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Joint Press Conference: Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum, Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: December 16 2005

TITLE: Joint Press Conference: Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast

The Hon. Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia The Hon. Phillip Ruddock MP, Attorney General, Australia Senator the Hon. Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs, Australia Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Minister for Foreign Affairs, PNG The Hon. Bire Kimisopa, Minister for Internal Security, PNG

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to keep you waiting for a few moments, but I just wanted to say how delighted I am, or we all are as Australian ministers to have our Papua New Guinea counterparts with us today. This is an annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, and this is the 17th of these forums that’s taken place and it’s an opportunity for us to talk about where we’re at in terms of our bilateral relationship.

We’ve had eight Australian ministers and ten Papua New Guinean ministers participating in the forum. We had dinner last night, we’ve been meeting all morning up until now. We’re going to have a meeting with the Australia-Papua New Guinea Business Council over lunch and a bit after lunch, and then finish our meeting through the afternoon.

We have a very big agenda with Papua New Guinea. It’s Australia’s next door neighbour, our closest neighbour. Obviously, these days we have a significant commercial relationship, we have a defence relationship. But the focus of our discussions more than anything has been on

developing what we call the enhanced cooperation program, the ECP.

We have about 39 ECP deployees from Australia in government departments in Papua New Guinea, and the Papuan New Guinean ministers report that that’s going very well. We’re still working out some of the details of a police deployment, but we hope before long we will be able to start deploying police into various positions within the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. But we’re still finalising the details of that, and this morning has been a very good opportunity for us to talk through some of those issues.

So I just want to say how delighted we are as Australian ministers to have our friends from Papua New Guinea with us. We know each other exceptionally well, we spent a good deal of time together during the course of the year and it’s great to get together as we always do at the

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end of the year and be able to go through the whole range of issues on the bilateral agenda. So, Rabbie.

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: Thank you very much, Alexander. I would just like to express on our behalf our appreciation again for this opportunity meet with our Australian counterparts down here. This meeting took place in late last year, we hosted it, we have had a very useful and productive morning. There’s - as Alexander Downer has indicated we’ve had a, got a pretty full program, and the issues that have been discussed have covered a whole range of areas.

But, as has been pointed out, the ECP program obviously is a major focus because that is a program which [indistinct] we obviously have to revise in view of the court decision handed down last year. And we made substantial progress in revising that program, hopefully within the New Year, early in the New Year. We can get a number of outstanding issues sorted out at the official level before they are finally approved [indistinct] our respective cabinets.

But as far as Papua New Guinea is concerned we are committed to the program, we wish it to continue. And as has been indicated we appreciate very much and are pleased with the assistance that’s been provided, even despite that court decision, particularly on a [indistinct].

In the Department of Treasury and Finance, in customs, in immigration, in civil aviation, in planning and a number of other agencies, Australian officials who continue to remain in Papua New Guinea under the [indistinct] continue to do very valuable work in assisting various agencies of government in improving our capacity, as well as in [indistinct] a training

and [indistinct] role to young Papua New Guineans who are coming up through the ranks.

So we’ve had a pretty productive morning. We’ve got a number of other issues that we will be going back to after lunch, but I am sure that by the end of the day we will have not only covered all of them, come away with a satisfactory conclusion that we can then go back to our respective governments with.

Not just in terms of ECP, which, obviously, is a very important [indistinct], but also in terms of other areas where Australia continues to offer a significant level of assistance in a whole range of areas. In HIV/AIDS, in infrastructure development, education and health and so forth. So we are pleased with the way discussions are going, we look forward very much to the rest of the items that are being concluded this afternoon and to the final outcomes before we return.

So once again thank you very much, Alexander, for hosting this meeting, and your colleagues [indistinct] for the exchange or exchanges that we’ve had this morning in terms of the discussions that we’ve had so far. Thank you.

DOWNER: Okay, well, if you have any questions we’re happy to try to answer them.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

DOWNER: I think we are making headway. I mean there, as you know, are issues that we want to focus on to strengthen the governance or assist with the strengthening of the governance of the Royal Papua New Guinean Constabulary, and helping the Government deal with issues such as corruption and training and so on.

