PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 12488

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE PRIME MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, SIR MICHAEL SOMARE PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/08/2002

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 12488

E&OE...........

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

Prime Minister of Australia, distinguished officials from Australia, members of the Cabinet. Prime Minister and I had a good meeting, touching on our relationship, Australia';s relationship, and Papua New Guinea relationship. The Prime Minister later on met with most of the Cabinet members. We touched bases on our relationship, our dealings with the pacific and Asia Pacific region, we also touched base on matters which concern us that is our budget process and the how we are going through. I briefed the Australian Prime Minister with the situation up in the country, some problems that we are going through, we exchanged notes about PNG and Australia, we exchanged notes in particular areas like Bougainville, a bit about gazelle restoration program and of course generally briefing the Prime Minister of Australia on our budget process and what we are doing. As you know it is a new government, new Cabinet today, most of the briefing was done by caretaker Cabinet and of course the caretaker Cabinet changed from Cabinet proper today and our discussions were very fruitful and successful. I think Australia - Mr Howard was glad to be able to meet most of the Ministers. Most of them are new, and quite a number of new people in the Cabinet and I think it was in general, conducting of our meeting went extremely well. Ladies and gentlemen I will ask the Australian Prime Minister Mr Howard to say a few words.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well thank you very much Sir Michael, it is really very good that I have had the opportunity to come here so soon after the installation of the new government on Papua New Guinean soil. I congratulate Sir Michael Somare on his reappointment as Prime Minister, I congratulate all of the newly sworn in members of his Cabinet. I met them a few moments ago, I wish them well. Australia and Papua New Guinea are the very closest of friends. Michael is a well respected, long standing friend of Australia. We know him well from his earlier periods as Prime Minister and his long service to the people of Papua New Guinea in public life. We discussed a number of issues, the challenges that Papua New Guinea has, the common foreign policy interests we have. I believe we can work together very closely. Australia is both a friend and a pacific partner, and I appreciate very much the closeness of the relationship. It has deep sentimental characteristics as well as areas of common self interest that we hope to pursue together and I know that our officials will get together very quickly as a result of the framework that the Prime Minister and I have established. And where we can assist on a proper basis, we will. And we will continue to be a very good friend and ally of your country, Sir Michael, and I thank you very warmly for being able to receive me the very day that your Ministry is appointed. It is a busy day and a very important day and it is very kind that you have been able to fit me in to all the commitments that you have. But it is great to be back and I look forward tomorrow';s ceremony. And you have been kind enough to indicate you will be accompanying me to it. It is a very important moment in the history of the two countries and it really is very nice to be back in Port Moresby.

JOURNALIST:

….(inaudible) was the asylum seekers discussed (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well, yes it was. I mean Sir Michael, do you want to say something about this? Yes it was discussed and Sir Michael indicated to me that as far as he was concerned Papua New Guinea and Australia should each fulfill and respect the agreement that was made between Morauta Government and my Government last year. That means that he wouldn';t like to see the number of people in manus go above 1000. I indicated to him that I fully understood that, and I also indicated that I didn';t think there was any real likelihood that it would and that I expected that it wouldn';t go above where it is now and over time it would reduce. I do want to record my gratitude and the gratitude of the Australian government to the Government and people of Papua New Guinea for their willingness a year ago to make the base in Manus Island available. It was very helpful. It was a friendly gesture and it is one that I am very grateful for and can I say that what Sir Michael said to me about it this afternoon is of course totally understandable and it is a matter for Papua New Guinea and of course fully acceptable as far as Australia is concerned and I think very reasonable and very fair and it was the understanding we had.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard was there any discussion in regard to Australian aid to PNG.

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

There were discussions on the program. As I said earlier on, we have to brief Mr Howard on how we are positioned right now with the recession, taking the recession into account and the difficulties we are going through with our proposed supplementary budget that will be brought down next week and I briefed Mr Howard on issues of possible looking at some of the programs that the Australian government through it is aid program are giving us assistance on and there are possibilities which we will get the officials together to present our case to the Australian government.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Somare, how much more do you need from Australia?

