THIS week Australian prime minister Tony Abbott will make his first official visit to Papua New Guinea since he was elected last year.
Mr Abbott’s trip comes at a time of great turbulence in Australia’s nearest neighbour. Problems with the Australian asylum seeker facility on Manus Island are bound to feature large in discussions.
He arrives amid growing turmoil in the PNG government over a billion dollar loan to purchase shares in Oil Searchand the sacking of a number of senior ministers, including Treasurer Don Polye.
Commentator Martyn Namorong revealed the nub of the discontent when he pointed out on Twitter yesterday that “it is important that people realise the purchase of Oil Search shares is worth $700 million (while the) PNG government's UBS loan is $1.2 billion”.
There’s also a good chance that visa policies – a thorn in the otherwise comfortable relationship between the two countries – will again be raised; although the issue of Dr Albert Schram’s visa is unlikely to be canvassed.
According to officials, Mr O'Neill will brief Mr Abbott on the implementation of his key government policies, including free education, free health care, rebuilding infrastructure, modernising the police and defence force, and investing in oil, gas, and mineral projects.
Mr O'Neill will host a lunch for Mr Abbott before he returns to Australia.
"I look forward to receiving prime minister Abbott when he visits our beautiful country," Mr O'Neill said on Friday.
"Australia is our neighbour and a great friend. Our ties go back a long way, and has remained very strong. We can only build on it.
"This visit gives us an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest to both countries, and issues that affect the region."