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14 Jul 2024 7:26
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  •   Home > News > International

    Australia announces new initiatives to help improve PNG's internal security, law and justice as part of major bilateral security agreement

    Australia announces a new program to help Papua New Guinea improve its weapons management as part of a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening the country's internal security.

    Australia has announced a package of initiatives aimed at strengthening Papua New Guinea's internal security and law and justice priorities under a major bilateral security agreement.

    A delegation of Australian officials — including Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Minster for International Development Pat Conroy — are in PNG to attend the 30th Ministerial Forum.

    The measures agreed upon today will be delivered under a long-discussed bilateral pact reached last year while Prime Minister James Marape was visiting Australia.

    Senator Wong said the two nations shared inextricable ties.

    "This is the only country with whom we have this type of ministerial engagement and it reflects who we are to one another," she told a press conference.

    Australia will give additional support for stability in the PNG Highlands as part of the agreement, including a new program to help PNG improve weapons management.

    It comes more than a year after one of PNG's worst massacres, which left at least 49 people dead and drew attention to the stacks of illegal firearms and ammunition making their way through the region.

    "A stronger and safer Papua New Guinea is good for PNG and it is good for Australia," Senator Wong said.

    As well as the weapons management program, Australia will provide support for PNG's legal system to help it investigate and prosecute financial crime and assist with making its correctional facilities safer and more secure.

    The new initiatives also include investments in programs to improve access to justice for young people and remote and regional communities and the supply of 12 armoured LandCruisers to Papua New Guinea's Defence Forces.

    Transport hangar and labour mobility plan also announced

    Under a swathe of announcements made on Wednesday, Australian and Papua New Guinean ministers agreed to the opening of an Australian-supported refurbished Air Transport Wing hangar in Port Moresby to accommodate aircraft supplied by Australia.

    It follows the gifting and commissioning of a large police patrol vessel to PNG yesterday — the largest in the country's fleet — which will be used to combat trans-border organised crime, particularly in the Torres Strait Region.

    PNG's Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchencko said the security cooperation was in both countries' interests.

    "A strong, resilient, safe, prosperous Papua New Guinea will equate to the same in Australia," he said during a bilateral meeting with Senator Wong.

    "We look forward to this very important 30th ministerial dialogue between Australia and Papua New Guinea to continue strengthening our relationship, taking our levels higher and higher than they've ever been before."

    Australia will also help develop a labour mobility plan to boost PNG's participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme and support PNG's ambition of sending 8,000 workers overseas by 2025.

    In his closing remarks, Mr Marles acknowledged the forum was being held in the shadow of the landslide tragedy in Enga Province last month.

    He said the Australian delegation will travel to the area tomorrow.

    "This meeting has happened with a heavy heart and we stand ready to provide assistance," he said.

    Australia's finalisation of the bilateral security agreement with PNG last year came after China signed a police cooperation deal with PNG's neighbour, Solomon Islands.

    Mininster Tkatchencko yesterday reiterated that his country was not considering similar policing and security offers made by China to PNG.

    "We have chosen not to entertain that at all, made that very, very clear," he said.

    "We need to now strengthen our partnership with Australia, who is our traditional partner."

    In November, Mr Marape told the ABC his country was caught in a "confluence of interests" in the region, but said PNG's relationship with Australia ranked as number one.

    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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