Monday, 8 February 2016
Questions without Notice
Papua New Guinea
I am pleased to get that question from the member for Herbert. I know that he has a high degree of enthusiasm when it comes to discussing Herbert and, in this case, the relationship Townsville has with its sister city Port Moresby. The relationship between Townsville and Port Moresby is a strong one. Less than two weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to Townsville to meet with the member for Herbert for the launch of some upgrades to the YWAM medical ship. The YWAM medical ship is doing an outstanding job. The latest upgrades to that medical ship see improvements that will enable it to assist four times as many people in terms of the work it does throughout the regions of Papua New Guinea—in particular, in the Gulf Province and the Western Province.
When the member for Herbert and I took the chance to walk through the YWAM medical ship with volunteers, we got to see the great work that they are doing. The latest upgrades include a new dental clinic, a new radiology clinic and an operating theatre. They will be able to use these facilities to help improve the health of Papua New Guineans and the care that is afforded to them. In addition, it means they will be able to assist with things like immunisations and eye care. Alongside the member for Herbert, I saw the chairs on which they will be able to do cataract surgery on Papua New Guineas and help bring back sight to those who have lost their sight. These are important upgrades and they will be assisted by the more than 100 volunteers who give of their time working with YWAM and the medical ship to help transform lives. In that respect as well I was particularly delighted to see such strong support from the private sector in the Townsville community who donate their time and their money to helping that YWAM medical ship.
But the linkages are even more strong than that. The linkages also include, for example, the work that is done on the education front. James Cook University has very strong linkages through the Australia Awards. In fact, out of the 40 institutions in Australia that host Papua New Guinean students, James Cook University has the strongest contingent. Likewise in matters of defence—and everyone knows the strength of the member for Herbert's connection to the defence industry and defence forces generally—the 3rd Brigade recently completed their annual joint exercise with the PNG military. Population care, engineering and military planning are all matters where the defence forces between Australia and PNG are particularly strong. Also there is the humanitarian response—a key area where our Defence Force and the PNG Defence Force work alongside each other.
I think perhaps the relationship, as epitomised by the relationship in the sister city context between Townsville and Port Moresby, is best expressed by Prime Minister O'Neill, who said: 'In terms of the bilateral relationship, it has never been as strong as it has been since independence.' (Time expired)