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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 69

Senator SANDY MACDONALD (2:07 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison. Minister, will you update the Senate on the Australian government's efforts to help restore law and order in our immediate region?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —This question from Senator Sandy Macdonald is indeed a timely one. Today marks a significant milestone in the shared history of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Today, for the first time, uniformed Australian police will be patrolling Port Moresby alongside the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. That is a milestone. That is a result of 15 months hard work and discussion with the authorities in New Guinea. Currently there are 44 Australian police officers assisting in Port Moresby, with a further 28 due to arrive on 19 December. These numbers will substantially increase during 2005.

This policing package forms an integral part of the enhanced cooperation program that we have entered into with Papua New Guinea. This policing program will involve new police vehicles in a repair and replacement program for the existing police fleet in New Guinea, a refurbishment of the eight Port Moresby police stations, sourcing and supply of new uniforms and equipment, and, importantly, the development of a standard operating procedure program with the PNG police in relation to internal disciplinary breaches, workplace integration and operational activity.

The Howard government is totally committed to assisting in the region in relation to matters touching on security and law enforcement. This operation will enhance greatly the restoration of law and order in Papua New Guinea and follows on from the successful deployment of Australian police in Bougainville some three months ago. There are reports that that is proceeding well. The Australian Customs Service is also doing a very good job in PNG, where it has been now for some months.

This program is essential for our relationship with PNG and signifies to the region that the Howard government is serious about committing to assisting in the region in relation to matters of law enforcement. That is demonstrated also by our commitment in the Solomons, where an outstanding job has been done by the Australian Federal Police and Australian Protective Service, working with other police forces in the region. Of course, there is also the fine record that we have of Australian police in East Timor, where we have seen over a substantial period of time an outstanding contribution by Australian police.

As a result of this commitment to the region, the Howard government decided early this year to form an international deployment group. This recognised the importance of policing in our region and recognised that we would be deploying police to countries in our region to assist in capacity building and matters of law enforcement. This program in New Guinea is good news for the region, good news for New Guinea and very good news for our relationship with Papua New Guinea, which goes back a very long time.