PNG PM vows to improve his citizens’ access to Australian visas

PNG PM vows to improve his citizens’ access to Australian visas

BY BRETT MASON, ROSEMARY BOLGERSHARE

Papua New Guineans will be able to travel to Australia more easily under changes being pursued by Prime Minister James Marape. 

Speaking in Sydney, Mr Marape told SBS News he was determined to resolve ongoing issues making it difficult for PNG residents to access Australia. 

“It’s a work in progress, but it’s something that I want to achieve in my time in office – better access by Papua New Guinea into Australia in a modernised system where immigration is easily managed.” 

PNG may be Australia’s closest neighbour, but concerns about the country’s border security management have created headaches for residents trying to get visas. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his PNG counterpart James Marape discussed the future of Manus Island in Canberra on Monday.

Mr Marape said he understands Australia’s “insecurities” and has vowed to strengthen their border security management system. 

In a wide-ranging interview with SBS News on Friday, the PNG prime minister declared his week-long trip to Australia a success. 

“Both prime ministers have agreed it’s no longer an aid-donor recipient relationship, it’s now about economic relationships where Australia sees PNG as an important trade and economic partner and for PNG, we can see Australia as a great market place for our local produce.” 

Having built his country into “the richest black Christian nation on the face of planet earth”, Mr Marape has declared PNG will not need Australian aid for long. 

Ten years from now I would like PNG to be elevated to a status of economically sound and strong. Where we’re able to help Australia assist in the Pacific region.

“We can only do that by when we are economically strong and resilient and independent ourselves.”

After spending Thursday night at a rugby league game with Mr Morrison, Mr Marape praised his Australian counterpart’s “human touch”. 

“We entered politics at the same time in 2007… by the grace of God, he has become PM in the Australia side and I have become PM in the PNG side.”

But there are key issues where the two disagree. Mr Marape has demanded an end to offshore processing on Manus Island where about 350 asylum seekers and refugees have spent up to six years.

Mr Morrison would not set a date for the closure of Australian-run detention facilities, but has agreed to work out a schedule.  

Action on climate change – the biggest threat facing Pacific nations – is another source of tension. 

While Mr Marape said it was not his position to tell Australia what to do, he suggested Australia consider its role in the region. 

“I think our combined voice of global states is important. Australia needs to unite behind the entire Pacific group of nations.”

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