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And we’re just looking at how best to achieve this, bearing in mind the limitations that have now been placed on the Enhanced Cooperation Program by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court decision last year, so earlier this year, rather, in May of this year. So, bearing that in mind I think, yeah, I think we’re getting there.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, we hope in the first quarter of next year. That would be what we’d be aiming at.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: We have pretty well accepted the revised package, which was negotiated between Senator Chris Ellison and Bire Kimisopa, our Minister for Internal Security. So that’s been agreed to by our cabinet. There’s just a couple of issues which need to be resolved, and we can move forward on the package, both non-policing as well as [indistinct] policing upon.

QUESTION: What [indistinct] does the PNG [indistinct] attitudes towards Australian [indistinct]?

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: Well, under ECP one the response was quite overwhelmingly positive, you know. There were those that obviously criticise the program, and there were those amongst those, who was obviously the Governor of [indistinct], who challenged the whole thing in court and succeeded.

But that hasn’t really, you know, the [indistinct] of the community generally to have some assistance in both areas, in policing and in non-policing. So by and large it was pretty widely accepted and acclaimed, and there is a general desire for that program to continue. Obviously we couldn’t continue in the circumstances because of the legal challenge that succeeded in the Supreme Court.

QUESTION: Really quickly, when is the Australian Police Force [indistinct]?

DOWNER: Well, I think it has to be conceded that the plan to get them actually on to the streets into in line positions, which is what we call in ECP one an initial idea of the Enhanced Cooperation Program’s policing component, as a result of the Supreme Court decision isn’t going to happen. So the role of the Australian Federal Police and Australian police more generally is going to be a role tied up much more with advisory work than actually day to day policing.

So helping to strengthen various elements of the Royal Papua New Guinean Constabulary, and quite directly helping to do that, as well as making sure that the training programs are strengthened. So, I mean that - there’s just nothing we can now do about the court’s decision. I mean the only way that could be changed or could be overturned, could be rectified would be for the Papua New Guinea parliament to change the constitution.

That would require a, what was it, two thirds or three quarters, two thirds majority?

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SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: Two thirds majority.

DOWNER: And we’re advised by the Papua New Guinea ministers that that’s not going to happen.

QUESTION: So do you think there’s [indistinct], the situation as it is now, the behind-the-scenes work [indistinct] would be just as effective as what they were originally going to do on the [indistinct] ECP?

DOWNER: No, I don’t. I think it was, the original plan was a better plan, and I’m sorry that it came unstuck. But, bearing that in mind, I think we’ll make the most at the policing level of what is legally possible. And the other component of the ECP, the non-policing component of it, that is working and of course that’s underway. Those people are deployed now, and that is working extremely well. I think all sides are very happy with how that’s going.

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: Perhaps I’ll just ask my colleague, yeah, to make a few colleagues in response to that as well. Bire?

BIRE KIMISOPA: Well, basically under the new agreement that we struck up we require a number of Australians to be in key strategic positions of the RPNGC. They may not be doing the foot patrol in the city, in the streets of Port Moresby, but we’ll see a number of them in court helping the prosecution. We’ll see a number of them in CID [indistinct], forensics and so forth.

So we think we can get maximum benefit out from the most recent arrangements that we put together. Unfortunately, ECP mark one was the ideal prescription for law and order in PNG. Now, unfortunately it fell through, but that doesn’t mean that the PNG police force will go backwards.

Now, the latest discussions that we’ve had with Australia and also the agreement that we’ve reached is basically tailored to meet an important program we’ve got going underway in PNG, that’s the administrative review of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. So we’ve done an exhaustive analysis of our own weaknesses, our strengths and so forth. And I think what the ECP mark two policing component will do is basically tailor the assistance right into the areas that we think we need it.

CHRIS ELLISON: Can I just reinforce what Bire Kimisopa said there, because that’s very important that this be realised is that this is a substantial contribution. It’ll involve at least 40 AFP officers, and as Bire said this will go towards putting into place the recommendations of that review. And that review of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary was a significant step forward in reforming the RPNGC and dealing with the issues that the PNG faces, and for that I applaud the efforts of the Government, particularly Bire, in relation to this.

