PNG facing development challenges

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Papua New Guinea continues to face serious development challenges, says Australia’s latest Foreign Policy White Paper.

Its population of about 8 million – 40 percent under the age of 15 – is projected to reach 18 million by 2050, the white paper noted.

The delivery of services is suffering because of a shortage of capacity and a constrained budget. Many development indicators – such as maternal, child and infant mortality, rate of communicable diseases, and access to clean water and sanitation – are poor.

“Reflecting its challenges and the closeness in our relationship, Papua New Guinea is our largest development partner with Australia investing about $550 million a year in assistance. We work together to encourage economic growth, improve governance and support health and education,” the white paper said.

It said Australia was also helping Papua New Guinea to empower women and foster a new generation of leaders.

Australia will continue to support the Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Governments to implement the 2001 Peace Agreement, which underpins peace and stability in Bougainville. Post Courier/PNG Today

Fiji Bati hopes to rise again

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Vodafone Fiji Bati coach Mick Potter believes Fiji is a giant-killer.

"We got the number two ranked team in the competition, whether we can back it up or not is another thing," Potter said.

His comments come as senior player Eloni Vunakece said the team would rise to the occasion when they play against the mighty Australian Kangaroos tomorrow at Suncorp Stadium.

"Rise to the occasion. That has been the theme of this whole camp, hopefully we will do the same against Australia," Vunakece said.

"There is no extra pressure, my old man said just go and have fun."

"This is another opportunity to meat another world heavyweight, play and have fun and live the moment.

"I take each day as it comes."

Vunakece reminisced the last eight minutes of the side's 4-2 victory over the NZ Kiwis in Wellington, New Zealand last week.

"We were pretty smashed, but we knew we had to keep getting up," he said.

"Thankfully I did two NRL pre-seasons now and they train us to be ready for those occasions, to be ready to draw on something when you are dead and got nothing left.

"Probably with eight minutes to go there was a drop out, I looked to the sideline to say….you have got to get me off because I got nothing left.

"Lucky. I had that reserve from my training and to pull something out and say I am going to tackle Jared Waerea-Hargreaves now , he's coming flying at me, he's going to throw everything at me. I am the only person that can do the job right now so I got through that sort of 30 seconds of hell but I lasted the eight minutes."

Potter  said Fiji would give its best against world number one Australia when they meet this Friday at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.

"Australia's got a very very professional team, it is going to be a hard ask, the guys are going to give their very best whether it will be good enough I don't know," Potter said.

After arriving from Wellington on Sunday night, the Fiji Bati had a recovery session at Southbank in Brisbane, a full training session on Tuesday and a day off yesterday.

With the limited time at hand, only the captain's run today to cap off the side's preparation, Potter's mix has not changed with the same line-up that played New Zealand last weekend.

Fiji has been receiving a fair bit of media attention, more than it had since it started playing in the tournament.

"They deserve it," Potter said.

"They have done a really good job to beat a tier one team and this is a step forward for Fiji rugby league.

"We got the number two ranked team in the competition, whether we can back it up or not it's another thing."

Captain Kevin Naiqama said Fiji's success was the unity in the team that had been strengthened through their daily devotions.

"I said since day one in camp that we have created something special here and it is no surprise.

"I think our success comes down to our devotion, from day one we have committed this squad and this team to Jesus and just been leading us.

"And our talatala has been leading us as a team. We have more players sharing during devotions, players are sharing about their testimonies and their experiences not only with Fiji but with their spiritual side. It's pretty special because it's something you can't get in any other team.".


Mal Meninga admits to feeling shift in international rugby league

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Fiji has tipped the Rugby League World Cup on its head, and now Australian coach Mal Meninga admits he can feel a change in the wind.

He was almost immovable as a player, but Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga admits even he’s felt the tectonic plates of rugby league shifting.

The Rugby League World Cup has come alive after New Zealand’s spectacular elimination, becoming the first tier-one nation to lose to a second-tier not once but twice following defeats by first Tonga and then Fiji.

And ahead of Australia’s semi-final against Fiji on Friday, Meninga believes times are changing.

“There’s been a shift I reckon. Look at our numbers that play in the NRL, I think something like 38 per cent are Pacific Islander,” Meninga said in Brisbane.

“So yeah, there is a shift in our game and that all goes well for the pacific nations and international rugby league.

“It’s just another stark example of people realising how strong the NRL competition is and what it’s doing for other nations.”

