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PM signs security treaty ‘commitment’ with PNG – as it happened


Albanese, Marape sign ‘joint statement of commitment’ for security treaty

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

Anthony Albanese and the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, have issued a joint statement after their meeting in Port Moresby.

First with the news – the security treaty hasn’t been signed, but it is much closer to completion. They have signed a “joint statement of commitment”.

Here is the wording from the press release:

The Prime Ministers agreed a joint statement of commitment for a Bilateral Security Treaty between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and looked forward to the early conclusion of negotiations, guided by respective Ministers for Foreign Affairs. They noted the Treaty would be a natural progression in the existing security partnership, reflecting the two countries’ shared history, geographic proximity, and common regional strategic outlook, and would fulfil a commitment made in the CSEP [comprehensive strategic and economic partnership].

In this context, the leaders recognised the importance of effective law and order and a strong justice and police system in underpinning Papua New Guinea’s security and economic development and undertook to intensify cooperation in these areas, including to address PNG’s priority needs. They noted the value of the current policing partnership, and the significance of working together in supporting policing operations in the Pacific region.

Key events

What we learned today, Thursday 12 January

With that, we will wrap up the blog for the night. Here’s what happened today:

Australia cancels Afghanistan cricket tour

Australia has pulled out of its upcoming men’s ODI series against Afghanistan citing further restrictions on women’s rights imposed in the country by the Taliban, AAP reports.

Australia had been set to meet Afghanistan in the United Arab Emirates for three matches in March but, following consultation with the Australian Government and other stakeholders, Cricket Australia (CA) has decided to scrap the series.

When the capital city, Kabul, fell to the Taliban in August 2021, the extremist group banned women from playing sport on the grounds that doing so would contravene Islamic laws requiring their hair and skin to be covered.

In a statement on Thursday, CA said the decision to withdraw from the men’s ODI series followed recent Taliban restrictions placed on women’s and girls’ education and employment opportunities and their ability to access parks and gyms.

CA is committed to supporting growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country.

We thank the Australian government for its support on this matter.

The cancellation of the series comes after Australia cited similar reasons for scrapping a one-off Test against Afghanistan that had been set to be played in Hobart in November 2021.

In November 2021, the ICC formed a working group aiming to support and review women’s and men’s cricket in Afghanistan but more than a year later, the country remains the only full member of the ICC without a fully operational women’s team.

The ICC chief executive, Geoff Allardice, said this week that recent crackdowns were worrying.

Our board has been monitoring progress since the change of regime.

It is a concern that progress is not being made in Afghanistan and it’s something our board will consider at its next meeting in March.

The cancellation limits Australia’s match practice ahead of October’s ODI World Cup to a five-match series against South Africa and a three-match series against host nation India.

Ex-navy chief under scrutiny over submarine trip with girlfriend

A former chief of the Royal Australian Navy has been criticised for taking his girlfriend for a ride on a military submarine and proposing to her on board.

Vice Admiral Michael Noonan used his position as the chief of navy to unilaterally grant his partner Samantha Heighway approval to board the HMAS Waller on June 23 last year, defence has confirmed.

The submarine was at sea to film material for Defence Force Recruiting near Geraldton in Western Australia at the time.

The Defence Department has said no rules were broken, but “it is not routine for Defence members to take a civilian partner/spouse/relative on an overnight sea ride”.

“Defence is aware personal photographs were taken during the visit.”

The Guardian has confirmed the proposal took place.

In response to a question on notice in the senate, the defence department said there was no expense to taxpayers.

“No cost due to Chief of Navy visit as submarine was already at sea.”

But Coalition assistant defence spokesman, Phil Thompson, told News Corp the incident was an “abuse of power”.

“The Navy is a professional outfit, this isn’t the chief of Navy’s personal love sub,” he said.

Noonan retired from defence in last year after a 38-year-career. The Guardian has sought comment from Noonan.

Michael Noonan in uniform
Former chief of navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan in October 2021. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/EPA

And if you want a quick wrap of the day’s news (and it has been a busy one for a January Thursday), you can’t miss our Afternoon Updates:

Finally, Albanese speaks about Australia’s investments in PNG:

We live in the fastest growing region of the world in human history. That presents an enormous opportunity for us if we’re capable of just seizing it. And today I’ve met with not just the prime minister but the treasurer, the finance minister, the trade minister and their outlook is one which is one of a common interests that I share that we need to seize that opportunity and we seize it by investing in infrastructure and investing in our people.

So investing in capital and investing in labour to put it in those terms. And if we invest in labour and one of the ways that we can do that is by providing increased training opportunities in Australia for Papua New Guinea citizens increased opportunities for people to get visas come to Australia, get skills commit and make payments back here to PNG that assists with development.