But this involvement will go towards implementing that, and will have very long lasting effects on capacity building in the training area, in other areas of resourcing, as well as cracking down on organised crimes, corruption in particular, and also the joint transnational crime, counter terrorism unit that we’re looking to set up.

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QUESTION: What are some of the issues that need to be ironed out [indistinct] program is fully operational?

DOWNER: Well, they relate to - I’m not going to go into the details of that, but they, because we’re still discussing them and if I go into too much detail well, then it obviously isn’t going to be helpful in terms of resolving the differences, let’s put it that way. But it involves the governance issues in relation to various institutions in PNG, and just tidying up some issues there. But I think these are all resolvable.

QUESTION: In terms of the counter-terrorism, is it - are you saying that, by saying [indistinct] order from Indonesia of various [indistinct], a very uncontrolled [indistinct]. I mean, you guys, are you guys recognising that there is a real terrorist threat, or [indistinct] terrorist threat [indistinct]?

CHRIS ELLISON: Well, one of the things we’ve looked at is the border with Indonesia, and in particular the Minister for Immigration has raised this in the context of immigration and I’ve raised it in relation to customs. The new border post [indistinct] near Vanimo in the North is one where we’re aiming to give support. And also in other areas of infrastructure for border control, obviously border control’s very important. It’s an important issue for all countries in the region.

But from a customs point of view we’re aiming to provide assistance there and Senator Vanstone also has raised this.

DOWNER: I think, look, I think it’s, what we’re doing here is we’re being cautious, we’re not being alarmist. We’re just saying that in an era where we know of terrorists and terrorist organisations with ill intent towards many people around the world, the thing is that we need to ensure that we both of us have the capacity to monitor and deal with the problem as it emerges. Not to say that we are, you know, lying awake at night worrying about terrorist attacks in Papua New Guinea, it’s just that we are alert not alarmed, to use the phrase.

QUESTION: Has there been any progress [indistinct]?

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU: Yes. Our deputy Prime Minister has managed to put petroleum and energy, is also attending this meeting. He will be outlining that progress, the degree of progress made so far on this project this afternoon after lunch. But it’s looking good.

DOWNER: Any other questions before we go? Yeah.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

DOWNER: Well, can I just say that we are delighted with the progress that was made yesterday in the elections in Iraq. This is a wonderful thing to see millions upon millions of Iraqis go to the polls and express their point of view about who should be in their national assembly. This is a spectacular demonstration of democracy and of defiance of terrorists and insurgents who clearly have hoped that their murderous acts would stop the elections proceeding. They have failed, and the ordinary people of Iraq have spoken.

I’m particularly impressed by the way, with what I’ve heard, about this substantial turn out in the Sunni areas. You would expect in the Shi’a areas a big turn out, as we had back in the

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elections in January, on January the 30th. But on January the 30th for the election of the transitional assembly there was a negligible turn out in the Sunni areas, and this time it appears that it’s been very substantial.

For example, in the city of Fallujah they simple ran out of ballot papers, there were so many more voters than they had anticipated. So, well, you know the turn out was so much higher than they had anticipated. So I think this is a spectacular demonstration of people’s desire for freedom and to express themselves and to chart the future of their own country, and we congratulate the people of Iraq for the demonstration of democracy.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

DOWNER: Well, you know, I under- the last report I had was, and then got a later one, there were three people who were killed and there were, on the 30th of January, 40 people killed. Obviously we very much regret if anybody is killed, and there have been attempts made by the terrorists to disrupt the elections. The point is, though, that the terrorists have spectacularly failed, they have been completely unsuccessful.

And the Iraqi people have put up with a gruesome campaign from terrorists, a murderous campaign. They have, the terrorists have killed large numbers of Iraqis, disrupted life in Iraq in order to defeat democracy, and they’ve failed.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I don’t know that I could make that judgement. I think what I could say is that it’s heartening that the Sunnis themselves have embraced, by all accounts have embraced the democratic process, that they realised the way forward is a democratic way. I mean the fact is the electoral system is working in a different way this time. Last time in January the whole country was one electorate, and the Sunnis felt they would get pretty poor representation out of that system.

