2021 PNG Mining and Petroleum Conference
Thank you for the opportunity to address the PNG Mining and Petroleum Conference.
Although I’m unable to join you in person, I was in Papua New Guinea in July, and I saw first-hand the way in which our two countries are working together to support the wellbeing and prosperity of PNG.
I was really pleased to see our great work to rebuild the Angau Hospital in Lae, to launch security and infrastructure upgrades in Port Moresby, and to launch the design work for connecting PNG through the trans-national highway.
What was abundantly clear during my trip was that our two nations are more than neighbours.
We are true partners, working together.
We’ve seen that in the way we’ve worked together on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August last year, our two Prime Ministers formalised our longstanding historic and personal ties when they signed a comprehensive strategic and economic partnership.
We pivoted our aid program to support PNG’s efforts to respond to the pandemic, addressing both the health and economic impacts.
We have deployed six Australian medical assistance teams to help manage the COVID-19 caseload, and we’ve supplied critical oxygen equipment, transported around PNG by the fantastic men and women of our Australian Defence Force.
We’ve also contributed additional funding to the health and education sectors, and supported the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
In all, we’ve delivered over $340 million of COVID-related support to PNG.
This support is critical to our joint objective of re-opening international borders and normalising our business, trade, tourism, and education ties.
Although the pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis, it of course has enormous flow-on effects on businesses – particularly those operating across our borders.
That’s why we worked with Air Niugini throughout the pandemic to ensure that commercial flights to Australia never stopped.
We also recognised the importance of fly-in fly-out workers for the mining and petroleum sectors, so we’ve worked closely with business and state governments in Australia to support travel-exemption arrangements for these workers.
Likewise, we’ve assisted the PNG Government introduce pre-departure COVID testing at Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby.
Since 1 November, Australia has been gradually relaxing its border restrictions under a risk-based approach to reopening.
I’m looking forward to further relaxation in travel restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so.
Alongside our health support we’ve also been providing economic support to the Government of PNG, in the form of loans and grants, to help mitigate the worst economic impacts of the pandemic.
We have been encouraged by progress on some major resource project negotiations this year - namely Papua LNG and P’nyang.
Getting these negotiations over the line would improve economic certainty and through the construction phase, stimulate urgently needed investment.
We know as you do that business requires a predictable operating environment.
Certainty around mining, oil and gas legislation will encourage investment in PNG.
I encourage ongoing discussion and consultation between industry and government on new polices that affect businesses operating in PNG, including where relevant on tax and other regulatory issues.
Infrastructure is another shared interest for all of us.
The Australian Government has heard the PNG Government’s call for quality infrastructure to support development, and I’m pleased to see that there’s now a sizeable pipeline of potential projects in PNG as part of the $2 billion Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific (AIFFP).
This includes potential investments in electricity, roads and ports.
Investments such as these will lay the foundations for long-term, sustainable economic growth.
We expect that Australian-funded port and road upgrades will reduce the cost of doing business for firms operating in PNG.
Likewise with electricity.
We remain fully committed to the PNG Electrification Partnership that was announced at APEC 2018.
Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States are working together with PNG to support its goal of connecting 70 per cent of its population to electricity by 2030.
Projects are underway through the AIFFP and each country’s bilateral program to meet this goal.
During this conference, and throughout all the discussions you’ll be having, know that the Australian Government remains committed to working with the PNG Government – and with the Australian and PNG business communities – to promote an open, inclusive, prosperous and resilient region.
Have a great conference.