27th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum Joint Communiqué

26 August 2019

APEC Haus, Port Moresby

1. The 27th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum was held in Port Moresby at the APEC Haus on 26 August 2019. The Forum was co-chaired by the Hon Soroi Marepo Eoe MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minster for Women.

2. Participating Papua New Guinean Ministers included; Hon. Sam Basil MP, Minister for Treasury, Hon. Richard Maru MP, Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Hon. Charles Abel MP, Minister for Finance and Rural Development, Hon. Sir Puka Temu MP, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Hon. Wera Mori, MP, Minister for Commerce and Industry, Hon. Jeffery Kama MP, Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, Hon. Nick Kuman MP, Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Hon. Saki Soloma MP, Minister for Defence, Hon. Bryan Kramer MP, Minister for Police, Hon. Petrus Thomas, MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Security, and Hon. Alfred Manase MP, Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations.

3. Participating Australian Ministers were; Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence, the Hon David Coleman MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, and the Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Minister for Trade.

4. Ministers noted the outcomes of Prime Minister Marape’s Guest of Government visit to Australia from 21-26 July, including the inaugural Annual Leaders’ Dialogue and welcomed agreement to start negotiation of an enhanced Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP). 

5. Ministers agreed that the CSEP should centre on six pillars: strong democracies for a stable future; close friends, enduring ties; an economic partnership for prosperity; strategic cooperation for security and stability; social and human development; and near neighbours, global partners.

6. Ministers agreed that officials would develop a roadmap to progress the CSEP this year and conclude the text by the end of 2019. This should include a comprehensive review of all existing bilateral agreements and arrangements. Ministers agreed the CSEP should be outcome-based with clearly defined workstreams across the Partnership, and should integrate development cooperation as an enabler of our broader economic and strategic objectives.

7. Ministers acknowledged that the CSEP overarching framework will deepen levels of bilateral cooperation in security, trade and investment, governance, development cooperation, people-to-people and institutional links, amongst others, for a period of ten years.

8. In achieving this ambitious endeavour, Ministers tasked officials to review and rationalise current development cooperation architecture. They tasked officials to seek Ministerial consideration of the most appropriate future governance arrangements under the CSEP to maximise effectiveness and improve coordination.

9. Ministers endorsed the outcomes of the 27th Senior Officials Meeting that was held in Canberra on 5 August 2019 as presented by the co-chairs.

Advancing the Papua New Guinea – Australia Relationship

10. Ministers acknowledged both countries’ bilateral priorities. Papua New Guinea Ministers outlined the Marape-Steven Government’s forward agenda, and provided updates on implementation of Papua New Guinea’s Medium-Term Development Plan III (2018-2022) which captures its development agenda for the next three years, and will remain at the forefront of Papua New Guinea’s development cooperation efforts. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s request to realign development cooperation towards budget support and noted that this was not under consideration by Australia at this time.

11. Ministers welcomed the Australian Government’s Pacific Step Up and Australia’s commitment to support and advance PNG’s development aspirations and key policy agendas under the Medium-Term Development Plan III from (2018-2022). These include cooperation on health, education (including technical and vocational education), labour mobility, law and justice, governance at the State/Provincial levels, Local Level and Urban Level Government Partnerships, infrastructure, gender equality, people-to-people links, sports, and church partnerships.

12. Ministers agreed to drive deeper engagement through the CSEP in agreed priority regions of the country to support Papua New Guinea’s efforts to improve local governance and service delivery.

13. Ministers noted the extension of the current Aid Partnership Arrangement to allow time for integration of development cooperation into the CSEP. Ministers agreed that the CSEP will continue to reflect joint development priorities, in line with Papua New Guinea’s Medium-Term Development Plan III (2018-2022).

14. Ministers welcomed ongoing development cooperation and agreed that the partnership will continue to focus on development effectiveness. Ministers noted the significant results achieved in the five priority sectors of health, education, law and justice, governance, transport and infrastructure, and the cross-cutting priority of gender equality. Ministers noted the ongoing initiatives in the rural Electrification Partnership and Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific, and noted that the key priorities under the Governance Partnership include economic governance and inclusive growth, decentralisation and citizen participation, and public sector leadership and reform. Ministers emphasised the value of strong partnerships between Australian and Papua New Guinean institutions through the CSEP with the commitment for effective collaborations between respective government agencies.

15. Ministers noted the Papua New Guinea Government’s priority on Bougainville as a national issue. Ministers acknowledged the ongoing collaboration of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Governments on the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Ministers noted Australia’s ongoing assistance for the conduct of Bougainville’s referendum in November 2019 and noted Australia had accepted Papua New Guinea’s invitation to send an observation mission and to participate in the Regional Police Support Mission led by New Zealand during the Bougainville referendum. In this context, Ministers noted the Australian Federal Police assistance in capacity building of the Bougainville Police Service. Ministers acknowledged Australia’s current support for the Post-Referendum Ministerial Taskforce and welcomed Australia’s offer to expand this support in line with Papua New Guinea’s priorities.

