PNG Hosts 30th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum Joint Communiqué

By: Roselyn Erehe June 24, 2024

PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Welcomes Australian Delegation for 30th Annual Ministerial Forum [Photo by Hon. Justin Tkatchenko]

The 30th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum was held on 19th to 20th June, at the APEC Haus, in Port Moresby. The Ministerial Forum is an opportunity for Ministers from a range of key policy areas to advance PNG- Australia Partnership and shared priorities.

The Ministerial Forum builds on the commitments from the Annual Leaders' Dialogue between Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Prime Minister James Marape in February, and the signing of the landmark Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) in December 2023.

The Forum was co-chaired by the Hon. Justin Tkatchenko MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Papua New Guinea and by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia.

Attendees included, Ministers for PNG: Hon. John Rosso, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Lands, Physical Planning, Urbanisation and Immigration; Hon. Dr. Billy Joseph (MD), MP, Minister for Defence; Hon. Peter Tsiamalili Jnr, MP, Minister for Internal Security; Hon. Pila Niningi, LLM, MP, Minister for Justice and Attorney General; Hon. William Duma, MP, Minister for Public Enterprise & State Investments; Hon. Jelta Wong, MP, Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources; Hon. Simo Kilepa, MP, Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change; Hon. Sir Ano Pala, LLB, ISO, CMG, OBE, MP, Minister for National Planning; Hon. Timothy Masiu, MP, Minister for Information and Communication Technology; Hon. Ian Ling-Stuckey, CMG, MP, Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Treasury and Caretaker Minister for Finance; and Hon. Lucas Dekena, MP, Minister for Education and Caretaker Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and Sports.

Other participating Ministers for Australia included: the Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence; the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, Attorney-General; Senator the Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Minister for Emergency Management; the Hon Clare O'Neil MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Cyber Security; the Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for Defence Industry, Minister for International Development and the Pacific; and, Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade, Assistant Minister for Manufacturing.

Ministers welcomed the 30th PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum as a marker of the relationship between close neighbours, friends and equal partners. They reaffirmed their commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership (CSEP), and to ensuring the relationship continues to grow to reflect contemporary opportunities and challenges. They endorsed the second CSEP Action Plan agreed between senior officials at the 30th Papua New Guinea Australia Senior Officials Meeting on 29 November 2023.

Australia expressed condolences to the people of PNG and extended sympathies to those impacted by the landslide in Enga Province. Ministers acknowledged the work of the PNG National Disaster Centre and Enga Provincial Administration, and the valuable and rapid support provided to the impacted communities by the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) and Australian Defence Force (ADF), in responding to the landslide.

PNG Ministers extended their gratitude to Australia for always being the first respondent to any natural calamity and for its deployment of AUD2.5 million in humanitarian assistance for emergency supplies, support for humanitarian partners and the deployment of a 17-member Disaster Assistance Response Team. Ministers agreed to continue deepening linkages between Australian and PNG disaster response agencies, including for capacity building.

Ministers noted the significant achievements since the 2023 Ministerial Forum, including exchange of Prime Ministerial visits in both countries. They welcomed the signing of the landmark BSA. Ministers committed to take forward outcomes from the 2024 Annual Leaders Dialogue.

Delivering under the Australia –PNG Bilateral Security Agreement:

New initiatives to strengthen PNG’s internal security and law and justice priorities were announced under Australia and Papua New Guinea's Bilateral Security Agreement, at the 30th Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum.

The initiatives, to be delivered under Australia and Papua New Guinea's Bilateral Security Agreement, include:

  • support for PNG's legal system to help PNG investigate and prosecute financial crime;
  • investments in programs to improve access to justice for young people and remote and regional communities;
  • support to make PNG's correctional facilities safer and more secure.

They will deliver additional support for stability in the PNG Highlands, including a new program to help PNG improve weapons management and a partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Further assistance will be provided to PNG in 'non-traditional' security areas, such as cyber, biosecurity, and to address gender-based violence.

These initiatives will be funded from the $200 million committed by Australia to support PNG's internal security priorities through the landmark Bilateral Security Agreement, announced by Prime Ministers Albanese and Marape in December 2023.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, the Hon Richard Marles MP said, "Papua New Guinea is one of our closest and most important defence partners, and is home to our largest Defence Cooperation Program.

"Australia and Papua New Guinea's defence partnership reflects 50 years of our defence personnel training, exercising and working side by side.”

