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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8124

Papua New Guinea: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (14:36): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. Can the minister update the Senate on APEC, which will shortly be hosted by our closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:36): I thank Senator McGrath for his question. APEC is the pre-eminent regional forum for promoting closer economic integration, free trade and investment, and sustainable and inclusive growth. In fact, APEC accounts for almost half of global trade, 60 per cent of global GDP and 12 of Australia's top-15 trading partners. This year's meeting will be held in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, Australia's closest neighbour, starting this week, and we're very pleased to work with Papua New Guinea's government as it hosts this very important regional event.

It's true to say that hosting APEC is an enormous undertaking. It is over 200 meetings and other events across a year, which culminates in the gathering of leaders and ministers. But Australia and Papua New Guinea, in particular, have a long-term and enduring strategic and economic partnership, and our support demonstrates the importance that we place on that relationship. At Papua New Guinea's requests, we are leading international security support at APEC. We have the Australian Federal Police working closely with the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. The ADF is providing high-end operational support across maritime, aviation and counterterrorism domains, which builds on our close defence partnership. I want to acknowledge those members of the ADF and the AFP who are carrying out this work. The Department of Home Affairs is also providing key equipment like air cargo X-ray scanners and passport scanners.

We've provided policy support for APEC through DFAT, through our high commission in Port Moresby, and our assistance to APEC is really an extension of our long-term and enduring defence cooperation and partnership with PNG, as I've mentioned. Wherever possible, we've been looking to ensure that our support is designed to provide an enduring benefit to Papua New Guinea beyond APEC, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to a very successful APEC period.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McGrath, a supplementary question.

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (14:38): How will APEC support regional prosperity, stability and security in our region?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:38): I think that is an important question, because APEC's economic leadership has, indeed, driven the transformation of this region into the most dynamic economic region in the world. APEC's role in promoting market openness and economic reform is more important now than ever, and I'm going to take the opportunity of my participation in APEC to underline the importance of that economic openness and of regional integration. As well, I'm going to take the opportunity to highlight, in particular, Australia's focus on women's economic empowerment. Australia has been strongly supporting APEC's work in setting standards, particularly for digital trade, which is part of our work in leading WTO discussions and shaping global rules on ecommerce. We're also supporting APEC's focus on inclusive growth in the region, led by PNG, by supporting initiatives to help develop economies in remote areas—which, given the nature of PNG itself, is a very good exemplar of that work.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McGrath, a final supplementary question.

Senator McGRATH (Queensland) (14:40): How else is Australia increasing its engagement with the region to ensure greater prosperity, stability and security?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:40): We see APEC as a very timely opportunity to engage with our Pacific counterparts, particularly in respect of the Prime Minister's announcement of new Pacific initiatives just last week. They reflect the priorities raised with me and with Senator Ruston, for example, by Pacific leaders and ministers, and they reflect the government's ongoing dialogue with our key partners in the region, who are very important to us even if not to those opposite, who can't give the chamber the respect of listening to these observations. They build on our existing Pacific step-up and they also build on Australia's commitment under the foreign policy white paper. Our Australian infrastructure financing facility will significantly boost infrastructure development in Pacific countries and in Timor Leste, and we know that is a billions-of-dollars challenge to address in coming years. It will build on our long track record of supporting critical infrastructure in the Pacific.