Meninga said he wasn’t surprised his men won’t be facing the Kiwis in the final- four clash following their shock defeat to the Bati last week.

“We know how passionate, how committed (Fiji) are to the cause. There’s great belief in their footy team so we’ll make sure we prepare really well,” he said.

Meninga confirmed Will Chambers will be a certain starter at Suncorp Stadium after the centre missed Tuesday’s main training run of the week with a toe injury.

Chambers broke his toe in their pool win over Lebanon and has since been on light duties.

“When you run it takes a fair bit of impact. From there, we just gauge it every session. If it’s a little bit sore we’ll rest him,” Meninga said.

“But he’ll be right to train in the captain’s run, which he did last week and he’ll be right to play.”

Meninga also doubled down on his criticism of Fiji star Jarryd Hayne a few weeks ago, when he claimed Hayne would let Gold Coast down if he left to take up a deal at a rival NRL club.

It is being reported Hayne has already agreed on a move to Parramatta.

Asked if he expected his comments to motivate Hayne, Meninga said: “Not really. “I’m very happy with my 24. I’ve got no regrets whatsoever.

“Moving forward, again we respect them. But we’re there to play a great game of rugby league and play with great passion in the green and gold jersey.


Pacific is the ‘biggest blind spot’ to Australia’s national security policy: Marles

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Australia must improve its defence and government relationships with Pacific nations to avoid having its influence in the region diminished, Labour’s defence spokesman has said.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute, opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles has called for defence force personnel from Pacific countries to undertake stints with the Australian Defence Force (ADF), similar to the relationship ADF personnel has with the US Armed Forces.

“Australia is the beneficiary of a deep defence relationship with the United States,” Marles said.

“At any point in time hundreds of Australian defence force personnel are embedded within the US Armed Forces. They are given opportunities which could never be had within the ADF. They develop skills and capabilities which in turn empower the ADF when they come home. 

“A version of the opportunities we derive from this defence relationship with the US could be provided by us to the defence forces of the Pacific. In the same way we derive a benefit from the US, the Pacific island countries could derive a benefit from us. And just as it suits the US to have a more capable Australian Defence Force, so too it would benefit us to see the capability of the Pacific island countries’ defence forces grow.”

The Labor MP said while the current Pacific Patrol Boat Programme, which provides vessels and Royal Australian Navy Maritime Surveillance Advisers to these nations, is a good initiative, it is not enough on its own.

“The Pacific Patrol Boat Programme ... is a huge commitment which is gratefully received and provides assets and builds skills,” he said.

“But rather than seeing these efforts as a role already performed, we should see them instead as a guide to how much further down this path we could go. And the important point to understand is that it is actually in our national interest to walk this path as far as the Pacific island countries are willing to walk it with us.”

Marles also warned that without a stronger relationship with these Pacific countries, they may seek relationships with other nations such as China.

In recent years, China established its One Belt and One Road initiative, which offers infrastructure building to its neighbouring countries in the Pacific, an initiative that analysts have said is part of China's attempts to gain political leverage.

“Pacific island countries have choices about with whom they partner. That we will always be the partner of choice is not a proposition we can take for granted,” the Labour MP said.

Improving Australia's relationship with these countries will also act as a strong reminder for the US to continue following Australia's lead in the region, Marles said.

“Across the very broad bilateral relationship that we enjoy with the United States, mostly and understandably, it is America that takes the lead,” he argued.

“Yet in one area the US unambiguously follows us: the Pacific.

“We must stop seeing the Pacific as a niche area of our foreign and security policy. Precisely because the Pacific goes to our key relationships with the likes of the United States and China, it is as centrally important to our world view as is the United States and China.”.


Foreign Policy White Paper says Australia looks to the US for security as China’s power grows

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Australia’s alliance with the US will become more important in the Indo-Pacific region as China’s power and influence grows, the long-awaited Foreign Policy White Paper has declared.

The blueprint, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop today, reinforces Australia’s desire for the US to remain dominant in the region, while also urging China to use its power to enhance stability.

With a warning that the “stakes could not be higher” for Australia as the political balance in the region shifts, the report says that without a strongly engaged US in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability is under threat.

“Navigating the decade ahead will be hard because, as China’s power grows, our region is changing in ways without precedent in Australia’s modern history,” the report, the first Foreign Policy White Paper for more than a decade, says.

