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Transcript of joint press conference: Port Morseby.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, ALEXANDER DOWNER MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND CUSTOMS, SEN. CHRIS ELLISON

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 24 August 2005, Port Moresby

TITLE: Joint Press Conference

Hon Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Senator the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs The Rt Hon Sir Rabbie Namaliu KCMG MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Hon Bire Kimisopa MP, Minister for Internal Security Hon Bart Philemon MP, Minister for Treasury and Finance

Namaliu: Thank you, members of the media. Firstly, let me introduce to you Alexander Downer, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Customs and Justice, responsible for the Australian Federal Police.

We have just concluded discussions with them on the ECP and how best to move it forward in view of the path reached, as a result of the decision by the Supreme Court, the Wenge case, in relation to questions of immunity and a number of other related issues.

We have had extensive discussions, first between Bire Kimisopa and I with Mr Downer and Senator Ellison on this issue before we had a roundtable conference with a number of ministerial colleagues who sit on the Cabinet Ministerial Economic Committee.

I’m pleased say that the discussions have been robust. They have been, however, constructive and fruitful. Of course, on the basis of those discussions, we I think are now in a position to reach an understanding on the best way to move forward.

Australia has responded and put forward a set of proposals which fall in line with our own thinking in this as a government, and it’s pleasing to know that our ministerial colleagues as well agree that is the best approach to move forward. Obviously the question of details still has to be ironed out at official level. This is something that we all agreed should happen before it is finalised.

The package as was originally conceived comprised of two main components. One policing as a result of which we now have, and still have in those agencies where they have been located, a number of non-policing personnel - mainly in the Treasury and Finance departments, in my department, Customs, IRC, Justice department, in Civil Aviation, and a number of other agencies.

Those personnel are still here, and I think one consequence, one result of our discussion this morning, is the proposal that, in view of the fact that from our perspective it is important that we’ll continue to have that type of assistance from Australia, and Mr Downer will amplify on

this further, we’ll continue to have those deployed in those positions where they are, depending obviously the details being worked out in the final analysis.

On the policing side, I think we’ve both agreed that as a result of the question of immunity, obviously we’re not in the position to provide sufficient legal protection to the extent that they require for the Australian Federal Police. And for that reason that will be scaled down with the on the beat policing role that was part of the initial package to being deleted from the package.

Of course obviously, we’re not in a position to provide the kind of legal protection for them. But they will continue to provide a number of policing personnel in a number of key and strategic areas, particularly where, which fall in line with what we consider to be a priority of this government and that was announced by Sir Michael, by the Prime Minister when he took office. There were three main pillars, one of which was good governance and under that he stressed very, very emphatically the whole issue of corruption. That he had to take this by the horn and run with it and do something about it very seriously. Because of the perception, as well as the views of the public out there, is not very good, either in terms of our leaders or in terms of our officials.

So that is a key component of the Medium Term Development Strategy and it is within the context of the Medium Term Development Strategy that we are seeing this remodelled package falling under. Corruption has got to be at the centre of it. But we are already making progress, although it’s not fast enough or not big enough in some areas, in addressing this - in strengthening institutions with the help for instance in some of these agencies.

There are agencies which require additional help. Police especially, in Justice and in some of these key strategic positions. They also look at the question of, obviously which we agreed to in the initial package, that is capacity building.

Whether or not it’s going to be the police force itself in terms of training or recruiting additional policemen. We agree to 400 that should be recruited. We as a government actually because of the withdrawal of the Australian Federal Police, then moved to fill out those gaps. In terms of Port Moresby, we approved K1.3 million for logistic support, basically vehicles and communications to assist the police here, the Sector Patrol Squad here in Port Moresby which, because of the improvement in performance as a result of the Australian Federal Police being present assisting them, we felt that that should be continued. For that reason, we made a decision.

And secondly, we’re also in a process of making a decision to recruit 200 of our policemen, and that could be coming to cabinet soon. But there are questions of resources, which is always of major crisis, major issue, major impediment in really getting down to seriously addressing some of these issues.

So policing is important obviously in investigations, in fraud, in corruption investigations, in forensic, and now also we agreed that institutions such as the Ombudsman Commission perhaps need some help as well because we could only provide not so much in terms of budgetary allocation. I think the public perception out there is that there are reports, there are things that are going on that the people know about, about which nothing is being done.

I suppose that’s one of the concerns that has been raised on the floor. It has been raised publicly here, and we hope that this program will help build our capacity in addressing these sorts of issues so that performance, efficiency and effectiveness can be enhanced in keeping with the

Medium Term Development Strategy as well as take into account quite a number of things that were identified by the police.

The Police Review was set up by the Minister for Internal Security. It was approved and endorsed by cabinet from which the cabinet is now beginning to address some of those issues including questions of welfare- housing and pay - which the government has already made some decisions on. Australia made it known in the beginning that those were things they would prefer left to us to do, and that’s why we have been proceeding on that basis, but that they would assist us in the other key areas which I’ve just made reference to.

