FEW COUNTRIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT to Australia than Papua New Guinea and I believe that our relationship with Papua New Guinea must be one of Australia’s highest foreign policy priorities.
It is a fact that much has been said over many years about the relationship and I think it is fair for us to be judged not on what we say but on what we do, not on just our words but on our actions.
And in that regard, should the Coalition form the next government of Australia I am committed to injecting the necessary energy and leadership to ensure that the relationship continues to be a strong, continues to be one not just of the closest of neighbours but the closest of friends – the absolute best friends – for we are like family. And indeed like all families we are well aware of each others strengths and weaknesses.
And if it is anything like my family we are be each other's strongest critics but also each other's greatest supporters!
As brothers and sisters in the Pacific region it is time for us to broaden and deepen and diversify our relationship and take it to another level to better reflect the contemporary reality of where we stand in the 21st century.
It is way past time that we move on from outdated stereotypes and our aid donor and aid recipient relationship, and it is time for us to embrace each other as full economic partners.
It should be as easy to do business between Australia and Papua New Guinea as it is between Australia and New Zealand. While I welcome an Economic Cooperation Treaty, we should be aiming for a high quality, full blown free trade agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
If we are honoured to be the next government of this country, I most certainly commit to ensuring that we can free up the visa arrangements between Australian business people and PNG business people in particular so that we can have much easier means of doing business and investing in each other's country.
It is simply unacceptable for there to be so many bureaucratic hurdles in the way of trade and investment and doing business across the Coral Sea, and I most certainly commit to working with the PNG government to ensure that it can be the most cooperative economic relationship that we are able to achieve.
We need to see greater mobility in the labour force between PNG and Australia. I envisage some form of mobile workforce that could be supporting projects in Queensland, in Western Australia, and in PNG, and it will take some considerable will on the part of governments in both countries to achieve it but I am sure we can do it, for our mutual benefit.