Thank you for that introduction.

And thank you to Business Advantage for making this conference happen.

One of the highlights of my job as Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment has been getting to know Papua New Guinea better.

I’ve visited twice this year, for the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting, and for the APEC Tourism Ministers Meeting.

PNG has been my go-to destination to meet my counterparts and take forward Australia’s interests in APEC and in relations with PNG.

I also got to be on the judging panel in Port Moresby for a collaboration between Google and APEC to produce an app that would demonstrate the power of digital commerce.

The winners were a father and daughter team, Jonathan and Crystal Kewe, whose app will link billum makers to buyers.

So PNG has shown me how traditional, grassroots – or in this case, grass stems – industries can benefit from modern technology through brilliant programming. 

Visiting PNG has been an eye-opener in other ways as well.

For a start, it’s a very different country to the place where I grew up, and it’s different to that piece of Australia that I represent in the Australian Parliament.

My electorate, Parkes, is big.

If you picked it up and moved it north, it would cover 85 per cent of PNG.

Parkes has no mountains, no coastline, plenty of open plains, wonderful people, and very little rain.

Lately, no rain at all.

Like most of New South Wales, Parkes is in severe drought at the moment.

It’s a very difficult time for our farmers – a time when community spirit, that commitment to each other and to the place you share – becomes all the more important.

People’s commitment to each other’s wellbeing – that’s the kind of investment that I’m most interested in.

It’s our commitment to shared goals that gives rise to confidence, finds opportunities even in hardship, and steers a wise course in the good times as well.

Bilateral relations

Prime Minister – for Australia, PNG is a valuable partner, and the confidence that our relations generate is a real national asset.

There are deep historical ties between us, forged through many generations of commerce, church and community contacts, development work and war.

We share the same democratic heritage and we have shared interests in the world as fellow democracies.

PNG sits at the crossroads of our two neighbourhoods, the Pacific and SouthEast Asia, and has growing global connections, as my APEC visits brought home to me very clearly.

As befits a close neighbour, Australia takes a long term approach to this partnership.

That’s evident in the close security relations between our militaries, police forces and coast guards.

We are PNG’s primary security partner, and this is borne out in our support for APEC, particularly during leaders’ week.

Australia is providing security support, including high-end incident response capabilities from the Australian Defence Force, and capacity-building for Papua New Guinea’s police, defence force, and its border, intelligence, transport and cyber security agencies.

So our security relations are strong and heading in the right direction.

Investment, growth and confidence

My theme today is Australia’s long-term approach to economic partnership with PNG, and the confidence we generate by working together.

Direct investment is at the heart of this.

Australian governments and business know from deep experience that foreign investment is a great way to build confidence, skills, capital and wealth.

Firms from the United Kingdom first of all, then other European nations and the United States, Japan and more recently China have helped develop Australia from day one; and that trend continues.

Along with much needed capital, they brought cutting edge technology, skills for our workforce, and revenue for our government.

As my colleague Mr Ciobo has said, foreign investment spurs economic growth, creates jobs and raises our standard of living.

This is the background to bear in mind when we in the Australian Government encourage the Government of PNG to maintain a regulatory environment that welcomes foreign investment.

The other thing to bear in mind is that most countries around the world understand the benefits of foreign investment and are competing to attract it.

This is certainly front-of-mind for the Australian Government, and it shapes our policies on tax and competitiveness generally.

For all these reasons, investment is central to the Australian Government’s vision for relations between Australia and PNG.

We encourage Australian investment in PNG, for sure. 

Australia has $16 billion invested in PNG and that is a vote of confidence in that country and its future.

But just as important is the common interest our two nations have in attracting and regulating investment from other countries.

In the time remaining, I will suggest three principles for our work together, governments and businesses alike, to boost our investment relationship. To compete successfully for foreign investment, and for each of us to achieve our economic goals.

Partnering for success

Firstly, the partnership principle: at the heart of all success you’ll find people working together towards a common goal.

This is true at leaders’ level, where relations between Australia and PNG are very strong.

Prime Minister Turnbull was delighted to welcome Prime Minister O’Neill and several of his ministerial colleagues to Australia last month.

This is also true at the ministerial level, and I know Mr Turnbull, Foreign Minister Bishop, and Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Ciobo are looking forward to visiting PNG for APEC in November.

This close contact at the highest levels keeps our relationship heading in the right direction.

There’s also a strong network of personal relations in the public service, to implement our countries’ shared agenda.

I’ll just mention two new bilateral forums; the secretary-level Economic Cooperation Dialogue and the Trade and Investment Working Group. Both promote economic cooperation and remove impediments to bilateral trade and investment.