If we do that if we develop industries in ways in which we’re talking today, about ministers, we’re talking about value adding it was a conversation that could have been had in Australia as well. How can we not just export the agricultural produce and other produce which is here and then import it back when greater value is being given? But how do we make the PNG economy more resilient? Now I’m trying to do that in Australia.

Prime minister Marape is trying to do that in Papua New Guinea, but we have a common interest both of us in our nations being successful because we are so linked and I’m I’m very very positive about the future here in PNG.

This is a great nation, which is approaching 50 years of independence, and one in which Australians hopefully one of the things that today’s about is sending a message to Australian businesses well, we want you to invest here. We want you to invest here in your interests, but also in the interests of lifting living standards of people in PNG. I’m confident that we can do that. I’m more confident than I was even this morning that we can do that together. And we are good friends. We’ve developed a very positive and open and constructive and trusting relationship.

The leaders are taking questions, with Albanese being asked about the potential security agreement:

Obviously there are regional implications of that.

If I can say that when we speak about our security arrangement, one of the things we’re spoken about is increased defense cooperation including training of personnel we’ve spoken about increased in terms of potential for joint operations as well as for other issues.

One of the things that both of our governments have done recently is establish anti corruption commissions, both in PNG and in Australia. And I know that people our background in Australia are playing a role there.

One of the things that we’re talking about with the security arrangement is very much a comprehensive arrangement rather than a narrow one. So that includes that includes a whole range of issues, which are security issues, cyber security, domestic security and policing arrangements. The issue of climate change is also a security issue.

So this is a very broad agreement recognising that our security interests intertwined and including by virtue of our geography, decisions taken in one country have an impact in the other. And that’s why our security interests in my view, I said, I think in the meeting today, indivisible, indivisible and that’s why it makes sense for us to have that breadth of security cooperation across the board.

Albanese has continued, discussing how important it was to expand PNG’s agricultural industry, and shared passions for rugby league:

There are now more than 1000 Pacific labour scheme workers from PNG in Australia, and we support prime minister Marape’s ambition to deploy some 8000 workers to Australia.

Today we spoke about their being not just in agriculture, but in the care sector as well. That is in something that brings benefit to Australia, providing skilled labour and non-skilled labour in areas of need. But it also provides economic assistance to Papua New Guinea as well.

I’m pleased that Papua New Guineans will have the opportunity to move with their families to Australia, under our new Pacific engagement visa. There was a clear commitment that we gave at the federal election.

And that commitment is been delivered along with other commitments we made prior to my election in May of last year, we agreed to a reciprocal Working Holiday Visa arrangement from the first of July 2023. Now apart from economic enhancement, security enhancement, we also have spoken about cultural enhancement between us and just People to People engagement as well.

Now one of the areas where that’s important is in the area of rugby league. As I told the PNG Parliament when I had the great honour to address it today, I want to say a PNG based team participate in the NRL and that’s something also that we can work towards.

2025 will be an important date for Papua New Guinea but it will also be an important date for Australia and the relationship between the party and in government that I’m proud to lead.

Historically the leadership and PNG’s rise to independence is very important. It’s something that since then we’ve been building the relationship, but I’m very confident that in the next couple of years, we will build an even stronger relationship between our two countries.

The PM has stepped up, beginning by thanking his counterpart for hosting them and focusing on the importance of the relationship:

As your close neighbor it is appropriate that we’ve been in considerable contact with each other since my election as prime minister.

Today, though, is a particularly important one, our fourth bilateral leaders meeting which was supplemented by a meeting with so many of your senior ministers that certainly we appreciate the respect that the government has given to the Australian delegation that I’ve brought here today.

Today’s annual leaders dialogue has strengthened an incredible partnership with our two countries has a comprehensive partnership of equals as I spoke about at the parliament, it’s based upon the fact that our economic cooperation and our security cooperation is in both of our interests. Our interests are indivisible.

You can’t have a more secure Papua New Guinea with that a more secure Australia and vice versa. We have an interest in increasing our trade and our economic relationships. And Australia has a direct interest in supporting the economic development and lifting of living standards here in Papua New Guinea.

I’m very pleased that prime minister Marape and I have agreed a joint statement of commitment to enter a bilateral security treaty. We’ve agreed on a concrete timetable going forward, that negotiations will be concluded by the end of April and we hope to have a signing in June. A key outcome of the meeting today.

As part of those discussions. We also directly discussed the way that we can provide more cooperation on law and order and policing issues. We recognise that our work together to build major airports, roads and electrification projects across Papua New Guinea are important. and we will examine potential new trade agreements including how we can work together to expand PNGs agricultural production, including providing further support for biosecurity issues here in PNG.

