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Transcript of remarks: Papua New Guinea: 1 October 2011: aid in the Pacific; bilateral relationship



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Minister’s Office: 02 6277 7500 or 0466 745 615 Department: 02 6261 1555

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP

TRANSCRIPT OF REMARKS WITH

THE HON. ANO PALA, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND IMMIGRATION THE HON. SAM BASIL, MINISTER FOR NATIONAL PLANNING

1 OCTOBER 2011

Subjects: Aid in the Pacific, Bilateral Relationship

E & O E - Proof only

MINISTER RUDD: Can I say a few things about my time in Papua New Guinea and then I am sure my good friend and colleague the Foreign Minister and my good friend and colleague the Planning Minister will have other things to add.

The first is this that this is an absolutely critical relationship for Australia that’s why in recent years I have been here four or five times and that is because the Government of PNG, the people of PNG are near to the hearts of Australia but also directly relevant to Australia’s national interest.

And so I have had a great opportunity both yesterday and today to spend some time with the Prime Minister and with my good friend the Foreign Minister. I met them both recently in New York and spent considerable time in discussions with them there. We have met recently also the various Councils of South East Asia.

Today I also had the opportunity of travelling to a village in the middle of Central Province where we looked at the delivery on the ground of health supplies, medical supplies to local villages.

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This was to a local health centre where the need to supply essential vaccinations and provide other medical supports was clear cut. Our objective is to reduce infant mortality, to reduce maternal mortality and also to improve the life expectancy of all children under five.

And this is what we are doing as the Australian Government not just in one health centre in one province in Papua New Guinea, but across three thousand health centres right across this great country.

And the reason is very simple. Every person on God’s earth needs a decent start and it means if you’re a little kid being born in a remote part of Papua New Guinea you are as entitled to have your first start at life as any other kid in the world.

And we in Australia feel quite passionately about that and that’s why I am pleased to be working with my Papua New Guinean colleagues on that now and in the future.

I would like to thank the Foreign Minister for his hospitality today and for the extensive conversation we have had about our development program with Papua New Guinea, which emphasises education, heath, governance and infrastructure.

We look forward very much also to welcoming the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister when they visit Australia the week after next. Both the Australian Prime Minister and I look forward very much to receiving them when they are there and to take forward further areas of very practical cooperation between our two governments and our two peoples.

This has been for me a great time to be back, I really like being here and the people are fantastic. I had a fantastic time out in Central Province today and I look forward to being back again. Over to you Foreign Minister.

MINISTER PALA: Thank you very much. On behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Papua New Guinea I want to thank you for coming up and giving us this visit, although it has been a very short visit it has been a very, very meaningful and friendly visit. Where we have discussed a lot of the important things especially how we can channel government services, government funds down to the people and discussions have been very, very fruitful. You have helped us find ways of delivering services to the people and we look forward to the discussions in Canberra with the team from Papua New Guinea who will meet with your team. We are looking forward to that discussion so that we may be able to discuss ways of helping us to deliver effective services to our people. I also want to thank you for joining us for lunch today and I want to wish you the best as you travel home.

MINISTER RUDD: Thank you very much. Would the Planning Minister like to add anything?

MINISTER BASIL: The Foreign Minister said it all. But can I say as Planning Minister that it is very good to see the Minister come down to the district to witness one of the projects at the district level. I think it is all about effectively understanding the ways and how to deliver effective aid to Papua New Guinea. From the PNG Government, from the National Planning Department, we all stand to help and to be partners in the delivery of aid in Papua New Guinea. Thank you very much.

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MINISTER RUDD: And finally before we take any questions I was very pleased this morning to speak to Kevin Rudd in Goroka. For those of you who don’t know the story, this little boy who was born up in Goroka just after I visited there in 2008 was named by his parents - Kevin Rudd as his first name and so I have seen pictures of the little boy grown up, I wish him very well, I heard his voice on the phone today here in Moresby.

I gave a kids book to his uncle who came to visit us at the airport just before and I received as gifts from them a number of very attractive billums as well as my own very personal spear which I will now take back to Australia or leave with the High Commissioner as appropriate. Over to you for questions

JOURNALIST: Was the visit to discuss something to with Manus although the Australian High Court has ruled that it is on hold but the possibility of reopening the Manus facility?

