PNG, Australia and NZ prime ministers talk up stronger bilateral relations


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PNG, Australia and NZ prime ministers talk up stronger bilateral relations

PMs John Key - Peter O'Neill

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (left) with Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill at the Pacific Islands Forum today. Image: Henry Yamo/PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Henry Yamo on Rarotonga

Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill met his Australian and New Zealand counterparts today in a move to strengthen bilateral relations between all three countries.

O’Neill met NZ Prime Minister John Key this morning for discussions which included progress on the LNG project in the Southern Highlands, the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the government’s five-year development priorities – health, education, law and order and infrastructure development.

O’Neill later met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to discuss Forum perspectives, bilateral relations and asylum seekers.

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One notable issue agreed to by both O’Neill and Gillard was that the review of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was timely to ensure that the secretariat would be delivering effectively to Pacific people.

Both prime ministers also re-emphasised the need for Fiji to remain committed to an early return to parliamentary democracy by 2014.

Fiji democracy
“PNG is committed to see Fiji return to parliamentary democracy and will do everything within its means to assist Fiji achieve that come 2014,” O’Neill said.

Gillard came up with an initiative to promote gender equality in the region and this was discussed with O’Neill in their meeting, and announced later at a press conference.

Supporting her initiative, Gillard said: “We know that a key indicator of economic advancement is the full inclusion of women in all aspects of society and at all levels with better distribution between women and men.”

While congratulating Gillard for the initiative, O’Neill reminded her that in the recent PNG election, three women candidates had been elected to Parliament.

And in recognition of the women and gender equality, O’Neill had appointed one of the women, Loujaya Toni, as Minister for Community Development, Women and Youth, and a second one, Delilah Gore, as the Treasury Vice-Minister.

However, O’Neill said there was still a great need for awareness and to encourage women to take leadership positions and to also speak out on violence against women and children.

O’Neill said his government would be working with many non-government organisations and civil society groups to achieve this in the years ahead.

The two prime ministers also agreed on a review of the new Economic Development Partnership and to ensure that the relations were constructive and mutually beneficial.

O’Neill talked about PNG’s development priorities and sought Australian development assistance to complement these priorities.

The PNG prime minister also asked Australia to relax visa procedures for Papua New Guinean citizens wishing to travel to Australia.

Henry Yamo is a postgraduate communication  studies student and journalist at AUT University reporting for the Pacific Media Centre and Cook Islands News.

Cook Islands News

Julia Gillard and Peter O'Neill

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at the Pacific Islands Forum today. Image: Henry Yamo/PMC

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