By BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
THE Australian Government has announced the appointment of Ian Kemish, who speaks two foreign languages, plus fluent Tok pisin, as the new High Commissioner to PNG.
Mr Kemish, who had attended primary school in Papua New Guinea replaces Chris Moraitis.
Mr Moraitis who has been High Commissioner since December 2006, departed last Dec 17.
John Feakes has been Acting High Commissioner until Mr Kemish officially takes office sometime next month.
The Australian High Commission in Port Moresby is yet to receive an official date and public diplomacy manager Jason Mills said they would advise a firm start date when it is made known.
“At this stage, all we can say is early February,” he said.
Mr Kemish, who is married with two daughters, was recently Australian ambassador to Germany, a position he held from April 2006.
Prior to this, he was first assistant secretary, international division in the department of the prime minister and cabinet.
Mr Kemish’s overseas service includes Vienna and Brunei, and he also worked on secondment with the New Zealand ministry of external relations.
He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 in recognition of managing the Australian government’s response in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings.
Mr Kemish holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in international relations and southeast Asian history from the University of Queensland.
Australian foreign affairs minister Stephen Smith made the announcement of Mr Kemish appointment on Tuesday.
When announcing the appointment, Mr Smith said Australia’s relationship with PNG was important and was underpinned by the geographical proximity, shared history and strong people-to-people links.
“Our close cooperation encompasses economic, security and cultural interests,” he said.
Mr Smith reiterated that Australia was committed to assisting Papua New Guinea to achieve sustained development and alleviate poverty.
Australia is PNG’s largest development cooperation partner and it’s A$414 million aid programme in 2009-10 represents more than 70% of “PNG’s development assistance support”.
“The framework under which our development assistance is provided – the partnership for development – heralds a new phase of development cooperation between Papua New Guinea and Australia,” Mr Smith said.
He also stressed that Australia and PNG work closely together in administering our shared Torres Strait Border, and cooperate strongly on regional and international issues, including climate change.
In recent times, PNG’s bilateral trade relationship with Australia has been described as strong, with two-way trade valued at around A$4.6 billion annually.
This makes PNG Australia’s 19th largest trading partner.
“Australia is one of PNG’s largest trading partner, the principal source of imports and foreign direct investment, and the lead destination for Papua New Guinea’s exports.”