Economic Partnership for prosperity

16. Ministers noted Treasury assessments of the economic outlook and reforms. Ministers agreed to explore options for further support to Papua New Guinea’s economic reform priorities and financing needs, including reform of State-Owned Enterprises. Ministers have agreed that officials will now do the necessary work to progress.

17. In the context of discussions to reflect our mature economic partnership through the CSEP, Ministers agreed on the importance of continued cooperation to support inclusive economic growth that translates into visible outcomes through effective service delivery mechanisms. Ministers noted the importance of promoting foreign investment in Papua New Guinea, including in the resources sectors and critical economic infrastructure.

18. Ministers acknowledged Australia’s excellent progress in increasing investment in critical infrastructure in response to Papua New Guinea’s request that development partners commit fifty percent of assistance to support infrastructure investment. Transformative projects such as the Electrification Partnership, the Coral Sea Cable, and the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific reflect Australia’s commitment to supporting quality, sustainable and transformative infrastructure programs in Papua New Guinea.

19. Ministers noted the Papua New Guinea Australia Business Dialogue held on 26 August 2019 and its important outcomes on areas of private sector engagements which required both Governments’ support. Ministers acknowledged and welcomed the private sector’s contribution to economic growth, development, trade, investment, capacity development and people-to-people links among others.

20. Ministers agreed for officials to continue to develop modern bilateral trade arrangements based on free trade principles, and agreed to review and modernise existing arrangements including our bilateral investment treaty (the 1991 ‘Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea for the Promotion and Protection of Investments’).

21. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s request for technical assistance and support to Papua New Guinea’s negotiations on a range of trade agreements with Indonesia and China.

22. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s concerns on market access of its agricultural and fisheries products into the Australian market, given Australia’s high quarantine requirements. In this context, Ministers noted the continued need to maintain the significant and well-established cooperation between relevant quarantine agencies to work towards identifying and addressing the market access and biosecurity issues including the issues relating to non-tariff barriers.

23. Ministers supported Papua New Guinea’s endeavours in developing the non-extractive sectors including downstream processing and value addition of agricultural, fisheries, forestry and tourism products, and agreed that these sectors be a focus of CSEP discussions.

24. Ministers welcomed and appreciated Australia’s support and assistance in its work to overcome non-tariff barriers and develop markets on selected Papua New Guinea products through its development programs including the Pacific Horticulture and Market Access (PHAMA) program.

25. Ministers acknowledged the commencement and progress made from the laying of the Coral Sea Cable project from Sydney to Port Moresby. Ministers agreed to finalise arrangements for the Special Purpose Vehicle by the end of September 2019.

26. Ministers acknowledged the continued support from the Australian Government on the Rural Electrification project together with the cooperation from the United States, Japan and New Zealand in the roll-out of the Electrification Partnership in Papua New Guinea.

Strategic cooperation for security and stability

27. Ministers noted the outcomes of the fifth Bilateral Security Dialogue (BSD), and reaffirmed the Dialogue’s importance as a platform to pursue strong and enduring cooperation on defence and security and cyber security issues. Ministers noted that bilateral defence and security cooperation forms a critical pillar of the CSEP and the overarching bilateral relationship.

28. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment through ongoing bilateral security cooperation in the areas of maritime security, border control, people smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing, transnational crime, and law and justice sectors capacity building.

29. Ministers noted the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Joint Initiative at the Lombrum Naval Base on 15 March 2019 and noted the progress of construction activities that is underway this year.

30. Ministers acknowledged the enduring value of the Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) and its 40th anniversary this year. They also noted that Papua New Guinea’s sovereign maritime and border security would be strengthened through the Guardian-Class Patrol Boat Program.

31. Ministers underlined the important contributions the defence forces of both countries will make to Papua New Guinea’s nation-building agenda through well-targeted cooperation. Ministers welcomed PNGDF’s new initiatives on a Civic Action Program for nation building activities including building roads, bridges, assisting in disaster relief emergencies, and volunteer services. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s new initiatives on establishing a Third Infantry Battalion in Hela.

32. Ministers welcomed the successful outcomes of the police and defence cooperation during Papua New Guinea’s 2018 APEC host year which provided a model for the police partnership, including exploring a provincial engagement model and capacity building, training and mentoring. Ministers welcomed advice on the Marape-Steven Government’s forward agenda for law and order and development of the Royal PNG Constabulary (RPNGC), and noted the important role law and order plays in underpinning progress on economic development, strengthening governance and combatting corruption. Ministers noted the RPNGC’s infrastructure development needs, including police barracks and housing. Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s focus on fraud and anti-corruption.

