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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21762


Ms KING (4:21 PM) —I move:

That this House:

(1) notes the Report of the January 2003 Joint Mission of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists and the Australian Council for Refugees to Papua New Guinea, Seeking Refuge: the Status of West Papuans in Papua New Guinea; and

(2) calls on the Australian Government to endorse the Report's recommendations and, in consequence;

(a) negotiate an agreement with Papua New Guinea for the recognition of travel documents based on certificates of identity for the purpose of enabling students to enter Australia to pursue educational courses;

(b) provide humanitarian relief through AusAID or other appropriate agencies for those West Papuans in Transmitter Camp found to have refugee status;

(c) express its willingness to assist the government of Papua New Guinea to implement a long term solution for the West Papuans in Western Province;

(d) express its willingness to contribute to support and to provide aid funding to enable Papua New Guinea to put a plan in place to act as an incentive to those West Papuans to move from border camps; and

(e) provide places for West Papuans found to be refugees in Australia's resettlement programs.

This motion draws the attention of the House to the status of West Papuans in Papua New Guinea. The time allotted for this debate does not allow me to refer to the history of what has happened in West Papua, but it is of course inextricably linked to why West Papuans are in PNG, as is the issue of self-determination for West Papua. My interest in the issue of West Papuans in PNG has arisen from representations to my office from the Sisters of Mercy in Ballarat on behalf of West Papuan students whom they have supported to come to Australia for secondary and tertiary education. The experiences of these students and many others in obtaining certificates of identity and in having these recognised when applying for visas in Australia when wanting to undertake long-term study highlight the uncertain status of many West Papuans in PNG. The Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists conducted a mission to PNG in January this year—it followed missions in 1984 and 1986—and I recognise the member for Denison's contribution to that mission.

The number of West Papuans currently in PNG is difficult to estimate. Many are in PNG without formal recognition or status. Many have left established camps to resettle in Port Moresby or in areas in which they are able to eke out some subsistence. Many have given up on even applying for permissive residency. West Papuans who crossed into PNG before the 1980s have in many cases obtained citizenship status. But, for those who came after, their status within PNG remains of concern.

The report from the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists mission makes it clear that there has been a breakdown in the system of permissive residence renewal and citizenship. The PNG government has accorded permissive residence to some West Papuans who crossed in the 1980s without assessing their individual refugee status. This has not been the case for those refugees who are currently in Transmitter Camp, or most of them. However, to access residence rights, they had to relocate to the camp at East Awin.

Permissive residency gives West Papuans the right to move freely within PNG and to engage in business and employment. Many have established themselves in areas throughout PNG, but, in particular, in Port Moresby. To obtain permissive residency, West Papuans must stay in East Awin for more than a year. If you have left and you wish to apply, you must return to the camp. The certificate is only valid for three years and renewal is subject to the same condition—that is, living in the East Awin camp.

It would appear from the mission report that the system for renewal has broken down. There is no mechanism to remind holders that their permits have expired and that they need to be renewed, and there is no system to process applications. Those who have held permissive residency for eight years may apply for citizenship, but the problems encountered by West Papuans in meeting the residential requirements and the breakdown in the system for issuing and renewing certificates make it difficult for them to obtain citizenship or even travel documents. The citizenship advisory committee, which advises the minister on applications for naturalisation, has also not met for many years—as a result, according to the PNG government, of financial constraint. This has resulted in significant delay in citizenship applications.

West Papuans wanting to travel outside of PNG who do not have citizenship can apply for certificates of identity. They can then travel freely outside PNG, so long as they meet the visa requirements of the visiting country. The few who have travelled have found it difficult to obtain these certificates as there is no clear process and there are significant delays. There are West Papuans who are studying in my own electorate. One of them is the son of a West Papuan border crosser and he had enormous difficulty in obtaining his certificate of identity, with lost paperwork and the system breaking down in many instances. I think it was only almost the week before he was due to arrive in Australia that we got word that his certificate of identity had actually been issued.

The joint mission of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists and the Australian Council for Refugees to Papua New Guinea have put forward a number of recommendations following their most recent mission. They are, I would say, a very balanced contribution to Australia's diplomatic effort in relation to West Papuans in PNG. They include—and they are part of this motion—that the government: negotiate an agreement with Papua New Guinea for the recognition of travel documents based on certificates of identity for the purpose of enabling students to enter Australia to pursue educational courses; provide humanitarian relief through AusAID or other appropriate agencies for those West Papuans in Transmitter Camp found to have refugee status; and express its willingness to assist the government of PNG to implement a long-term solution for West Papuans in Western Province. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Is the motion seconded?


Mr Kerr —I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.