The National, Monday July 15th, 2013
By JEFFREY ELAPA
AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who flew into Port Moresby yesterday, said he came as a friend to strengthen his country’s relationship with Papua New Guinea.
He told a media conference on arrival at Jackson International Airport said that it was wonderful visiting the country for the third time as prime minister.
“I come as a friend. I believe in PNG and I believe in the partnership,” Rudd said.
He said he would meet his PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill to discuss issues today that would further enforce and strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
It is understood the meeting would focus on aid, trade and investment.
PNG was one of Rudd’s first destinations during his first term as prime minister in 2007. He also returned as foreign minister in 2012.
He is also expected to get a progress report on major liquefied natural gas projects in which Australia has significant participation.
The two leaders are also expected to discuss law and order as well as social issues such as healthcare.
Rudd’s Australian Air Force VIP aircraft landed shortly after 5pm and he was greeted on arrival by Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato, NCD Governor Powes Parkop, Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko and Foreign Affairs Secretary William Dihm.
On hand to greet him were Australian High Commissioner to PNG Deborah Stokes, French Ambassador and dean of the diplomatic corps Alan Waquet.
Rudd’s predecessor Julia Gillard was in PNG in May.
A large contingent of traditional dancers, including the famous Huli wigmen of Hela and Mekeo dancers of Central provided a colourful reception for the Australian leader.
Rudd paid a courtesy call on Governor General Sir Michael Ogio late yesterday.
Today, he will visit several AusAID project sites, the medical faculty of the University of PNG, the Boroko police station and the Parliament where he will be met by Speaker Theo Zurenuoc.
Rudd will then meet O’Neill at his Parliament Office for talks and later meet with Cabinet ministers before having lunch in the state function room.
After lunch, he will visit the Australian High Commission and depart for Canberra in the afternoon.