The Gordon Steege story 1 – Flying boats in Papua
How Anzac Day was marked in TPNG 50 years ago

Papua New Guinea & Australia: Partners in opportunity

SENATOR MATT THISTLETHWAITE
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs

Matt Thistlethwaite and Peter O'NeillTOMORROW AUSTRALIANS CELEBRATE ANZAC DAY.  A day to pay tribute and remember those who have fought for the Australian nation.

Anzac Day is also a time to recognise those who have fought alongside Australians, as allies and, critically important to the outcome of World War II, were our nearest allies - the people of Papua New Guinea.

Their guts and bravery helped halt the Japanese Imperial Force from climbing the final hurdle to invading Australia, and their local communities helped convey hundreds of wounded soldiers across some of the toughest terrain in the world, with significant loss of civilian lives.

The significance of remembering the role of our friends and partners this Anzac Day hit home for me when I visited the Bomana war cemetery on the outskirts of Port Moresby last week. 

There in a hallowed field, Australian service men and women who paid the supreme sacrifice lay beside their New Guinea allies. They are friends and partners for eternity.

Australians and Papua New Guineans share a deep and long lasting friendship.  Since taking on this important role of parliamentary Secretary, I have been surprised by the number of Australians who have contacted me to tell me of their connection with PNG, and their views on how we can strengthen the relationship between our nations.

I welcome your feedback.

There is something special about the relationship between Australia and PNG.  Australians are proud to partner with our northern neighbours on their path to development.  We want to help lift PNG living standards.

Many Australian business people know of the enormous potential that exists in PNG.  This was evident in the dialogue that occurred at the Australia Papua New Guinea Business forum last week.

The significance of our relationship with PNG is evident in our Partnership for Development Program

In 2012-13 Australia will provide $493 million in aid to PNG under the Partnership, developed jointly with the PNG government to improve education and health outcomes, build capacity in law and justice and link more communities through better transport infrastructure.

Last week I had the privilege of seeing some of the results of the Partnership through bilateral meetings with PNG Ministers and an inspiring visit to the Office of the Public Prosecutor where I met young PNG lawyers.

They included many women who have trained in Australia, working with Australian legal officers under the Strongim Gavman Program to build a workable criminal justice system, modernise the PNG criminal code and work to combat corruption and confiscate the proceeds of crime.

Their work is vitally important in building a stable society and attractive destination for international investment.

There is a long way to go in Papua New Guinea.  This was evident on my visit.  The average national income per capita is just under $1,500 a year and by one estimate 18% of rural Papua New Guineans are extremely poor. 

The role of properly targeted Australian development assistance and support cannot be underestimated.

But there is a considerable feeling of optimism in PNG.  The O’Neill government’s reform and development agenda, Constitutional reform ensuring more political stability, and gas about to flow at the nation’s biggest ever economic project are all symbols of the positive outlook.

The government and people of PNG have a once–in-a-generation opportunity over the coming years: an opportunity to put in place programs, departments and plans that realise the nation’s economic potential and importantly lift the living standards of citizens. 

In the Anzac tradition Australia must and will work with our ally and friend to help them develop this optimism into results.  I look forward to playing a role in facilitating this.

Comments

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Paul Oates

Dear Senator Thistlethewaite - Thank you for the opportunity to provide some feedback.

Irrespective of what you may have been advised, the problem is not whether there are sufficient laws and appropriate legislation available to the PNG authorities.

Appropriate legislation is already there and has been in existence since the time of the Australian administration.

The problem is in enforcing the legislation. Until the PNG government adequately resources law enforcement and allows the police and justice system to operate correctly, nothing much will change. Any changes you may have been told are happening are mere window dressing.

What Australia can do as a friend to help PNG is to first understand that the issues retarding PNG’s so called development often stem in a large part from a cultural perspective that is different to that of Australia.

The new Australian High Commissioner and her staff must be able to effectively communicate with the PNG government and senior ministers in order that any future assistance package funded under AusAID is not wasted or misdirected.

The essence of this high level communication must be one of mutual understanding and at an effective personal level.

The last suggestion many would like you to consider is to install an effective and transparent feedback reporting system that gives both the Australian and PNG people, detailed, drill down information on what has been achieved in PNG with Australian overseas aid.

You may find it very useful to request a detailed report on how previous spending has been accounted for and who in reality receives the benefit of our previous funding over many decades.

Our past deficiencies are very quickly recognised by others who may well see opportunities for their own agendas.

Corney K. Alone

Thank you for contributing to PNG Attitude. Many good things said here.

Any specifics on the reciprocal visa agreement - as an urgent matter before the federal elections in Sept 2013?

Would make an excellent 100 day plan in office, would it not?

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