Marape has continued, thanking the PM and the media for their reporting, adding that he has focused on PNG-Australian relations in his time as leader:

I visited Australia as a signal that Australia is the number one foreign relations that we have with us, without compromising our relationships.

And today the gist of asking prime minister Albanese to speak in Parliament also signals the context. We had good meetings. People to People, on our relationships, businesses, and of course, our government.

The government relationships have been anchored by our shared interests. We look forward to working together side by side.

And prime minister Anthony Albanese has stepped up with the the prime minister of Papaua New Guinea, James Marape, for a press conference after historic talks between the leaders.

Marape begins by describing the “juncture” that Australian-PNG relations are at in this moment:

Its important at the national leadership level, that we don’t just meet as prime minister to prime minister, but as leader to leader. We have come out of very fruitful discussions, our discussions remained on how we can progress our two nations, and on comprehensive strategic and economic partnerships.

I am satisfied that we’re elevating to higher heights how we relate, especially those areas of concern for people and businesses.

We’ve now set in motion a series of activities that will take place between our officially, and hopefully we will meet again in April to sign a security arrangement.

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

The Australian government will support the expansion of women’s leadership and combat gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. Both countries have also vowed to significantly ramp up PNG’s participation in the a key Australian labour mobility scheme.

The announcements were included in a joint statement issued after the meeting between Anthony Albanese and his PNG counterpart, James Marape, in Port Moresby this afternoon:

The Prime Ministers recognised the critical importance of gender equality to sustainable development outcomes. Leaders welcomed the recent election of two women to the Papua New Guinea National Parliament but agreed there was a need to accelerate progress, especially in the areas of increasing women’s leadership, expanding women’s economic empowerment and combatting gender-based violence as priorities. Prime Minister Albanese announced Australia would continue to support gender equality and women’s empowerment efforts in Papua New Guinea with a new five-year investment, PNG Women Lead, to support the expansion of women’s leadership in PNG and combat gender-based violence.

And here are the key points on labour mobility and visa arrangements:

The Prime Ministers declared their intention to significantly boost Papua New Guinea’s participation in the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme. Acknowledging Prime Minister Marape’s ambition to deploy 8,000 PALM workers to Australia, the Prime Ministers asked responsible Ministers to identify ways to strengthen Papua New Guinea’s worker mobilisation system and to consider at the 2023 Ministerial Forum specific actions for each side to take.

The Prime Ministers welcomed Papua New Guinea’s inclusion in the Pacific Engagement Visa. Prime Minister Marape welcomed Australia’s commitment to provide in-country support for Pacific Engagement Visa applicants to connect with employers in Australia.

The Prime Ministers agreed to implement the reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangement from 1 July 2023, allowing young adults to have an extended holiday in each other’s country, during which they could work and undertake short-term study. Both programs would encourage cultural exchange and closer ties between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and strengthen economic links.

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

Australia and Papua New Guinea now plan to finish negotiations on the security treaty by April (the foreign ministers of both countries will take up the talks from here).

A statement issued moments ago by Anthony Albanese and James Marape says the security treaty – “subject to negotiations and agreement by both countries” – will “reinforce our mutual respect and enable both countries to protect and enhance their independence, sovereignty and resilience”.

I have bolded some of the dot points with relevance to the competition with China for influence (including the emphasis on a Pacific family-first approach to security).

The statement says other goals include to:

  • Strengthen our position as vital security partners and assist both countries to protect and enhance our sovereignty and resilience;

  • Build on the strong platform of our existing bilateral agreements and understandings;

  • Solidify Pacific regional agreements and understandings, including the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ consensus on the concept of regionalism and a Forum family first approach to peace and security;

  • Reflect the evolving nature of our shared security interests, recognising that non-traditional security challenges, such as climate change, cyber security, and economic elements of statecraft, affect our strategic environment;

  • Recognise that because our security interests are intertwined, including by virtue of our geography, decisions taken by one country affect the security of the other;

  • Commit to deeper and more regular information sharing and exchanges on security and strategic challenges;

  • Enhance the scope and depth of our ongoing practical cooperation and facilitate joint security operations and activities and greater interoperability;

  • Capture the breadth of our security cooperation while providing a mandate for future work in areas of shared interest;

  • Be public and transparent, consistent with each other’s treaty practices and national laws; and

  • Remain a contemporary reflection of our shared interests, including through regular consultations on its implementation.

Both countries plan to maintain “political-level engagement and oversight to facilitate progress on the BST in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect”.





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