“Without strong US engagement, power is likely to shift more quickly ... it will be more difficult for Australia to achieve the levels of security and stability we seek.”

On the contested South China Sea, it says competition is intensifying in the region, and maritime and land border disputes will “continue to create friction”.

The paper notes the “debate and uncertainty” in the US about the costs and benefits of its leadership, but Bishop said it was unlikely America would retreat from the Indo-Pacific.

“The United States has an enduring interest in the Indo-Pacific. The US cannot withdraw from the region without enormous costs to the US,” Bishop told The West Australian.

She highlighted the paper’s emphasis on the term “Indo-Pacific”, mirroring a shift in language by the Japanese and Americans as they emphasised India’s growing importance.

“As a West Australian I have always included the Indian Ocean nations in my thinking…now we have for the first time embraced this in a Government policy document,” she said.

Despite the commentary on the risks posed by China’s growing dominance, the report also says Australia is “committed to strong and constructive ties with China”.

“We welcome China’s greater capacity to share responsibility for supporting regional and global security,” it said.

The importance of pursuing free trade deals and open markets is also canvassed. , with the report saying a more integrated world will be more prosperous and secure than one characterised by protectionism....


PNG Police arrest Iranian Kurdish journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani

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Iranian Kurdish journalist and asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani was arrested today by Police in Papua New Guinea's Manus Island for his role in discouraging fellow refugees to vacate the already shut down Regional Processing Centre.

Police boss David Yapu confirmed the arrest had nothing to do with Boochani’s profile and role as a journalist in an attempt to silence his reporting on the issues from within the centre.
Boochani was among another 37 refugees who were ordered out of the centre to their new temporary centre today while the others remain in the closed centre.

“No force was used to remove the refugees but it was difficult to convince them out of the condemned centre,” said PPC Yapu.
Mr. Yapu said Boochani is the first of the ring leaders arrested for leading other refugees in resisting to evacuate the centre and others who have been identified will be arrested in the following days.

O’Neill flags new initiatives to promote agriculture in Papua New Guinea

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Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Agriculture Minister, Benny Allen, have promised to boost access to credit for agricultural projects, develop import substitution and strengthen agricultural institutions. They were addressing the country’s inaugural National Agriculture Summit in Port Moresby this week.

The PNG economy has been through boom and bust cycles over the years, largely because the successive governments have depended on one sector of the economy, the resources sector, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told the conference.
‘When the commodity prices for copper, oil, gold and gas go down, our economy takes a huge dive.
‘For example, about 10 years ago, we used to earn K2 billion in oil and gas taxes. Last year, we would have been lucky if we got K200 million. No country can afford that kind of decline and that it is why it is crucial that we continue to build the potential we have in other sectors of the economy, building the base of our economy so it can sustain such shocks.’

Import replacement

Agriculture is PNG’s biggest employer.
O’Neill noted that the agriculture sector is the biggest employer of Papua New Guineans. It is also the second biggest foreign exchange earner ‘yet we have not been giving it the attention it deserves’.
‘I cannot only blame past governments. I am equally responsible. But we have to learn from the mistakes we have made.’
The country was ‘overly dependent on imports,’ O’Neill added.
‘We need to have import replacement programs and that is why I am encouraged by the private sector partners who are here today starting to invest in our agricultural sector’s different crops.
‘What investors need from us, landowners, is security of their investment. Agriculture is not simply an industry.
It takes years for crops to grow and for the return on investment to be received by the investors. So we need to provide that security.’
‘If you were in Japan, Germany or the US and you go to a bank to do agriculture projects, most banks estimate it will be over 30 years before you can repay that loan. In PNG, you’ll be lucky if you can get seven years. That policy must change.’
O’Neill said landowners need to be partners, so that they take ownership of the projects on their land.

Long-term credit

He said before the forthcoming National Budget announcement, he would announce measures to strengthen the agriculture and SME sectors by increasing access to long-term credit.
‘If you were in Japan, Germany or the US and you go to a bank to do agriculture projects, most banks estimate it will be over 30 years before you can repay that loan. In PNG, you’ll be lucky if you can get seven years. That policy must change.’
O’Neill also said over the next few years, the government would put aside special funds to allow the government to become equity partners in agricultural projects.
He said next year the government would be trialling a proposed National Plantation Management Agency which would help Papua New Guineans with support services such as book keeping, banking, sales and marketing.
Agriculture Minister Benny Allen said the government, and his department, would change the way they worked, with the aim of making the local agriculture industry ‘world class and highly competitive’ and the people involved ‘self-sustaining and prosperous’.
Promising a ‘collaborative approach with the private sector’, Allen said he wanted to see an increase in export and domestic production, higher revenues and investments, and an increase in the number of SMEs and large scale businesses.

