportunities for Bougainvilleans to participate in development and achieve self-reliance are important priorities. The peace process is now at a critical turning point when efforts to promote reconciliation are preparing the way for the return of normalcy. Increased economic activity is vital. The Papua New Guinea Government and foreign aid donors should cooperate to ensure their programs support these goals. Papua New Guinea expressed the sincere appreciation of all of the parties involved in the Bougainville Peace Process for the contributions that Australia and other countries make to the peace process through the Bougainville Transition Team and foreign aid programs.

14. The Forum emphasized the need for further action by all parties to embed the peace process, particularly though the prompt destruction of weapons and the facilitation of free and fair elections. The Forum welcomed an offer to send an Australian Police team of up to 20 personnel to Bougainville as a priority to assist in the maintenance of a sound law and order environment, as part of the enhanced cooperation package with Papua New Guinea. Implementation should take full account of the delegation of police functions and powers from the National Government to Bougainville. This would include some assistance to ensure that counterpart police on Bougainville were appropriately equipped and trained. The Forum endorsed other law and justice initiatives for Bougainville, including recruitment, training, community policing and infrastructure. The Forum endorsed in principle the new Australian four-year assistance package for Bougainville which would seek to support the shift from immediate post-conflict issues to longer term good governance. The Forum endorsed a scaled-down UN presence on Bougainville headed by Ambassador Sinclair.

Papua New Guinea Defence Force Reform

15. The Forum welcomed the agreement reached between Australia and Papua New Guinea to continue support for the Papua New Guinea Government’s reform efforts in respect of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The Papua New Guinea Government’s clear commitment to a force of no more than 2,000 personnel would be supported through the provision of a further $20 million in Australian funding. Release of these funds would commence once formalities on the Framework of Agreement had been finalised by both Governments. Papua New Guinea indicated that consideration of how capability rebuilding could be advanced under future phases of the reform program has already commenced.

Trade and Commercial Issues

16. The Forum welcomed the report of the Senior Executive of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Business council, particularly its endorsement of the framework agreement reached between Mr Downer and Sir Rabbie on 18 September. The Forum agreed that the various recommendations and issues raised by the Business Council should be pursued vigorously as appropriate with a view to broadening the robust economic relationship that existed between Papua New Guinea and Australia. This was reflected not only in the trading relationship but also in terms of promoting a sound investment environment. The Forum identified mining, agriculture, tourism services and infrastructure as key potential growth sectors.

17. The Forum was briefed on the progress made in relation to the PNG-Australia gas pipeline project by the PNG Minister for Petroleum and Energy, the Hon Sir Moi Avei. Sir Moi informed the meeting that the economics of the project and the base-load gas sales contracts are adequate and the FEED decision is likely to be made in January 2004 by the proponents of the project.

People Smuggling and Terrorism

18. The Forum endorsed bilateral cooperation to deter illegal people movement. Australia and Papua New Guinea remained committed to working together to reduce the risk of Papua New Guinea being targeted as a destination or transition point for people smugglers, reflected in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Papua New Guinea on people smuggling earlier this year. Australia extended its appreciation for Papua New Guinea’s recent agreement to extend the Memorandum of Understanding on the Manus Offshore Processing Facility for a further twelve months. The Forum agreed that Australia would help strengthen PNG’s capacity to monitor people smuggling and terrorism.

18. The signing by Mr Downer and Sir Rabbie during the Forum of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism was welcomed. The Forum looked forward to agencies from both countries working together to combat the threat posed by terrorism. Papua New Guinea welcomed the invitation to attend the regional ministerial counter-terrorism meeting in Bali, 4-5 February 2004.

Aid Treaty Review and Development Issues

19. The Forum endorsed the Terms of Reference for the joint review of Australian aid. The Forum agreed that the scope of the review would include: shared objectives and priorities for Australian aid to Papua New Guinea, established through a new country strategy; a strengthened performance management framework; and recommendations on management structures that emphasise mutual obligations, effectiveness and a performance basis for aid. Where required, changes would be reflected in the Treaty on Development Cooperation.

20. Australia urged Papua New Guinea to give particular attention to future allocations of infrastructure maintenance funds, in particular those relating to the maintenance of the Highlands Highway. Australia noted that such funding was disappointingly low in the 2004 budget as announced. Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed that the HIV AIDS issue required strong leadership and principled action if it was not to become an even greater health and economic problem for Papua New Guinea and the region.

Torres Strait Issue

21. The Forum noted the outcomes of the 13th Joint Advisory Committee Meeting held under the auspices of the Torres Strait Treaty and welcomed the valuable input of the traditional inhabitants from both sides. The Forum agreed that the Torres Strait must not become a target for people smuggling, terrorism and other trans-national crime. The Forum welcomed the extension of the Moratorium on Seabed Drilling and Mining and noted that important environmental and planning initiatives were being pursued cooperatively. The Forum agreed that the integrity of fisheries management regimes required strong commitment by all parties. Discussions by fisheries ministers currently underway would address stock assessments and quotas. The Forum agreed that important health and related communications issues in the Torres Strait should be pursued as a priority, and welcomed initiatives by Queensland authorities in cooperation with Australian federal agencies to address these concerns. Papua New Guinea undertook to look closely at health and communication strategies in the Western Province and would welcome Australian assistance where appropriate.

Regional Developments

22. The Forum reviewed developments in the Pacific region, and expressed its full confidence in and appreciation for the outstanding work being done by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which included strong support and participation from Australia, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island Forum members. The Forum endorsed the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) review process.

Next Joint Ministerial Forum

23. The Forum welcomed Papua New Guinea’s offer to host the next Joint Ministerial Forum in Lae in 2004.

11 December 2003