33. Ministers noted the outcomes of the 27th Torres Strait Treaty Joint Advisory Council (JAC) meeting, including a bilateral commitment to continuously participate in joint border surveillance and treaty awareness to deter illegal fishing in Torres Strait Protected Zone. Ministers noted the importance of secure border arrangements across the Torres Strait for combatting transnational crime.

34. Ministers discussed Papua New Guinea’s border management and functions and how to strengthen cohesiveness and effectiveness between relevant agencies. Ministers noted the continued commitment to work together to improve border management.

35. Ministers acknowledged the shared interest in the conclusion of regional processing in Manus Province, which was occurring quickly as refugees depart for the United States and both refugees and non-refugees’ transition to Port Moresby. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s commitment to assuming the management of service delivery contracts through an open tender process. Ministers noted the need for a new post-Manus arrangement to replace the Regional Resettlement Arrangement.

36. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s desire for improved visa access to Australia, and encouraged the joint technical working group on travel facilitation to continue its efforts to advance this agenda. Ministers welcomed Australia’s update on the roll-out of the Pacific Australia Card which will provide eligible Papua New Guinean leaders access to priority lanes at Australian airports, expedited visa processing, and longer validity visas if other conditions are met.

37. Ministers reaffirmed the role of the Pacific Islands Forum and regional initiatives including the Pacific Fusion Centre which support the principles of the Boe Declaration.

Social and Human Development

38. Ministers noted the CSEP was an appropriate framework to advance the shared social and human development priorities in education, health, gender equality, and climate change of Australia and Papua New Guinea.

39. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s strong priority on the skills agenda and welcomed Australia’s commitment to expand its support for technical and vocational training, including through the Australia-Pacific Training Coalition and early efforts on Manus.

40. Ministers also welcomed Australia’s expanded support for secondary and higher education in Papua New Guinea, including through the PNGAus Partnership Secondary Schools initiative, and Australia’s ongoing support towards achieving the three main objectives of access, quality and student success for future leaders of Papua New Guinea.

41. Ministers acknowledged the launching of new infrastructure at the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct institutions in recent years, which has improved access to new learning environments for students at the University of Papua New Guinea and for public servants at the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance. Ministers noted Australia’s ongoing assistance to strengthen public sector leadership, particularly through the PNG-Australia Governance Partnership.

42. The Ministers also noted the importance of gender equality and Australia’s support under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program in Papua New Guinea. Ministers welcomed continued support in gender equality as a pressing challenge for both Australia and Papua New Guinea, and encouraged Papua New Guinea in its endeavours to ensure greater participation by women in the Parliament and all sectors of the economy.

43. Ministers supported the inclusion of social and economic pillars in CSEP to better align development priorities to the bilateral economic relationship. Ministers endorsed the proposal from the Senior Officials Meeting for Australia to provide briefings to the economic and social committees of the Papua New Guinea National Executive Council on the breadth of Australia’s activities in Papua New Guinea including social and human development programs.

44. Ministers noted the successful emergency response to an outbreak of polio in Papua New Guinea. Ministers acknowledged Australian support to combat tuberculosis in National Capital District and Western Province. Ministers noted Papua New Guinea’s desire for funding support to upgrade the Daru General Hospital in ensuring continuity of success of Australian funded Tuberculosis work. Ministers also noted the evolution of trilateral cooperation with China on malaria as a model that should be replicated for other issues and in other sectors. Ministers encouraged Papua New Guinea to increase investment in basic health services, including addressing drug supply challenges. Ministers noted the ANGAU Hospital redevelopment was progressing well, and the importance of Papua New Guinea providing adequate recurrent funding for the hospital’s operational costs.

45. Ministers welcomed signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Pacific Labour Scheme between Papua New Guinea and Australia on 20 March 2019. Under the implementation arrangements, Ministers supported Australian employers to recruit semi-skilled workers to undertake work in the rural and regional Australian labour market for up to three years.

46. Ministers noted progress on increasing worker numbers in the Seasonal Worker Programme and steps Papua New Guinea is taking to improve selection processes. Ministers encouraged Papua New Guinea to appoint a labour mobility liaison officer in Australia. Ministers noted Australia would continue to promote demand in its market for Papua New Guinea workers in both schemes. Ministers encouraged PNG to conclude the final outstanding requirement for the immediate commencement of the Work and Holiday Maker scheme for university graduates.

47. Ministers endorsed the PNG – Australia Climate Change Action Plan and Australia’s significant commitment to climate change adaptation and mitigation with its investment of AUD1 billion over five years. In this regard, Ministers agreed to continue their close cooperation through the United Nations Climate Action Summit, COP25, and other international programs. Ministers noted the outcomes of the 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the priority attached to climate change by the PIF.

Declaration

48. This Joint Communiqué reflects discussions at the 27th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 26 August 2019.

Signed at: APEC Haus, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on: 26 August 2019

For the Government of Papua New Guinea
Hon Soroi Marepo Eoe MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade 

For the Government of Australia
Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women

Last Updated: 27 August 2019