"I am delighted to return to Papua New Guinea to discuss how we can work even more closely together to address the security and defence challenges facing our region." He added

In recent months, progress has been made on delivering on the governments ambitions for Australia and PNG's bilateral security partnership, including through:

  • commencement of construction on new police housing in Port Moresby and Mount Hagen;
  • additional Australian Federal Police support to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) on recruitment, training and forensics;
  • RPNGC Officer Cadet placements in the Queensland Police Service in Far North Queensland;
  • a new Police Patrol Vessel to enable the RPNGC to conduct long-range patrols of sea borders.

The flagship Australia-PNG Law and Justice partnership is expanding from five to seven PNG provinces and regions, strengthening service delivery and access to justice for Papua New Guineans.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong emphasized, “Australia and Papua New Guinea's relationship is based on our common history, our close geography and our shared values.

"I look forward to meeting again with my counterpart Minister Tkatchenko and other Ministers as we work to ensure a peaceful, stable and prosperous Pacific.”

"We are supporting Papua New Guinea in its response to the landslide in Enga Province, just as Papua New Guinea has supported Australia in times of need." She added.

The Ministerial Forum is an opportunity for Ministers from a range of key policy areas to advance our partnership and our shared priorities. This includes our economic relationship, strategic cooperation for security and stability, and development.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, the Hon Pat Conroy MP also spoke of Australian-PNG relationship being profoundly important built on strong foundation of friendship and respect.

He said, "We are part of a Pacific family, and as the collective response to the tragedy in Enga has shown, in times of trouble Australia will be there just as PNG was there for us during the Black Summer bushfires.

"As our past unites us, so too does our future, built on deep economic and security cooperation. These connections matter – the more we relate to each other, the more safe, stable and prosperous our region will be."

30th PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum Strengthens Bilateral Commitments:

The Ministers from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia convened at the Forum to reaffirm their nations' enduring partnership across various strategic pillars, reflecting on shared commitments and fostering deeper cooperation.

  • CSEP Pillar 1 – Strong Democracies for a Stable Future:

Ministers underscored their commitment to functional and accountable democratic systems. PNG welcomed Australia's ongoing support for electoral reform initiatives, aligned with recommendations from the 2022 National General Election. Both nations recognized the mutual impact of decisions on security and welcomed progress towards implementing the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) by the end of the year.

  • CSEP Pillar 2 – Close Friends, Enduring Ties:

The historical and cultural ties between the nations were celebrated, highlighted by significant diplomatic exchanges, including Prime Minister Albanese's address to PNG's Parliament in 2023 and Prime Minister Marape's address to Australia's Parliament in 2024. The joint initiatives marking PNG's 50th Anniversary of Independence in 2025 were warmly welcomed, alongside plans to increase Australian volunteers in PNG.

  • CSEP Pillar 3 – Economic Partnership for Prosperity:

Ministers noted progress towards a mutually beneficial economic partnership, focusing on trade, investment, and infrastructure development. They welcomed the upcoming feasibility study for a PNG-Australia Free Trade Agreement and discussed opportunities in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and the green economy. Australia reiterated its support for PNG's economic reforms and infrastructure projects, including significant investments in transport, telecommunications, and energy.

  • CSEP Pillar 4 – Strategic Cooperation for Security and Stability:

Defence cooperation remained pivotal, with commitments to enhance capabilities across land, air, and maritime domains. Australia's support for PNG's defence infrastructure and operations, including through exercises and equipment provisions, was highlighted. Ministers emphasized joint efforts in cybersecurity and border security, enhancing resilience and response capabilities.

  • CSEP Pillar 5 – Social and Human Development:

Australia's substantial development assistance to PNG, totaling AUD 637.4 million in 2024-25, aimed to strengthen health, education, climate resilience, and socio-economic development. Both countries affirmed their commitment to improving education outcomes and enhancing Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) to support economic opportunities.

  • CSEP Pillar 6 – Near Neighbours, Global Partners:

Ministers reaffirmed their role in regional peace, security, and economic resilience within the Pacific, emphasizing Pacific-led initiatives and reinforcing regional unity through transparent decision-making. They committed to strengthening PNG's representation at multilateral forums, including advocating for hosting the 31st UNFCCC Conference of Parties in 2026.

The 30th PNG-Australia Ministerial Forum reaffirmed the comprehensive nature of the bilateral relationship, spanning democracy, security, economic prosperity, social development, and regional cooperation. Both nations expressed optimism about the future path of their partnership, underpinned by mutual respect and shared strategic interests.

This Joint Communiqué, endorsed at APEC Haus, sets the stage for continued collaboration and joint initiatives, reflecting the evolving priorities and aspirations of both PNG and Australia.

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