Anthony Albanese says Australia has come out of a “naughty corner” in its relationship with Papua New Guinea

the main points
  • Anthony Albanese says Australia’s foreign aid budget for Papua New Guinea is “in the national interest of Australia”.
  • Papua New Guinea and Australia have agreed to a bilateral security treaty.
  • There will be an expansion of a program that allows people in Papua New Guinea to work in Australia’s agricultural and care sectors.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was in the national interest to strengthen aid relations with Papua New Guinea after Australia was left in the “naughty corner” under the coalition government.
It comes as the federal opposition says it is disappointing that a security pact was not signed with Papua New Guinea during the prime minister’s two-day visit.

Anthony Albanese wrapped up his trip to Papua New Guinea on Friday afternoon – the first for a prime minister since 2018 – and secured an agreement to end talks on a security pact by the end of April.

Albanese said he was “hopeful to get a signing in June”.
Simon Birmingham, the Liberal MP, said that while the association with Papua New Guinea was welcome, it was “disappointing” that the treaty was not signed during the visit.
But back in Australia, Albanese said his government had been busy repairing relations since winning the election.
“We were in a situation where we were in the miserable corner, unable to engage the area,” Albanese said on Saturday.
“You can’t get involved in our region without worrying about climate change and taking action. That’s what we did.”
Albanese said Australia had a national interest in an aid program that would raise living standards for people in the region.
“This is good humanitarian policy, but it is also good for Australia’s national interest,” Albanese said.

Australia’s official aid budget is estimated at around $500 million for 2022-23.

The captains of Papua New Guinea and Australia greet rugby league players before a match at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in September 2022. The possibility of a Papua New Guinea-based team in the National Football League will be a topic for future conversations. Source: aap / Darren England

Mr Albanese said it was important that healthcare and education in Papua New Guinea be in top condition.

The previous coalition government began working on the security treaty in 2020 with the signing of the Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership.
The fourth pillar of this partnership was a bilateral security treaty that addresses not only defense issues, but “other common interests, including crisis and disaster management, enhanced information exchange, enhanced border management, transnational crime, cyber security and land, air and sea security.”
“While it is disappointing that the treaty was not signed on this visit, I look forward to it being signed in the coming months,” the Birmingham senator told reporters in Adelaide on Friday.
“We have to make sure that we work as inclusively as possible with these regional partners.”

Australia is Papua New Guinea’s largest trading and investment partner and provides the largest share of development aid.

During the trip, Papua New Guinea supported Australia’s bid to host the COP31 climate summit in 2026, and Mr Albanese backed a push to increase the number of skilled and unskilled workers in Papua New Guinea holding jobs in areas such as agriculture and the care sector.
In addition, a five-year program was agreed to enable more Papua New Guinean women to take up leadership roles including being elected to parliament.
Further talks are planned on law and order and policing issues, improving biosecurity and trade, as well as a potential Papua New Guinea national rugby league team.
Mr Albanese said his counterpart in Papua New Guinea was very excited about the NRL team.
“I know people in Queensland and New South Wales are excited about rugby league,” he said on Saturday.
“But let me tell you this, the equivalent is the passion we have here in Australia for badminton compared to the passion that people in Papua New Guinea have for rugby league.”

Mr Albanese was urged during the trip to do more to tackle climate change, as the Pacific region is seen as the front line in terms of catastrophic damage from more frequent and intense weather events.

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