MINISTER RUDD: Neither the Prime Minister nor the Foreign Minister particularly discussed Manus because as you know it is now subject to a decision by the Australian High Court. The Australian Parliament is considering its response. So therefore we simply wait for these deliberations in Australia to be completed. That will take some time yet.

JOURNALIST: But is it still on the forefront of the Australian Government’s mind?

MINISTER RUDD: Well the Prime Minister has spoken of these matters in recent times most particularly in relation to Malaysia. Obviously we are all considering carefully the decision of the High Court and the Prime Minister has indicated her response in terms of proposed legislation before the Australian Parliament.

JOURNALIST: How was your meeting the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill?

MINISTER RUDD: Oh yeah we had a terrific dinner last night with the Foreign Minister and myself and the High Commissioner. We’ve met a number of times before, in fact back to the time when the Prime Minister was then the leader of the opposition.

I have been back and forwards here for many years so I have got to know many people in different capacities. The wonderful thing about democratic politics is that we usually end up in different capacities over time. But our conversation was good, it was friendly but it was substantive.

It’s about how do we lift the living standards of people of Papua New Guinea at grass roots level right across this vast country. Your country is getting bigger and bigger. You now have a population of nearly seven million spread across twenty, twenty two provinces, eighty or ninety different districts, a vast number of different languages.

Our challenge is to make sure local people have a better opportunity in life with better health, with better education, better law and order etc. And that’s exactly what I was talking to the Prime Minister about last night and what I’ve been talking to the Foreign Minister about today.

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JOURNALIST: Your opposition counterpart in Australia, Julie Bishop has called to end the donor aid relationship with PNG and treat PNG as more equal economic partners. Is that feasible?

MINISTER RUDD: Well the opposition say those sorts of things, I think we have been dealing with each other as development partners since I became Prime Minister of Australia and I find it a little bit ironic when the opposition begins to lecture this government on how to deal with Papua New Guinea.

As Prime Minister of Australia it took me two or three months to get to Port Moresby, my first visit to any foreign country after becoming Prime Minister. I seem recall it may have taken Mr Howard three or four years to make this destination. Which basically is just off the top of Queensland.

So one of the first things I did as Prime Minister was to establish these development cooperation partnerships. The Pacific Partnerships for Development actually set-out what we do in developing health, education, law and order and infrastructure sectors as an equal arrangement with what the government of PNG do and what we do as its number one development partner. And we did that way back in 2008 and have been doing it ever since and I think our friends in PNG understand that and for us and our side of politics in Australia it is always done on basis of absolute respect, absolute equality as it should be.

JOURNALIST: Have you touched anything on the setting up of the Sovereign Wealth Fund or is that something that you are going to discuss in the Ministerial Forum?

MINISTER RUDD: I’ll leave that to my colleagues because this is primarily a matter for the Papua New Guinea Government. We of course are happy to provide whatever advice we have from our experience of the future fund. I think this is an exciting time in Papua New Guinea; you have a major new resource project coming on stream. It’s fantastic for the future of the country. It’s a great opportunity to use those resources to invest in the future of Papua New Guinea.

But this is a matter for the Government here to determine, we are just friendly partners and we will provide whatever advice, expertise, experience that we have, but it is up to PNG to decide.

JOURNALIST: Final question from me if you don’t mind. Is the Australian Government at all concerned about the ongoing Supreme Court case of the legitimacy of the O’Neill government?

MINISTER RUDD: Well, let me tell you that what we respect about the good people of Papua New Guinea and their system of government is that any decision in Papua New Guinea, as in Australia, is ultimately reviewable by the courts.

And in Australia we have the High Court of Australia which from time to time agrees with the Australian Government and from time to time disagrees with the Australian Government. Well guess what, that’s what you’ve got courts for. Here in Papua New Guinea you have got the same institution. So like any other good friend of Papua New Guinea, we will watch what happens in the courts. But I’m sure this is going to be handled very well by

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Papua New Guinea’s institutional structures and the fabric of its own democracy. The exchange of robust opinions in Papua New Guinea is something which we in Australia understand. We belong to the same tradition.

OK folks, I think that’s enough, we’ll see you later.

END