Delegation Report - Parliamentary Delegation to Papua New Guinea


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:00): by leave—I present the report of the delegation to Papua New Guinea in November last year and seek leave to move a motion to take note of the document.

Leave granted.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I first of all thank the members of the delegation, which included my fellow senator Senator Kimberley Kitching and also Mr Ken O'Dowd, the member for Flynn; and Ms Cathy O'Toole, the member for Herbert. I particularly thank Julia Agostino, the delegation secretary. I thank officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and representatives from the Crawford business school at ANU for some pre-delegation briefings. I particularly thank His Excellency the high commissioner, Mr Bruce Davis, for the support from him and his staff to the delegation during the trip.

Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour. It's one that I always feel we have an obligation to. It was once a colony of Australia and it is a mere seven kilometres across the water from my electorate, which is the state of Queensland. So we have a lot in common with the people of PNG, and we've worked hard as Australians over many years to bring benefits and progress to that particular place.

The delegation was privileged to arrive on the day of the most important thing that has happened in Port Moresby for a long, long period of time, and that was the Rugby League World Cup match between Ireland and PNG, which I'm delighted to report that PNG won. That was a great introduction to PNG and to many of the ministers who we met who were attending that very significant match as guests of the high commissioner. I have to say that PNG comprises many hundreds of different tribes—700 or 800 different tribes and 800 or 900 different language groups. But to me the thing that joins PNG together as a nation is their Rugby League team. When that happens, they are all on the same page.

We were privileged to meet not only a lot of parliamentarians but also significant administrative people in PNG. I particularly want to mention just a few. There was our meeting with the Speaker of the parliament, the Hon. Job Pomat, who curiously is the member for Manus. He was able to give us some information not only about the running of the parliament and how his role as Speaker works in that parliamentary assembly but also about his own electorate of Manus, and I often wish that Senator McKim had been there to get the real information on that island.

We attended a very productive meeting with the Women in Leadership lunch, went to the National Museum and Art Gallery, and went up to the Western Highlands provincial administration, which was a real eye-opener. It was interesting to see the real progress being made in some areas, and I particularly want to mention the Mul-Baiyer District development administrative office and Mr Mark Kamjua, who is doing wonderful things in that part of the Highlands of PNG. It was interesting to go to a Westpac innovation hub and see people lining up to actually open a bank account. It was of great interest, of great trauma almost, and very surprising for us Australians to find that many people didn't have a bank account and that the actual activity in opening a bank account was almost an once-in-a-lifetime event.

We met with the Mount Hagen Chamber of Commerce. We went to Coffee for Connoisseurs, a great commercial organisation. There was a group of people gathered outside the fence of this place we were at and the crowd approached the gate. We thought,' Gee, there's trouble here.' What it was, they were demanding that we come and speak to them. As Australian politicians, having a crowd demand that we come and speak to them was a new experience for us! They were delighted that we were there. We mixed with the crowd. There is a lovely photograph in our report of my colleague Mr Ken O'Dowd addressing them, because Ken was in PNG for some time and was able to speak to them in pidgin English. It was a wonderful trip to build on the relationship we have with PNG, and I congratulate all involved.

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