House debates

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions without Notice

Papua New Guinea

2:48 pm

Photo of Warren EntschWarren Entsch (Leichhardt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Assistant Defence Minister and Minister for International Development and the Pacific. In light of the historic state visit by Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, James Marape, and his senior ministers this week, will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is partnering with Papua New Guinea through the Pacific step-up to address shared challenges and support a stable, secure and prosperous region?

2:49 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Leichhardt, the special envoy for the reef, for his question. I note his longstanding commitment to Australia's relationship with PNG and the esteem in which he is held by PNG in our parliament.

The government warmly welcomes Prime Minister James Marape's historic visit here to Australia. Australia has no closer friend than Papua New Guinea. This is underscored by the fact that the first visit Prime Minister Marape made was to Australia. It's also the first official visit by a head of government in the re-elected Morrison government. Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Marape met yesterday for the inaugural leaders' dialogue, which I was pleased to join, with many of our colleagues here from both Australia and PNG. This was a significant delegation. I want to note that now we'll have an important annual leadership dialogue, every single year, with Papua New Guinea.

Vitally, Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Marape announced that we are elevating the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive, strategic and economic partnership, which is an important development for this House to note. This new elevated partnership will encompass economic aspects and joint prosperity. It'll tackle shared security challenges together, and it will build on our personal connections, such as our ties through sporting programs, cultural links and church relationships. I want to thank the opposition for their support for Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Marape's initiative. Our parliament is united on this important relationship.

Australia and PNG are true friends. Most importantly, as our Prime Minister says, we are family. I want to particularly note that today is Papua New Guinea's Remembrance Day. It's a good day for us to reflect on our shared history that encompasses ties that were deepened through the trials of war. Papua New Guinea was the Tobruk of the Pacific. The service of the PNG people in, literally, carrying our soldiers on their shoulders, defending their country and defending our country, will never be forgotten by this parliament or by our country.

This long-term cooperation we have on security, trade, investment and economic development will now enter a new phase. As we celebrate the 40 years of defence cooperation, Australia has committed a further $20 million to further strengthen our defence partnerships and ties. New initiatives will continue our joint work on PNG's Lombrum Naval Base and we've agreed to continue to explore and extend opportunities for our security relationship, infrastructure development and information sharing.

Deepening the PNG-Australia economic relationship through joint infrastructure will continue to be a key priority of the Morrison government. It will enable prosperity. It'll build the business relationship. It'll mean ongoing deepening of our ties. I also want to particularly note the warmth of the relationship that we have with PNG. I will quote Prime Minister Marape: he referred to all of us as 'PNG's brothers and sisters'.

For our prime ministers, for us, for our parliament, PNG's prosperity is our prosperity. Their success is our success. That's why the Pacific step-up is going to continue to be one of the first priorities of the Morrison government.