Source: PNGBussinessAdvantage

Anti corruption agency had to go: PNG PM O'Neill

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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Parliament Tuesday that the Investigation Task Force Sweep Team was disbanded in 2014 because it was becoming “too political’ and going on a political witch-hunt.

O’Neill said the inter-government agency was set up to investigate “specific issues of massive corruption” at the National Planning Department, especially the Rehabilitation Education Sector Infrastructure (RESI) funds and National Agriculture Development Programmes.

“It was not investigating suspects involved in misappropriating public funds from the National Planning Department,” he said.

“Millions of public monies were stolen without proper procurement process. And, of course it was due to mismanagement.

“Subsequently the Task Force was becoming too political and targeting politicians when it was not authorised to do so. That’s why it was disbanded.”

O’Neill said the Independent Commission against Corruption Bill was tabled in Parliament to replace the disbanded agency.

“But in the last parliament, we could not pass the Bill because we didn’t muster the numbers. It will be reintroduced in this parliament. And I’m urging all the 111 MPs to support this Bill.”

He was responding to Moresby North West MP Sir Mekere Morauta who claimed that the disbanding of the Task Force was because O’Neill was under investigation.

He also claimed that O’Neill had ordered Police Commissioner Gari Baki to close the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate.

“There was no direction from me or the Cabinet to shut down the fraud squad. This matter has been dealt in court,” he said.

“And many court decisions have justified Government’s decision to date.” Koim later challenged the Cabinet decision to disband the agency in court. But Justice Collin Makail said it would be contrary to the law for the court to intervene in policy decisions made by the Government. He said the appropriate actions, if people were aggrieved by a Cabinet decision, were to exercise their constitutional rights to replace the Cabinet members at the elections, or have the prime minister voted out of office in a vote of no-confidence through Parliament.


PNG Hunters to play Broncos, Warriors in trial matches in Port Moresby

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The PNGRFL, chairman Tsaka has announced that the PNG Hunters will play two preseason matches against NRL clubs the Brisbane Broncos and the New Zealand Warriors at the National Football Stadium in February, 2018.
“These are two big lead up games for us leading to the Queensland Rugby League Intrust Super Cup in 2018,” Tsaka said.
“I have discussed with Michael (Marum) and he’s aware of this and will draw up the training programme for the offseason next month to get the squad ready for matches against the Warriors and Broncos.

“This is another big for us to have our Hunters play NRL clubs. We are sure the NFS will be packed for these two matches as fans will want to see our boys take on the best of the NRL.”
Tsaka said the PNGRFL had invited the clubs to play a preseason fixture in Port Moresby against the Q-Cup champions and the Broncos and Warriors had accepted.

The Hunters played the Penrith Panthers at the beginning of 2016 in front of a sell-out NFS with the same numbers expected for the two matches.

Australia, New Zealand, PNG combined disciplined forces Training ends

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The Public Order Management Tactical Trainer Qualifying program between the three discipline forces in the country and Australian Federal Police including New Zealand Police officially ended this morning at the McGregor Police Barracks. The training purposely was to teach officers crowd control especially rioting situations in the future.

Australian Federal Police Detective Superintendent Shane McLennan said they have gone through three weeks of internship training and he is happy to see participants eventually graduate from the three weeks training program led by AFP Sergeant Garry Hahn.
Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commander Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo said he was happy to see the three discipline forces in the country doing trainings together to prepare for the upcoming APEC Summit next year.

PNGDF Lieutenant Colonel Boniface Aruma said the type of training led by AFP to engage our discipline forces was crucial and he applauded them. He was pleased to see everyone contributing their efforts to host one of the biggest national events next year.

He added that such training will go a long way into the future after the APEC summit. He said preparations of APEC in the country have truly boosted the capability of the three discipline forces through the assistance of Australian and New Zealand governments.

Participants included three PNGDF Officers, three CIS officers and eight police personnel, six from Special Service Division and two from Police Public Safety Division and one AFP officer.
AFP imparted skills the officers needed and they are now ready to become trainers of local discipline forces personnel around the country for crowd control.



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