Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, James Marape, made history by addressing Australia’s parliament in Canberra on 8 February, marking the first occasion a leader from a Pacific Island nation has done so. Marape’s speech underscored the deep-rooted ties between Papua New Guinea and Australia, characterising the latter as PNG’s “big brother” and emphasising the familial nature of their relationship.
The visit comes at a critical juncture as Papua New Guinea grapples with internal unrest sparked by incidents of violence and looting in Port Moresby in early January that claimed at least 16 lives.
Amidst these challenges, Marape’s address served as an opportunity to reaffirm Papua New Guinea’s longstanding partnership with Australia. He expressed gratitude for Australia’s support, particularly in times of crisis, and called for continued collaboration in addressing shared challenges and promoting regional stability.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s Opposition Leader, echoed sentiments of cooperation and mutual respect in his welcoming remarks for Marape. He underscored the importance of sovereignty and autonomy for Pacific Island nations, implicitly cautioning against external interference.
Central to discussions between the two leaders was Australia’s role as Papua New Guinea’s largest donor of foreign aid. Australia has provided crucial financial assistance to Papua New Guinea, including a notable $650 million loan granted in 2021 to alleviate a budget shortfall exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Albanese, in his speech welcoming Mr. Marape, emphasized Australia’s commitment to supporting Papua New Guinea’s future, highlighting a recent $200 million security agreement signed in December aimed at bolstering Papua New Guinea’s security infrastructure.
Beyond financial aid, both nations expressed a shared commitment to cooperation in various sectors, including security, development, and regional diplomacy. The signing of the $200 million security agreement represents a tangible manifestation of this commitment, signalling a deeper partnership between Australia and PNG in addressing common challenges and fostering mutual prosperity.
Marape’s historic address to Australia’s parliament underscored the enduring partnership between the two nations, rooted in shared history, mutual respect, and common interests. Despite the complexities and challenges facing the region, both Australia and PNG remain steadfast in their commitment to cooperation and collaboration, underscoring the importance of diplomatic engagement in promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the Pacific.