So, in summary, we’ve agreed that ECP should continue in a remodelled form. A policing component in the revised form on the non-policing but with room for improvement, but that will be left to the officials and as well as the two Ministers responsible to review things.

As they go, if there is a need for increased capacity, it will be up to them to recommend it. On the non-policing side, we’ve also agreed that that should continue. The number that we have I think is 43, alright now 43 out of the original 64 non-policing personnel. So hopefully we can move to also fill in the gaps so that the original design is achieved in that regard.

If there is still, we agreed that there is still a need for further discussion at the official level, that we should still move in that direction. So once again corruption, under the overall theme of governance, is a major strategy of this government. There are some steps being already taken in

that direction. We also feel that the MTDS, this fits in well with the MTDS and the issues that the police review has identified will then be used as a basis for discussion. But at least the offer, which Mr Downer will say something about, is there to help us address certain key areas in policing as well as on the non-policing side.

So I’ll ask Mr Downer now to say a few remarks on this.

Downer: Well thanks very much Sir Rabbie, Bire, Bart and Chris. Look, from our point of view I think the series of meetings we’ve had during the course of the today have been very successful.

The Enhanced Cooperation Program is something no other partnership between a developed and developing country has tried before. It’s a very ambitious program and it was obviously stopped at its tracks by the decision of the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court, in the so called Wenge case, a little while ago.

So, we’ve been talking with the Papua New Guinea Government about how to deal with this and the extent to which we want to salvage the Enhanced Cooperation Program, or whether we should abandon it.

In the end we’ve decided that from Australia’s perspective we’d like to keep the Enhanced Cooperation Program. It’s a unique program around the world. It does involve the deployment of Australians in Papua New Guinea who are able to provide substantial assistance in public administration and it will, of course, mean, amongst other things, from the point of view of the Australian taxpayers that the Australian aid dollar is spent more efficiently in Papua New Guinea than it was with the case without the Enhanced Cooperation Program.

We recognise that it’s just not feasible, given the political circumstances, to achieve or for the Papua New Guinea Government to achieve, a constitutional change to deal with the impact of

the Wenge case on immunities which were originally envisaged for the police who were deployed on the beat.

So we won’t be able to proceed with that component of the Enhanced Cooperation Program. But what we will be able to do, I think, and this will be subject to final formal approval by the PNG cabinet but ministers have been very positive and responsive today about this proposal.

What we will be able to do is keep in the Papua New Guinea Government departments the Australians who are working there. They’re working in departments like the Treasury, the Finance Department, the Foreign Affairs and Immigration Department, the Customs Service, the Auditor-General’s office and so the list goes on.

Those people are happy in what they’re doing, they believe they’re having a very substantial effect. What is just as important is that the Ministers responsible for those portfolios are very happy with the performance of the Australians working in those departments.

And the second thing is that we do want still to maintain a policing component of the Enhanced Cooperation Program. So we will provide a greater capacity to help with the training of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary - that is, more trainers at the initial stage, at the Police College. We’ll also offer more training programs for the Papua New Guinea police in Australia itself.

The third component of it is to help the Papua New Guinea Government fulfil its objective of addressing the issue of corruption. It’s obviously, as the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has said, a major issue for Papua New Guinea. It’s an issue of concern to be frank, not that Papua New Guinea is anyway unique here and shouldn’t be particularly singled out, but it is an issue that is in the forefront of the minds of the Australian taxpayer and the Australian public.

So what we’ve proposed is assisting with the resourcing - both financial resourcing and also human resourcing - of elements of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary that deal with corruption, such as the Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Getting them to, encouraging them to, can’t get them to do anything, encouraging them to set up an additional directorate that deals with financial fraud and providing people to assist with that, helping to strengthen the resources, again financial and human resources at the Ombudsman’s office.

We also hope that Papua New Guinea will proceed with the establishment of a, which is something Sir Michael has spoken positively about in the past and was considered by a former Papua New Guinea cabinet, to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

So I think this is a package which does include a very significant anti-corruption component. It should not only strengthen the confidence of the people of Papua New Guinea that its government is starting to get on top of this issue of corruption, but should of course give greater confidence to Australians, be they taxpayers, be they Australian investors in Papua New Guinea, that Papua New Guinea really is serious about addressing this issue of corruption and that we have people working in their agencies helping them address the issue of corruption.

I know that the ordinary people of Papua New Guinea, whatever elites may say, to use a word, the ordinary people of Papua New Guinea are being very supportive of the Enhanced

Cooperation Program and they are very supportive of steps we can take to help develop the anti-corruption strategy here in Papua New Guinea.

But I think this means that we keep in place the Enhanced Cooperation Program. It doesn’t include one component we wanted, which was police on the beat, but it’s a second best. I think that it was a good initiative. I think second best is to have a combination of enhanced police training but also, if you like, mentoring, maybe sending police out to work with the provincial police chiefs to strengthen the capacity of the provincial police forces.

