Today the Lowy Institute hosted the Hon Peter O'Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, at a Distinguished Speaker lecture on 'PNG in the Asian Century' (a transcript of the speech will be published on this blog and the Lowy Institute website when it becomes available). My first impressions of his address:
- O'Neill's government has a clear strategy that focused on improving service delivery, infrastructure and productivity to drive development in PNG and so that more people in PNG could benefit from foreign investment.
- Australia remains PNG's most important bilateral partner but like Australia and many other countries, PNG is actively pursuing closer economic ties with a range of Asian countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Philippines and India. But PNG's fastest growing relationship is with China.
- PNG has a security relationship with Australia and the US and a trade and investment relationship with China.
- PNG is assuming a stronger leadership role in the Pacific Islands region and supports its neighbours through investment in Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga and scholarship programs for a number of Pacific Island countries. PNG has experience with service delivery in remote locations that it can use to help small island countries.
- O'Neill maintained the policy of previous PNG governments by saying PNG respected Indonesia's territorial integrity. This suggested O’Neill may be more pragmatic in his approach to West Papua than some independence advocates may have hoped.
- O'Neill also said he wanted to set up a permanent regional processing centre to deal with illegal immigration, as it was an issue that also affected PNG and other countries in the region. I don't recall hearing O'Neill say this before.