The National, Friday 10th May 2013
By MALUM NALU
PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill last night called on his visiting Australian counterpart Julia Gillard to ease the tough visa restrictions imposed on Papuan New Guineans.
He also talked about effective development cooperation that was mutually beneficial, and challenges PNG faced today, especially in its law and order problems.
He told a state dinner he hosted for Gillard at Parliament House last night that there needed to be a maturity in visa arrangements for Papua New Guineans wanting to visit Australia for business, holidays, sports, education, family reunions and other reasons.
“I am aware that the citizens of around 40 countries can access what is known as an Electronic Arrival Authority (ETA) visa, which enables them to gain swift and efficient approval for business trips, family reunions, and holidays in Australia,” O’Neill said.
“Regrettably, your closest neighbour, and your best friend, is not one of the 40 countries.
“I believe the time has come for our governments to look beyond the colonial period, and the recent past, and look forward to a future based on maturity and responsibility in this area, among others.
“Our people find the existing visa arrangements frustrating, and some regard them as insulting – particularly those who were formerly Australian citizens and have long-term links with your country, and your people.
“We would like PNG to join the ETA list of countries.
“The assurance I give you is one I can give you with absolute confidence.
“Our people will respect the conditions relating to the approval of the visas – just as they have done so in the past.
“Our consular officials in Australia tell me the level of breaching of visa conditions by Papua New Guineans in Australia is among the lowest of any country.
“I know they will respect them because they respect Australia, your government, and your people.
“Prime Minister, I have recently been urging our people, and especially our young people, to be aspiring
“I want them to know the world around them, I want them to know what the world offers, and I want them to use their talent and their energy, to expand their horizons.
“I hope we can demonstrate the genuine maturity of our relationship in this way.”