This time the company’s been divided up for electoral purposes into its 18 governorates, and therefore the Sunnis have obviously made the judgement that they will get - which they will get - substantially better representation than the national assembly.

But it is very encouraging that all facets of Iraqi society have decided to participate in the electoral process, and it just shows, you know, that when people have the opportunity, they’d like to have a say in the future of their own country. They don’t want terrorists to determine the future of Iraq.

PHILLIP RUDDOCK: I think an endorsement of the new constitution, as well, which of course the Iraqi people wrote, and you might remember it was a long and difficult debate within Iraq to get a balance that would be respected by all interest groups. And this turn out, particularly by the Sunnis, demonstrates that the Iraqi people do believe that there is a framework in which they can now build their new nation, and build it as a democratic nation where the views of the minority will be taken into account.

So I think the very few incidents of violence, certainly very few in Iraqi terms, and very strong turn-out is a very hopeful sign for the future of the country.

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DOWNER: Okay?

QUESTION: Mr Downer, on the [indistinct]?

DOWNER: Not really. I mean, that’s a matter for the British government and for the Home Office. They - I understand they’re going to appeal the decision of the High Court to the British Court of Appeal, and that’ll be a matter that’ll take some time.

These procedures, though, in relation to Mr Hicks and British citizenship aren’t a matter for Australia. What is a matter for Australia is that he is an Australian citizen. Like 227 other Australian citizens he is facing charges in a foreign jurisdiction. And we expect all of those Australians to face those charges in those jurisdictions for their cases to be heard, and decisions made by the courts.

And he’s been charged with very serious offences. He’s been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit war crimes, they are extremely serious offences, and we expect him to face charges. And I don’t know what view the British government would take if his British citizenship was confirmed, but maybe I won’t speculate on that. But the Australian government’s view is perfectly clear.

QUESTION: What about [indistinct]?

DOWNER: Well, the point is he’s not - his attempt to obtain British citizenship hasn’t been confirmed, number one. Number two, if it were confirmed, and that’s hypothetical, if it were confirmed that wouldn’t automatically mean the Americans would not proceed with the charges in the military commission. That’d be - the Americans, the British government may or may not, maybe number three, the British government may or may not make a submission to the Americans in relation to that matter.

I just don’t know. But the Americans have so far said that they are proceeding with the charges. And there is a stay at this time on the military commission procedure because Hicks’ lawyers applied for it, and they won it. And so that is why it’s not proceeding at the moment, because his lawyers asked the court to stay the proceedings and the court did.

QUESTION: [indistinct]

DOWNER: Well, our job isn’t to - if somebody is facing charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes and attempted murder it’s not our job to try to get them out. It’s our job to ensure that those charges are heard, that is our objective. And in the case of the - I’m going to get the Attorney-General to say something, because he’s got responsibility for this as well.

But let me just make the point that in relation to the nine Britons who were released from Guantanamo Bay, they fall into the same category, if you like, as Mr Habib. When the Americans decided that they wouldn’t charge Habib we said, well, he should be repatriated to Australia if you’re not going to charge him, not just held without charges.

But in Hicks’ case the charges have been brought and Hicks should face those charges.

RUDDOCK: I’d just only add in relation to the fact that Hicks is an Australian citizen. He has received the same assistance that others who are without means and who are judged to

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have an arguable defence receive from the Australian government. In other words, we ensure that they have an opportunity to apply for legal assistance. And both the first counsel, who were available as consultants to Mr Hicks, Mr Kenny from South Australia, and more recently Mr McLeod and his colleague from Sydney have been paid as consultants by the Australian government.

And we ensure that he receives the same type of assistance in relation to ensuring that he’s able to put his defence properly, as other Australians receive. And any idea that we have not been pursuing, for him, an outcome that other Australians would receive by way of advocacy from their government, should be debunked very clearly if he has received exactly the same assistance. Including consular assistance.

DOWNER: Okay? Thank you.