Papua New Guinea Ministers have made quite a strong point to us that they don’t want the Enhanced Cooperation Program just to focus on Port Moresby. It’s very important other parts of the country’s problems are addressed as well.

So I think we’re heading in the right direction. We’ll need officials to work out the minor details of all the, minute, they may not be minor, but minute, details of all of these. We hope as a result of this the package will look sparkling and new and this will help Papua New Guinea move into a period of even greater success and prosperity.

Namaliu: We are happy to answer some questions.

Journalist: What do you put the money value at?

Downer: Well, we haven’t worked that out yet. You’ll remember the original package was $800-million over a period of five years. So it will obviously be somewhat less than that because we won’t be paying the police on the beat. But it nevertheless will be pretty substantial package.

It’s likely to run into hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of five years, but we need to work out all of the details. I mean the point I’d make here is we obviously budgeted for the $800-million package, so we’ve got the money. We probably won’t spend all of that now because the cost of deploying around 200 police to work on the beat here was pretty enormous, but nevertheless of the $800-million, you know, we could very well spend, this is an indicative figure, we could very well spend around half of it.

But we’re looking instead of having here around 300 people, we’re probably talking of having around 100 people altogether.

Journalist: Minister, the Police Review is one of the major actions taken by this government to address law and order problems in Papua New Guinea - which is an issue the Australian Government is concerned about. It came up with more than sixty recommendations. Is Australia going to help Papua New Guinea fund the implementation of the recommendations?

Downer: Sure. We are. Normally, we don’t have any overarching problems with the police review, and the two Police Ministers will obviously talk in some detail at a later time about helping with the implementation of that review. But the review is a good step forward, and I think Minister Kimisopa has done an excellent job as a Police Minister, helping to get on top of some of these difficult issues that the RPNGC faces.

Ellison: One of our Australian Federal Police officers that will be part of the package will be devoted to the review and the implementation of it. Of course, Bire Kimisopa and myself will be talking closely on this. It’s a very important part of the whole package.

Journalist: Mr Downer, a lot of strong human ties were forged as a result of the previous deployment. Some of the people have gone to the Solomon Islands, and some have gone elsewhere. Are any of them going to come back to Papua New Guinea? And what are you doing about the vehicles still parked here?

Downer: I’ll ask Senator Ellison to answer the question in relation to the vehicles.

Ellison: The vehicles that were provided previously I understand are still here. And of course some police stations have been renovated and improved. I mean that remains, of course, so the work that was done previously remains. But it’s just that we won’t be continuing in that line, as Alexander Downer said. We won’t be having police on the beat, and we won’t be working in the police stations we were previously.

Downer: As far as the police who were here are concern, the ones who were on the beat, they won’t come back because the Wenge case is, its application not surprisingly applies from the point where when the police first arrived here. So they, because of the Wenge case, the police who were here for the period leading to the final judgement, they are vulnerable in the sense that they won’t have the immunities that they thought they had when they were here.

So we won’t be sending those particular people back. Your point is did they bond with people? Look, I heard there were local people in tears when the Australian police left, and you know, no matter what Mr Wenge or others may say about the, you know, great satan Australia, the fact is that out there in the general community in Papua New Guinea, people have been enormously supportive of the Enhanced Cooperation Program and what Australia has been doing to help the PNG government.

Journalist: Mr Downer, what about the judges?

Downer: Well, we’ll continue with the, we’ll certainly be continuing with all of that side of the program.

Namaliu: One last one.

Journalist: You mentioned a figure this morning that there may be 30 Australian police coming back…

Downer: Well that’s just the almost literally a back of the envelope figure that we’ve been working on over the last 24 hours. Now that could easily change. Whether it will become as many as a hundred, look, I just don’t know. But we’re not looking at that at this stage, but what we’re planning is, for example, in terms of training of the RPNGC which is, you know, Minister Kimisopa for him it’s a very high priority and we agree.

This is a second best to actually having our own people here on the ground and also in mentoring roles. We thought on the back of an envelope that having five AFP people helping with the training at the Police College might be a reasonable sort of number. But that could change, and so none of these numbers are anything like set in stone.

These numbers could change, and they could change quite substantially. That number 30 has grown during the course of the last 24 hours, and if it doesn’t grow in the course, it will probably won’t grow in the next 24 hours, but if it doesn’t grow in the next few weeks I’d be very surprised.

We’re looking all up at the moment and this is pretty much unique around the world, except, I suppose, our intervention in the Solomon Islands - but there is a completely different set of issues there - involves many more people. But we are looking at having around a hundred Australians working directly in different institutions here in PNG - and that number could become significantly higher as time goes on. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I think from our point of view and from PNG’s point of view, the thing is to be reasonably flexible about that, and we have the budgetary resources set aside to be flexible, so we can be.

End