PRIME minister Malcolm Turnbull may be quickly running out of friends in Australia – including in his own party – but he has a staunch ally in Papua New Guinea’s leader Peter O’Neill.
Turnbull met in Sydney with O’Neill last week to discuss the globally condemned Manus refugee prison (euphemistically termed the “regional processing centre” by the Australian government) and other problem issues.
During the meeting O’Neill expressed appreciation for Australia’s support of PNG’s hosting of the controversial APEC forum in 2018 – an exercise reported to be costing K400 million of the country’s besieged budget.
“Australia has a wealth of experience and technical information that we are drawing from, and is further providing support and capacity building in areas that include security, logistics and policy development,” O’Neill said.
“In particular, delivering the right level of security for the leaders’ Summit, and all APEC meetings through 2018, is essential in successfully hosting APEC.
“Papua New Guinea very much appreciates the commitment and the high level capacity building that we are receiving through the Australian Federal Police partnership.
“Papua New Guinea further appreciates support from the Australian Defence Force through training and the provision of equipment and personnel during APEC in 2018.
O’Neill said he has invited Turnbull to come to Papua New Guinea in 2017 for an official visit.
The Australian prime minister has so far failed to visit Australia’s nearest neighbour, a four-hour flight from Turnbull’s home base in Sydney.
Australia currently provides PNG with around a billion dollars a year in development assistance and special grants.