To maintain a good environment for business, partnerships between ministries, and between business and regulators, are crucial.

The more we can get business and government in the same room, as we are today, sharing perspectives and learning together, the better for our economies.

Often it is business that understands best many of the issues that regulators must manage, so it makes sense that they come together regularly.

Also critical are the relations between businesses and communities.

The social licence to operate is now well-understood in the resources industry.

The Australian Government, through our aid program, is investing in businesses that benefit communities and help us to achieve our aid objectives.

So, relationships are at the heart of all our economic efforts.

Working together on rules

The second principle is the power of agreed, predictable rules.

Contracts, of course, are the backbone of investment relationships.

Predictable, stable, consultative regulation, is also crucial, so that all stakeholders can have their say, their interests reflected, and adapt to change in a timely way.

Much of the international work that Australia and PNG do together is about agreeing on rules and standards.

APEC focuses on ensuring there are good rules for international trade that will translate to improvements in living standards.

I understand this has been a major focus of a public discussion series at the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct in Port Moresby in recent weeks.

Minister Pato said the message Papua New Guinea wants to send as APEC host is that the world will be all the better for a steady, free, fair, inclusive, rules-based trading system.

Executive Director for the APEC Secretariat based in Singapore, Dr Allan Bollard, said that “Over the time that Papua New Guinea has been in APEC, since 1993, income per capita has doubled.”

So Papua New Guineans today are, on average, roughly twice as well off as their parents.

APEC is about setting the rules that help member countries to lead the world in trade-driven growth.

Australia puts a high priority on setting liberalising trade agreements through trade deals.

The Australian Government is delighted that the Government of Papua New Guinea has expressed an interest in looking at this again.

We firmly believe it is in the interests of PNG to have another look at the PACER Plus agreement – the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations. If you sign on, it will benefit your economy and our entire Pacific region by freeing up trade and investment.

Looking to the long term

The third principle is operating for the long term.

Australian and PNG both have enormous resources potential.

It is tempting to see that wealth as something that can help meet current economic objectives.

However, in Australia’s experience, resource projects are typically complicated, capital intensive, multi-year operations.

They deliver returns over the long term or, often, not at all.

A long term approach is also important for diversification of the economy.

Innovation thrives on a base of well-maintained infrastructure.

This is true of tourism, agribusiness and services industries.

That’s why Australia helps to maintain 2,000kms of PNG’s most important roads each year.

It’s also why Australia will majority fund undersea telecommunications cables to PNG and Solomon Islands.

The Coral Sea Cable System will deliver faster, cheaper and more reliable communications infrastructure, affording both countries significant economic benefits.

With sound long-term planning and regulation, Australian and PNG businesses can innovate together to build a fast-growing, sustainable digital economy.

Australian businesses are keen to enhance their relationships in PNG through the supply of innovative technologies that support and sustain PNG’s development.

An example of this is a Sydney based company called Anstel, which brings the benefits of digital information management to PNG through Digicel’s extensive mobile network.

Three key areas of focus for this technology in PNG are:

  • agriculture, where Anstel’s Autonautics platform will allow farmers to monitor temperature changes, humidity levels and soil conditions to improve their product yields;
  • smart buildings, where the optimisation of electricity and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning will reduce electricity bills and power usage; and
  • food safety, where the monitoring of temperatures across the entire supply chain will result in better food quality.

Another great example of digital cooperation that will be enormously helpful for a country that relies so heavily on its air transport services.

Skynet is a leading Australian provider of satellite communications, and is supplying software solutions to aviation customers in PNG – fixed wing and helicopter, to manage flight tracking, data telemetry, scheduling, in-flight messaging, duress alarms and analytics. 

This is critical.

And, of course, the two Australian banks that have been operating in PNG for many years, ANZ and Westpac, have been very active in delivering innovative mobile and online banking solutions to their customers in PNG. 

After selling its retail banking operation to Kina Bank, ANZ maintains its corporate banking business in PNG.

Many of Westpac’s customers, and those of Kina Bank, are in rural and remote parts of the country where access to banking services is quite problematic for much of the population. 

This extension of banking and financial services has also helped to provide greater financial empowerment for more women in PNG.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen; Australia and PNG have an exciting future to look forward to.

APEC is a sign of PNG’s maturity on the global stage.

Australia is ready to invest in PNG and to partner with PNG, for the long term.

And the Australian Government is committed to further strengthening and diversifying our longstanding relationship with PNG; a relationship that continues to benefit both countries.

Thank you.

Media enquiries

  • Assistant Minister's office: (02) 6277 4607
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555