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

We have not, I have not given any actual figures, what I expressed today the difficulties we will be going through for the next two to three years and if there was a possibility of us getting together, get the officials from both countries to be able to discuss how we are positioned this time and how we will be positioned in the next 3 years, we have not actually worked on any figures.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard what is the likelihood of Australia giving more to Papua New Guinea?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well I think in the spirit of what Sir Michael has said it is premature to be talking about particular additions to what is already done because at this stage we haven';t received any specific requests. He has been very kind to brief me on the dimension of the budget situation. The detail of that is of course is a matter for the government of Papua New Guinea to talk about publicly. We are going to get our officials together and Australia in the past has been a good friend of Papua New Guinea';s and we have sought to link assistance to some changes and reforms and I know that the government here is understanding of the reform challenges as I am in Australia. No government in the world, the government of Papua New Guinea and the government of Australia have the same challenge, every government has got to continue to embrace economic reform, it';s not just developing countries, we all have these challenges. But at this stage it is premature as Sir Michael indicated, quite premature to talk about specific additions. We are going to get our officials together and they will come back to us and then we will talk further.

JOURNALIST:

Is there any time frame …………………….

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Our officials will get together very quickly. We want to help where we can, make no mistake about that. But like any dealing between two independent and self respecting countries you sit down and you work out what is a proper basis for affording assistance and we have always done that in the past and that will continue to be the situation. I mean you all are aware that Papua New Guinea is by far the largest recipient of Australian foreign aid and will continue to be. And as far as I';m concerned that is the right priority. There is no country that is more in my assessment deserving of Australia';s overseas aid assistance than this country and that is a view I have expressed consistently in Australia and elsewhere.

JOURNALIST:

Sir Michael, did you nominate any specific projects that you might be seeking further assistance from Australia?

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

No I did not nominate any particular project but we discussed the issue of the pipeline. We would like to be able to bring the discussions and agreement much closer. As you know it is a long process. Its about 2002, the process of pipeline would be in operation and there are areas where we want to arrange with the Australian Prime Minister on possible looking at expediting it, getting a commitment on us to continue encouraging this pipeline to go down to Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, there has been some concern in Papua New Guinea that the Queensland government has undermined the pipeline project. Can you see the commonwealth doing anything positive to encourage the gas pipeline going ahead.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD:

Well we have agreed that this issue is one of those things that will be looked at in detail by our officials when they get together very early in the peace, and that meeting will be very soon. In the end like any other resource project it has to stack up commercially. You can';t get resource projects going anywhere in the world unless they stack up commercially and that';s what we bring to this and its what I know the government of Papua New Guinea brings to it. I would be concerned, I can';t believe that the Queensland government is doing anything deliberately to frustrate it. I would not think that of the Queensland government.

JOURNALIST:

Sir Michael, perhaps we can get clarification from you on where you see the arrangement on Manus Island standing. Are you expecting any more refugees (inaudible) are you saying do you want to see it phased out (inaudible) in October when the agreement runs out. What is the exact status…

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

I made my position very clear the other day at the press conference and is said we will not take more than 1000 refugees. This is an agreement which the previous government signed. We will honour it. We will allow the centre to continue and hopefully we will fade out the, it will fade out eventually but we would not like to see as Mr Howard pointed out I said to him that we would not like to see the increase more than 1000 refugees.

JOURNALIST:

Sir Michael what is your governments position on the issue of West Papua.

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia, we always respect the sovereignty of Indonesia and West Papua as an integral part and if any issue that is raised internationally we always says that it has to be referred to Indonesia, and Indonesian people, and Indonesian sovereign state alone can deal with the problem.

JOURNALIST:

Do you see a role for Papua New Guinea as a mediator between the west Papuan community and the Indonesian Government.

PRIME MINISTER SOMARE:

I have made it quite clear that it a problem with West Papua it is their problem but if we are asked by Indonesia to help, definitely.

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.

[ends]

Transcript 12488