The National, Tuesday July 16th, 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
AUSTRALIA will continue to support Papua New Guinea’s development challenges.
Visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this during a joint press conference with his PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill at Parliament House yesterday.
The two leaders had just concluded talks on bilateral relations, aid and trade between their nations.
Rudd said Australia would continue to assist PNG in the areas of law and order, health and education.
He announced his government’s commitment of A$116 million (K236.7 million) to improve health facilities in the country.
Rudd said they had also agreed on AusAID assistance for several projects, including the design and scoping work for the sealing of the Ramu-Madang Highway, scope of work on the Port Moresby Port development and engagement of 50 policemen and women to assist local police force.
He added that depending on the success of the police engagement, the two governments would consider increasing their numbers once considering the legal aspects of the arrangement were sorted out.
Rudd also announced the new visa arrangement to fast-track visa requirements for PNG citizens visiting Australia.
He said Papua New Guineans would benefit like Australian and New Zealand passport holders and that would be rolled out in September at Cairns and Brisbane Airport.
He said they had discussed issues on common regional challenges in human smuggling and the permanent establishment of the asylum processing facility in Manus.
Rudd and O’Neill acknowledged the United Nation High Commission for Refugees report that the centre was illegal but said they would study the report and address the concerns raised.
Rudd said PNG was an important part of the regional coordination between Indonesia, PNG and Australia in addressing human smuggling in the region and thanked PNG for taking the lead in address a regional concern.
“It is a challenge as prime minister. I will not shy away from the issue. Australia will continue to adjust and change the policy where necessary on the issue,” he said.
He also said that there were greater opportunities for business and trade investment in the country with PNG’s long-term economic development.
Rudd said that the current trade stood at A$7 billion (K14.3 million), which could be increased as there was a strong business interest in the country.
He added that because of the strong economic growth and trade investment relationship, Australian Trade Minister Richard Marles would continue to concentrate on PNG to resolve issues on trade and investment.
Rudd, who visited PNG for the second time as prime minister, gave a farewell message in Tok Pisin: “Mi amamas long kam bek long dispel kantri, dispela kantri i stap long lewa bilong mi (I’m happy to come back to this country, this country is in my heart).”