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Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Page: 3229


Mr ABBOTT (Warringah) (16:24): The people of Warringah are broadminded and they have wide-ranging interests, and so this afternoon, with your indulgence, I want to talk just for a little about PNG, our nearest neighbour; our only former colony; home to 10,000 dual citizens; our largest foreign aid recipient by far; and, along with New Zealand, one of only two countries in the world that have Australia as their largest trading partner and their largest source of foreign investment. Like Australia, New Zealand is passionately interested in the great sport of rugby league. It is a Melanesian superpower. It has close to 10 million people and in some years recently it has been growing at some nine per cent per annum.

Australia and PNG have geography and history in common, but we also have a future to work on as well as a past to honour and respect. Here in Canberra, we tend to have our horizons fixed on countries like Indonesia, China, Japan, India, the United States and Europe, and because of the difficulties in the Middle East often we are focused there. These places are, perhaps, more important to us than PNG. But we are more important to PNG than those far-flung places are to them. We should focus on the places where we can do good, as well as the places where we hope good might be done to us. We should focus on the places where we can help, as well as on the places where we might be helped.

PNG certainly has helped us. I am very conscious of the fact that but for PNG's help with the Manus boat people processing centre, we would have been in great trouble in 2013. It is funded by Australia but it is run by PNG, and the more obvious it is that this is a PNG centre then the more likely it is that people will go home.

We have helped PNG, particularly with the 70 Australian Federal Police officers who we have had there since 2013 acting as advisers. The more operational responsibility that those AFP people can have, the better. It would be very wrong for funding not to be continued beyond the middle of next year, particularly with PNG hosting the APEC summit in 2018. To give them a more operational focus, I hope it might be possible for these officers to take leave from the AFP to join the Royal PNG Constabulary, and then, when their term expires, to go back to the AFP without loss of seniority.

I hope PNG will look at Australia not as a big brother, but as a best friend. We will never let them down. (Time expired)