Nine deployees including doctors and nurses will focus on general, maternal and childcare and will be deployed for two weeks and five deployees will work on public health issues such as disease outbreak and the promotion of safe hygiene practices. So what we’ve done in PNG, as we’ve done with other disasters is respond to the needs of the Government so when Prime Minister O’Neill initially requested our assistance we provided our first batch of $5 million assistance package and that included assisting non- Government organisations in the Highlands, recovery support in agriculture, health and protection, supporting vulnerable women and children, electrical transformers to re-establish power in some of the provinces and humanitarian supplies as well. I think Catherine, the important thing to understand here is that there are challenges in Papua New Guinea and so therefore we responded to the requests of the Papua New Guinean Government and we’ve met those requests as they’ve been asked including of course the deployment of our three Chinook helicopters and ADF personnel to help distribute supplies. They made over 30 flights Catherine to transport Australian and partner medical and humanitarian supplies to warehouses in both southern and western highlands and that included over 300 tonnes of supplies transported. Now again, after consultations with PNG authorities, those assets have now been returned to Australia but we will continue to make those assets available as necessary to support the ongoing relief.
Well I wanted to ask about that because we understand that the PNG Government is struggling to pay for the cost of renting private helicopters and there are still communities in very remote areas that say they need critical aid relief. There are reports just this week that people are still drinking contaminated water so why have they been pulled out already?
We, like any other country, have returned those assets to Australia after consultation with the PNG authorities. Now as I said we continue to make these assets available as necessary to support the ongoing relief. We continue to liaise with PNG authorities on the logistical requirements to support the relief effort and under current plans I’m advised that a C130 will return to PNG in the coming days to assist with the transport of supplies arriving from the World Food Program. We are deploying in response to the requests that are being made to us by the PNG Government. They are coordinating the response, we and other donors are responding to those needs as they arise and as I said we remain available to meet needs as they arise and as requests are made to us.
Well I’m interested in that because the Prime Minister in Parliament talked about how PNG will need extra additional funds from its international partners seeking US 3 million from the ADB. Today we’ve just had the United Nations announce it’s going to release US 9.2 million and so far Australia has funded around $5 million and I note that Tonga received nearly three times that for its recovery post cyclone Gita there, so why is there that discrepancy in the amount of money being given to PNG versus Tonga and do you think that there will be more that you will - are you just waiting for the PNG Government to actually make that official request?
Well Catherine a couple of points if I may, this is a continuing humanitarian issue so there’s humanitarian, the immediate aftermath and then there’s the assessment of what the issue, what the recovery phase is going to be and the Foreign Minister and I travelled to Tonga to see for ourselves and have a discussion with the Tongan Government, the Tongan Prime Minister and a number of his ministers in relation to what the ongoing needs are going to be and we made a commitment there. The point that I’m making here is, that yes there was an initial $5 million but don’t forget we’ve also been deploying considerable Defence assets. We are also funding a whole range of other things which are separate to that assistance package, so you have to look at the totality of Australia’s response and look at all of that together. Having said that, obviously we now will look to the next phase and see what further analysis is done by the PNG Government in relation to what its future needs are. Look this is an ongoing relationship, these are our neighbours and as I said we stand ready to respond as required. We have to respond to the Sovereign request of another nation.
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