Stability in PNG vital to Australia

CANBERRA – The stability and economic progress of Papua New Guinea, other Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste is of fundamental interest to Australia.

“Our ties with these neighbours are long-standing and will be enduring,” Australia said in its 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper released in Canberra Thursday.

“We are bound by migration, education and, in many cases, historical ties.

The white paper said that stability in PNG, the wider Pacific and Timor-Leste, for example, was vital to Australia’s ability to defend its northern approaches, secure it borders and protect its exclusive economic zone.

“Australia will enhance engagement with Papua New Guinea, other Pacific countries and Timor-Leste as well as with regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum.”

In a section, an enduring partnership with Papua New Guinea, the white paper said that supporting a stable and prosperous Papua New Guinea was one of Australia’s most important foreign policy objectives.

It noted that the Torres Strait was the closest thing Australia had to a land border – it is less than 4km from PNG mainland to the nearest Australian populated island.

“Developments in PNG substantial implications for Australia, including our defence, border security, health security and economy.

It is our shared interest that Australia remains Papua New Guinea’s principal security partner. We will continue to pursue close defence co-operation and build capacity in policing and law and justice. We will work with Papua New Guinea to tackle illegal fishing, trans-national crime and people smuggling.

“Ensuring the integrity of the Torres Strait Treaty, the foundation of our border arrangements, will remain a priority.

Notwithstanding its current fiscal challenges, PNG has considerable economic potential and a growing number of trade and investment partners.

“In this challenging economic landscape, Australia will have to compete harder for business. Australian companies have already invested $18 billion ($F28.5b) in Papua New Guinea. Some 4600 Australian firms do business there.”

The white paper noted that a significant part of Papua New Guinea’s economy relies on foreign investment in resource projects.

While this offered potential for growth, a more diverse economy also focused on agriculture, fisheries, services and tourism, as well as better governance, that would be essential for Papua New Guinea to convert its natural endowments into sustained, broad-based economic growth, it said.

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